Earlier this fall Jim Beam announced a re-branding of Baker’s Bourbon, which had been for many the 107 proof, 7 Year hidden gem of the Jim Beam Small Batch Collection.
The update shifts Baker’s out of the Small Batch Collection, leaving behind Booker’s, Knob Creek and Basil Hayden’s. It is re-introduced as a 7 Year Single Barrel product, which does not yet appear to have hit our market. Also introduced alongside was the 13 Year limited edition Baker’s Single Barrel. The new 7 Year Single Barrel is said to retail for $70 (up from the approximate $45-50 price we see locally today for the 7 Year Small Batch), while the 13 Year retails for $100 in limited quantifies.
The decision to actually market the Baker’s brand comes as little surprise, as few seem to be aware of what Beam brings to the table with Baker’s. But a choice to shift it out of the Small Batch Collection is a surprise. Today, this will set alongside the around-7 Year Booker’s lineup, which comes in at cask strength for about the same $70 price tag, and Knob Creek Single Barrels, which come in around $45 for 120 proof, 9-15 year bourbon. These bourbons all share the same recipe, although distillation proof and barrel locations are likely different among the three.
Baker’s 7 Year Small Batch (107 Proof)
Nose: Milk chocolate and peanut; saw dust; nutmeg and cinnamon; vanilla chews; butterscotch; red berry; dry oak; peanut brittle; red pepper; hand sanitizer. (3.5/5)
Palate: Rich and mouth coating; Three Musketeers and 100 Grand candy bar; leather; cashew; dark fruit; red berry; brown sugar; baking spice; ginger; red pepper flakes. (4/5)
Finish: Long, but a bit dry. Rich brown sugar; coffee beans; leather; dry oak; lingering peanut that sticks to the mouth. (3.5/5)
Overall: A very tasty bourbon at an age and proof point that seem to work very well with the Beam “funk” and peanut flavors. Nothing about this feels diluted. Little seems to be missing. A quality bourbon. (3.5/5)
Value: Unfortunately, the days of the 107 proof, $45 Small Batch Baker’s may be numbered. Around here, many can still be found. I recently picked up a second for this reason. It is a solid bourbon and, frankly, my preferred over the higher priced Booker’s. (4/5)
“It is a solid bourbon and, frankly, my preferred over the higher priced Booker’s.”
Baker’s 13 Year Single Barrel (Barrel #222066) (2019) (107 Proof)
Nose: Fairly light for its proof. Leaf tobacco; cigarettes butts; butterscotch; brown sugar; hazelnut, peanut, vanilla bean; black cherry; light baking spice; bittersweet chocolate; rubbing alcohol. (3.5/5)
Palate. Rich and creamy. Leaf tobacco; pipe tobacco; chewing tobacco; cocoa; malt balls; dry roasted peanut; fruit leather; leather; clove; maple syrup; light heat; pepper. So rich and so much delicious tobacco. (4.5/5)
Finish: Slightly drying; butterscotch/peanut-butter/chocolate chips, but each without the sweetness; dry oak; lingering clove cigarette; leather; heavy tobacco. (4.5/5)
Overall: A tobacco (and leather) lovers dream and the way old bourbon should be. With that said, not all bourbon should be old bourbon, just like not all bourbon should be dusty bourbon. It has its place on the “treat” shelf, but this isn’t (for me) an everyday drinker sort of experience. Delicious, but delicious in a uniqueness sort of way. To help put in context, this is less sweet (none of the maple, and none of the peanut brittle) than many of the older Knob Creek single barrels, and it also lacks some of the tannic quality of others. It is more leathery and with heavier tobacco than I’ve seen even in the most tobacco-y of Knob Creeks (and I’ve had some good ones). It is solid for sure. Hard not to rate this one even higher. (4/5)
Value: Beam is not known for their affordable special releases. Booker’s 30th retailed last year for $199. Booker’s Rye was $300. The Knob Creek 2001 and the 25th Anniversary were in the $150 range. For this 13 Year Single Barrel of Baker’s to come in at a $99 retail price, while having scores that exceed the Knob Creek special releases and essentially equal to the Booker’s 30th score, this is a really decent buy. Unfortunately, Beam is still producing $45 bottles of Knob Creek Single Barrels that are in the 13-15 year range, which can be remarkable buys. (3.5/5).
“A tobacco (and leather) lovers dream and the way old bourbon should be.”
Scott is a co-founder of Flight Club and a frequent writer and reviewer on the Club’s blog.