Many of you may have seen a familiar shaped bottle, in a familiar looking box, adorning the pages of Instagram, Facebook groups, or the web over the recent weeks. That bottle is Little Book, and it is packaged like – and shares many qualities with – Booker’s, the “uncut and unfiltered” small batch bourbon by Jim Beam. This newest product is a first release Little Book by Jim Beam, which too is a “uncut and unfiltered” and packaged identically (save label) to Bookers. It is a blended whiskey product, but batched (individualized blends) so that “each release of Little Book will be a different blend of spirits creating a one-of-a-kind taste.”
This first batch is a blend of four different whiskeys: a four-year-old bourbon, a 13-year-old corn whiskey, an approximately six-year-old straight rye whiskey, and an approximately six-year-old straight malt whiskey. The proportions are proprietary.
Before we bring you tasting notes, there are two important backstories here.
First, the Little Book product is the first whiskey product created by Freddie Noe. Freddie is the son of current Master Distiller, Fred Noe. This makes Freddie the grandson of the late Booker Noe (with wife, Annis, giving Freddie the childhood nickname of “Little Book”), longtime Master Distiller at Jim Beam and creator of the famous Booker’s Small Batch Bourbon. That lineage carried out makes Freddie the eighth generation of “Beam” at Jim Beam Distillery.*
[*Booker Noe was the son of Jim Beam’s daughter, Margaret Noe. For those who aren’t familiar with the full Beam lineage, Jim Beam is actually the fourth Beam in line, beginning with Jacob Beam. Jacob’s son, David Beam, and David’s son David M. Beam preceded David M.’s son, Jim Beam. Jim Beam ran the company from 1892 to 1944 Jim’s son T. Jeremiah Beam would have been Booker’s uncle. Booker Noe joined the company in 1950. On his retirement, Master Distiller Jerry Dalton would take over as the first (and only) non-Beam to be Master Distiller at the company. On his retirement, Fred Beam took over as Master Distiller, and he serves until the present day.]
Second, this is a “blended whiskey.” What is a blended whiskey? In many instances, the designation signals something of dubious quality. It can be a blend of different types of whiskey all together, and may include “neutral grain spirits” (think Everclear), color and even flavorings. It is often produced in the “bourbon world” as a cheap, bottom shelf product that in many ways emulates bourbon, using a straight bourbon product as a base, but diluted with a lesser quality and priced neutral grain spirit.
Beam seeks to change that perception (or, better stated, will be forced to overcome that perception) with this Little Book product. As mentioned, it is a blend of bourbon, corn whiskey, rye whiskey and malt whiskey.
Little Book – Batch 1, “The Easy” (128.2 Proof)
Nose: There is so much going on here, and it really changes as it sits in the glass; corn; dark cherry; chardonnay wine; new leather; multigrain bread; sweet herbal rye notes (mint/thyme); hot cinnamon candy; hay/earthiness; beam peanut and almond; some alcohol burn that mellows with about 20 minutes in the glass. With a little water the nose opens up to much more caramel. (3.5/5)
Palate: Salty; bright; medicinal/metallic; faint caramel; buttered popcorn; Beam peanut and almond. A very slight amount of water makes this much more enjoyable and brings out rich caramel and toffee, and reduces the metallic notes. (3/5)
Finish: Medium to long, but there is a significant drop off in flavor early on; briny aftertaste; corn whiskey sweetness; a little cocoa dryness/chalkiness; waxy; herbal at the tail end; the heat and rye stick around. (2.5/5)
Overall: A comparison to Bookers is a necessary evil – same price, same producer, and nearly identical product packaging. Bookers produces much more prominent flavors (it is big and bold), but admittedly contains fewer flavor components (which, arguably, means less complexity). Little Book isn’t as bold. It has a lot going on (high in complexity), but we can’t say it all works well together. Little Book is confusing. It almost tastes like we went to our liquor cabinets and started pouring quality whiskies together and crossed our fingers that it would taste good. We will say to its credit that it very much evolves – with time it changes and with water it changes. And we will also say we are intrigued by the style of this whiskey, and we will no doubt buy future batches and give them each a try. But for this one, we have to say this is a disappointing satisfactory-only whiskey. (3/5)
Value: We each believe that this is priced right. It has quality components that you can easily pick up. However, those components just don’t marry well together. You pick up on age, but it just isn’t blended well. (3/5)
“Little Book is confusing. It almost tastes like we went to our liquor cabinets and started pouring quality whiskies together and crossed our fingers that it would taste good.”
Scott is a co-founder of Flight Club and a frequent writer and reviewer on the Club’s blog.