Sara with Baker Beam

Love Baker’s Bourbon as much as I do? Jump on this cool promo Thursday

Now that I’m doing bourbon tours for Mint Julep Experiences (shameless plug), I often get asked what my favorite bourbon is. As any bourbon aficionado might tell you, our top 5 fluctuates throughout a year, and it’s not exactly the PC thing to do to single out one single brand or distillery.

So I simply say either: “The one in my hand” or “The one you’re going to buy me later.”

But I will admit I’ve always had a soft spot for Baker’s Bourbon, part of the Jim Beam Distillery‘s Small Batch Bourbon Collection that Booker Noe released in 1992. Baker’s sister brands include Booker’s, Basil Hayden’s and Knob Creek.

Baker’s is released in that sweet spot of 7 years old and at 107 proof — similar to a yummy brand released over at Buffalo Trace Distillery (Weller Antique, anyone?).

But Baker’s is a rye-grained bourbon, as opposed to a wheated bourbon like Weller. This means Baker’s will be spicy, nutty, oaky and a soft, sweet molasses that’ll permeate the finish.

Sara with Baker Beam
Hey, Baker! Let me in that rick house!

I was fortunate to meet Baker Beam last year when I did a story for The Bourbon Review on the man, the myth and the bourbon legend. He was as humble as pie and as sweet as sassy as you’d imagine him to be.

He put in nearly 40 years at the distillery, working tirelessly behind the scenes and right alongside his brother David Beam and cousin Booker Noe.

Anyway, let’s get to the funny photo above. If you’re a Baker’s fan like me, on Thursday you can get a chance to get a similar photo and also perhaps win a one-on-one tasting experience with Freddie Noe, the 8th generation Beam family distiller.

As part of a holiday promo, the Baker’s team is calling it the Single Barrel Journey Experience. Beginning Thursday, Nov. 19, you go to the Baker’s Bourbon website and enter the Barrel ID number from the neck tag on your bottle of Baker’s. (If you don’t have a bottle, I suggest you go out today and grab one!)

It’ll tell you the story of exactly where your bottle aged in the rick house and share a few more tasting notes of exactly what you can expect out of your particular single barrel bourbon.

After that, you’ll get to enter the contest with your name and email, and hopefully you’ll be one of the lucky ones to get an awesome photo like I did — or even better, the tasting experience with Freddie!

I would do it first thing in the morning if I were you, because the press release notes it’s for “consumers that act fast.”

Baker's package
Christmas came early.

So go get your Baker’s (around $60), or if you already have one of the newish single-barrel bottles, just make sure the Barrel ID number on the neck tag is handy.

Baker’s makes excellent Old Fashioneds as well, so if you’re worried about spending that much money on a bourbon you haven’t tried, trust me — you’ll love it on a boat, with a goat, in the rain, or on a train.

Baker Beam

The Bourbon Review: Baker Beam reflects on his past, his industry, and his newly rebranded bourbon

Here’s the article I wrote for The Bourbon Review on Baker Beam last year as his namesake bourbon, Baker’s, was being rebranded. I got a chance to hang out with him one afternoon at his house near the Jim Beam Distillery in Clermont, Ky., and it was an amazing experience being in the company of a true bourbon legend — and his cat Zero.

Today — July 31 — is actually Baker’s 84th birthday, so everyone is encouraged to give him a big b-day shout-out on Instagram by tagging @jimbeamdistillery and using the hashtag #HBDBaker. I’ve got a bottle of Baker’s open right now, so I’ll be posting a video shortly!

(From The Bourbon Review)
Baker’s Mark: Baker Beam Reflects on His Past, His Industry, and His Newly Rebranded Bourbon

By Sara Havens

Baker Beam

Baker Beam | Courtesy of Jim Beam Distillery

Much like its namesake, Baker’s Bourbon often flies under the radar of consumer demand and brand attention. But ask anyone entrenched in the bourbon industry — or anyone who values quality over marketing campaigns — and you’ll find many Baker’s fanatics hoping their little bourbon secret never becomes so trendy that they can’t find it on store shelves.

Unfortunately for those folks, that’s all begun to change.

After more than 25 years, Baker’s Bourbon, which is part of Jim Beam’s Small Batch Bourbon Collection, has gotten a makeover thanks to Master Distiller Fred Noe and his team at the James B. Beam Distillery. The rebranding comes with a sharp, slick new bottle, and although they’re keeping it at its signature 107 proof with a seven-year age statement, the bourbon now will come from a single barrel.

The new bottles have hit shelves across the country this year, and in honor of the brand’s legacy, Beam also released a limited-edition, 13-year-old single-barrel Baker’s, packaged in a fancy premium gift box that had most bourbon collectors chomping at the bit.

Baker, who today turns 84, is a sixth-generation Beam distiller and grand-nephew of Jim Beam who put in a solid 38 years at the Clermont distillery and is now enjoying the retired life. Occasionally he’ll pop in at the distillery for events, to sign bottles or just watch the organized chaos of distillery life and reflect on his past, which included working alongside his brother David Beam and cousin Booker Beam.

Baker, after all, has seen the rise of bourbon in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, its ultimate fall in the ’80s and ’90s, and then the resurgence of America’s only native spirit in recent years. As soft-spoken and humble of a man he is, Baker has a wealth of knowledge that can only be attained by living it. And these days, he has become somewhat of the Jim Beam historian. He’s got quite a collection of historical documents, vintage bottles and priceless photos that showcase more than 200 years of the Beam family business.

Baker, a tall and lanky man, lives in a ranch-style home not too far from the Clermont distillery. In fact, his backyard view gazes upon several 50,000-barrel rick houses that sit off into the distance. Baker says he likes to be close to the action, and he often sits outside — with his cat Zero by his side — to listen to the familiar sounds of bourbon being made on the Kentucky hillside.

We stopped by Baker’s house one Monday afternoon for a quick chat, as suggested by his nephew Troy Beam, and Baker was every bit as hospitable, humble and honest as we had expected. He was gracious, genuine and appreciative to tell the stories of his past.

Continue reading here …

Birthday Bourbon 2020

Old Forester spills the beans on Birthday Bourbon 2020; Jim Beam to release affordable Old Tub BIB

While summer has only just begun, we’re already talking about the big Fall Bourbon Release season, thanks to Old Forester and its highly anticipated Birthday Bourbon.

Birthday Bourbon 2020

Love the bottle!

Not only does this release — which will be out Sept. 2, on founder George Garvin Brown’s birthday — signify the 20th iteration of this product, but it also comes out during Old Forester’s 150th year in the bourbon business.

According to a press release that came across my desk yesterday, the bourbon will be 10 years old and bottled at 98 proof.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall in that tasting room!

“Being part of the Birthday Bourbon selection process is one of my favorite parts of my job because of the legacy and tradition this expression represents,” said Jackie Zykan, Old Forester Master Taster, in the press release. “We’re really proud of what we’ve produced this year and think it’s a great way to celebrate George’s birthday and Old Forester’s historic anniversary.”

The special Birthday Bourbon will be priced at $129.99 — if you can find it on a shelf.

*  *  *

Old Tub bottle

New Old Tub!

In other news, Jim Beam is releasing a new/old Bottled-in-Bond* product called Old Tub, which is a product that actually dates back more than 140 years and was a viable early product for the Beam family. The bourbon will be about four years old and will be bottled at 100 proof, per the Bottled-in-Bond rules.

“We’re taking bourbon lovers back in time and making a delicious bourbon true to the way my ancestors intended over 140 years ago, when Old Tub was first crafted,” said Fred Noe, Beam Master Distiller, in a news release. “I’m excited to share this one-of-a-kind liquid with our fans and provide a bit of authenticity and nostalgia as we head toward another 225 years in the bourbon industry.”

The best news of all: Old Tub will be available for an affordable $22.99.

**If you’re wondering what Bottled-in-Bond means, here’s the definition, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Bottled in Bond is a label for an American-made distilled beverage that has been aged and bottled according to a set of legal regulations contained in the U.S. government’s Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits, as originally laid out in the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897. As a reaction to widespread adulteration in American whiskey, the act made the federal government the guarantor of a spirit’s authenticity, gave producers a tax incentive for participating, and helped ensure proper accounting and the eventual collection of the tax that was due.

To be labeled as Bottled-in-Bond or bonded, the liquor must be the product of one distillation season (January-June or July-December) by one distiller at one distillery. It must have been aged in a federally bonded warehouse under U.S. government supervision for at least four years and bottled at 100 proof. The bottled product’s label must identify the distillery where it was distilled and, if different, where it was bottled. Only spirits produced in the United States may be designated as bonded.

Bar Belle's Tasteless Tastings bar

Tasteless Tastings: Deck the Halls 2019 holiday edition

Tasteless Tastings bottles of bourbon

Let the tastings begin!

Welcome to another edition of Tasteless Tastings, which is exactly what it sounds like: tasting notes from the riffraff. If you follow the liquor industry to any capacity, you probably have come across snooty tasting notes from classy people who make the new spirit sound more like a science experiment than something you consume for fun. I want to shoot gayly forward from the hip and tell you how it really tastes. So each time the nice mailman brings me a sample to try, I’ll gather up some friends and we’ll have a candid, lively and unpolitically correct discussion about said sample.

This month’s iteration is holiday-themed, so let’s deck those halls with the bowels of someone named Holly. Let’s get to it …

 

What are we drinking today?:

Two Bitch BourbonTwo Bitch Bourbon Eureka Gold

What the hell is it?:

Straight out of Eureka, Nev., this straight bourbon whiskey (aged at least two years) comes from a new Nevada-based spirits company named after the owners’ love for their two newfound dogs. Along with this product, named for the old Wild West town the owners reside in, they offer the Pack Leader Reserve and a Small Batch with Bite. Apparently, Eureka sits in the Diamond Mountains on the “loneliest road in America.” So what else is there to do than to make bourbon?

Give me the nerdy numbers:

92 proof, $45

What do we think?:

Bar Belle: I can tell this isn’t an older bourbon because of its light color. It’s a straight bourbon, which means it’s at least two years old. So there’s that.

Kat: I can sip on this one! It’s light and subtle.

Heather: It’s the color of beer.

Tracy: It’s not memorable, but it’s OK. I mean, I’m not going to stop talking to friends and go, “Oooooh, wow!” But it’s something I could sip on all night long and not become overwhelmed.

Elizabeth: (Added a few drops of water) Water changed it for the better actually. You can actually smell something now.

Amber: Yes! I detect vanilla, and it’s sweet! It’s definitely a smooth bourbon — doesn’t burn, goes down well.

Bar Belle: That’s what she said?

Tracy: It would be good in cocktails because it’s sort of nondescript and won’t overpower.

Elizabeth: This could be the White Claw of bourbon.

Bar Belle: They also sent me a sample of the Small Batch product, and it was so delicious, I’m keeping it all to myself. Sorry not sorry.

 

If this bourbon was a Christmas tree ornament, what would it be?:

Group consensus: A standard, frosted ball ornament

Heather: I think you all are describing an ornament I made in kindergarten — I made it from a used pantyhose container! I think I still have it.

_____________________________________

 

What are we drinking today?:

Knob CreekKnob Creek Quarter Oak

What the hell is it?:

This new, limited-edition release uses a secondary finishing approach, taking fully mature Knob Creek and then finishing it for a minimum of four years in a quarter cask (a smaller-sized barrel). This juice is then blended with regular Knob Creek for this product.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

100 proof, $49.99

What do we think?:

Bar Belle: This is a new release from Knob Creek, which is made by Jim Beam. Think “double oaked,” and you get the idea. I’m a big fan of finished whiskeys for sure.

Tracy: Wow! We’re moving up the tree with this one! It’s nice. I like it!

Kat: This isn’t bad at all! It’s well-rounded, smooth.

Heather: I like this one, too! It starts off with a little heavier vanilla and then finishes off spicy. It’s the perfect bourbon for sipping in the winter.

Amber: The nose reminds me of fruit — dark cherry.

Bar Belle: It’s definitely a cherry bomb. Wow! I could sip on this for days if I didn’t have a job.

Heather: It would make a lovely Manhattan.

 

If this bourbon was a Christmas tree ornament, what would it be?:

Group consensus: A fancier ornament on the tree — possibly a snow globe featuring a bowl of cherries sprinkled with brown sugar.

_____________________________________

 

What are we drinking today?:

Heaven HillHeaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond

What the hell is it?:

This Bottled-in-Bond product was recently launched — or somewhat re-launched — by Heaven Hill, replacing the 6-year-old BIB product it had on the market for about $9.99 until 2018. The BIB label actually dates back to 1939 for Heaven Hill, when the company first released it and it shot to the No. 1 best-selling bourbon in Kentucky. Now, with a fancier bottle and label and an extra year of aging, the BIB label is a solid choice — although some longtime Heaven Hill BIB fans lament the uptick in price.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

100 proof, 7 years old, $39.99

What do we think?:

Bar Belle: This is Heaven Hill’s latest Bottled-in-Bond product, which replaced a cheaper version that was discontinued last year. The Bottled-in-Bond Act was passed in 1897 to kind of guarantee that what you were buying was legit.

Let me read you what Wikipedia has to say: To be labeled as bottled-in-bond or bonded, the liquor must be the product of one distillation season (January–June or July–December) by one distiller at one distillery. It must have been aged in a federally bonded warehouse under U.S. government supervision for at least four years and bottled at 100 (U.S.) proof (50% alcohol by volume). The bottled product’s label must identify the distillery where it was distilled and, if different, where it was bottled. Only spirits produced in the United States may be designated as bonded.

Elizabeth: Whoa! This is like a sucker punch!

Amber: It has such a sweet smell, and then it bites you when you’re not looking.

Tracy: Holy hell, Batman! This will put some hair on your chest!

Kat: Shooo!

Elizabeth: This is like one of those candles on your birthday cake that won’t blow out! It just keeps burning and burning.

Heather: I’d put it in eggnog.

Bar Belle: I like the spiciness. It’s definitely characteristic of the Heaven Hill mashbill. Not everything can be covered in caramel, you all! Embrace the spice, because it’s nice.

Tracy: This is one I’m not going to finish, if that tells you anything.

 

If this bourbon was a Christmas tree ornament, what would it be?:

Group consensus: A Snoopy driving a firetruck ornament … maybe that even makes a siren noise when you push a button.

_____________________________________

 

What are we drinking today?:

291291 Colorado Rye Whiskey

What the hell is it?:

This single barrel rye whiskey was made by Distillery 291, based out of Colorado Springs, Colo. It is distilled in a copper pot still and aged in American white oak barrels for one year, and then finished with aspen staves. Distillery 291 is a small batch whiskey-making company owned by distiller Michael Myers (not the one with the creepy mask), who aims to replicate the taste, smell and folklore of the Wild West. This rye whiskey was recently named World’s Best Rye by the World Whiskies Awards and has received similar accolades from all over the world. It is now available in Kentucky.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

101.7 proof, $59.99, Mashbill: 61% malted rye, 39% corn

What do we think?:

Bar Belle: Rye whiskey from Colorado! And there is no barley in the mashbill, which is uncommon.

Amber: This smells smokey, almost like a Scotch.

Elizabeth: Or feet.

Kat: It definitely smells different. But it doesn’t bad.

Heather: It has a malty taste.

Tracy: Well, it tastes better than it smells, that’s for sure. It’s like fruitcake!

Kat: I really like this!

Bar Belle: Me, too! It’s different than a high-rye bourbon, but displays a great smoothness and finishes nice. I want to chew on it.

Elizabeth: If you can get past the nose, it’s actually quite tasty.

Heather: I’m not sure I’d put this in a cocktail, but I could sip on it.

 

If this whiskey was a Christmas tree ornament, what would it be?:

Group consensus: A pine cone with glitter on it.

_____________________________________

 

What are we drinking today?:

Larceny Barrel ProofLarceny Barrel Proof

What the hell is it?:

Although Larceny Bourbon has been out now since 2012, this is the first new line extension of the Heaven Hill product. Larceny is a wheated bourbon usually bottled at 92 proof. And now, HH is releasing it with a barrel-strength proof. In fact, the bottle we sampled was 123.2 proof, but you’d never know from its crazy smoothness and sweet finish. I’ve liked Larceny since it was launched, but I never loved Larceny — if that makes any sense. However, after tasting the Barrel Proof, I’m smitten of the brown nectar that flows from the pearly gates of Heaven’s Hills. Shoo. I guess we should see what the others say …

Give me the nerdy numbers:

123.2 proof (proof will vary from bottle to bottle), $49.99

What do we think?:

Bar Belle: I hope you all are ready for some heat!

Amber: Wow! I like that. It pops, and then it’s smooth.

Kat: This is my favorite so far! Tastes like candy!

Amber: I agree. Right now it’s the topper on the tree!

Tracy: This is the bomb. A caramel bomb. It would be good to sip on by the fireplace.

Heather: (Added a few drops of water) It’s actually better neat. The water increased the burn.

Bar Belle: I feel like I’m licking a pole of caramel taffy. I wouldn’t even mind if my tongue got stuck to it at this point. It’s amazing how proof can make such a difference! This Barrel Proof just exceeded my expectations of this brand and elevated it to a whole new level! I mean, I feel like I know who let the dogs out now.

Tracy: Who? Who-who-who?

Bar Belle: John E. Fitzgerald, of course. The guy this bourbon is named in honor of. He was one of the only dudes with a key to the rickhouse back in the day, and they say a few of the better-tasting barrels would always come up a little short from year to year. They’d call them the “Fitzgerald barrels” because the juice was always quality, but also, there wasn’t much of it left. Can you blame him?

 

If this whiskey was a Christmas tree ornament, what would it be?:

Group consensus: This isn’t an ornament, it’s for when you’re watching the tree after it’s been decorated, sipping on a great bourbon while the fireplace crackles behind you.

_____________________________________

 

What are we drinking today?:

Skrewball WhiskeySkrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey

What the hell is it?:

Huh? Peanut butter whiskey? Yes, you heard that right. Peanut butter-flavored whiskey made — where else — than nutty California. There isn’t much about the distilling process on the label or website, but what we do know is it’s an invention by a married couple from Ocean Beach, Calif., who owned (or maybe still own) a bar. It’s also made with real peanuts, so if you have an allergy, this whiskey won’t cure all that ales you.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

70 proof, $26.99

What do we think?:

Tracy: (Takes a whiff) Well, I do smell the peanuts! (Takes a sip) Oh no! No no no!

Amber: It’s like drinking peanut butter.

Kat: I actually might enjoy sipping this on ice.

Bar Belle: It’s weird. Too syrupy and fake flavor-y to me. But I’d be willing to try it in a cocktail of some sort. Something with either jelly or chocolate.

Heather: Might be good in a chocolate shake — like a boozy milkshake.

Elizabeth: It would it be the popcorn ball ornament!

Amber: It’s the pickle ornament kids try to find in the tree! You know, the only one that’s different from all the others.

Heather: Come the first of the year when the diet starts, I might want to dip celery in it.

Bar Belle: That’s not a bad idea.

 

If this whiskey was a Christmas tree ornament, what would it be?:

Group consensus: It’s actually the drink of choice on the Island of Misfit Toys.