Tag Archives: review

Baker’s (mini-bottle)

bakersMy little brother was thoughtful enough to give me a sampler for Jim Beam’s Small Batch Bourbon Collection over the holidays, so I saw this as a perfect time to complete my reviews of this line by tasting Baker’s.  (You can find the other’s here: Knob Creek, Basil Hayden, Booker’s)

What does it mean that I’m reviewing something in its mini-bottle form?  Honestly, I’m not too certain either.  Sure, this didn’t make it into the full-bottle batch and this can’t be experienced in the same way that the full bottle could; on the other hand, its the same stuff inside and it seems that Beam has taken great care with the miniature versions of their Small Batch Collection.

Stats:

– Probably a few dollars by itself

– Made by the folks a Jim Beam

– 107 proof

Presentation:

While it’s difficult to judge a bourbon’s bottling when in mini-bottle form, the small batch collection minis do seem to hold largely true to their bigger-bottle form.  Knob Creek mini has its distinctive angular form and Basil Hayden mini has its tall, distinguished proportions.  Baker’s and Booker’s bottles are given a tear-drop form that is only mildly reminiscent of their actual shape, but represent a valiant effort in miniaturization, regardless.

I do remember liking the Baker’s distinctive capital B and use of type during visits to the bar and the mini-bottle uses this same motif to only slightly more confusing effect (the capital ‘B’ is right next to the ‘B’ in “Baker’s” making it look like “BBaker’s”.)

Lines and fills are ever so slightly rough and overly bold in order to mimic an old letter press and come in varying typefaces.  One edge of the label is serrated while the others are smooth.  All in all, this comes across as the older brother of Knob Creek.  Not afraid to stray from the yarns of long-dead grandfathers that adorn other bourbons, but not dispatching with a sense of history over all.

Tasting:

Very upfront nose.  Citrus, grass, roasted almond, fresh cherry.  There is very little subtlety about this aroma, but it is pleasant and un-astringent for a 100+ proofer.

On tasting it’s sweet, with some notes of oats and citrus, finishing with a nice lingering warmth and some tanginess, this settles into a vanilla-and-smoke after a while.

Over all:

Baker’s is not shy.  It is bright for the most part and settles into something a little more subdued over time.  I actually like this one quite a bit – and it may even be my favorite of the small batch collection from Beam.  That said, it also is the one that reminds me the most of Jim Beam black – and that’s not a bad thing in my book.

I’ll have to pick up a full-sized edition when I get a chance.

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Jim Beam Black

Surely, one of the first bourbons I ever tasted was Jim Beam – probably the white label variety and probably with more attention paid to the effects of the drink than its characteristics, sadly.  This is a classic brand that has maintained its status as the standard for Kentucky bourbon for many years.  As a result, it’s difficult to look at a bottle of Jim Beam Black with a fresh and critical set of eyes.

Presentation:

JBB is aged 8 years – twice that of the white label and one year short of Beam’s Knob Creek.  The packaging strays little from the design of the mainline variety, sporting the familiar signature, family tree, red seal, and typeface.  The marketing copy on the side is relatively understated in both its description of the product as well as in the coy humility inserted at the end: “…we know a little about making exceptional bourbon.”

All in all, the packaging is what you expect from Jim Beam, it is one of the standards against which other whiskeys judge their appearance.  The grabs at nostalgia here seem more genuine than fetish-object: the signature at the bottom was introduced decades ago as a hedge against trademark infringement (forgery carrying a higher penalty than the infringement itself).

What can one really say about this bottle?

Tasting:

There is nothing overpowering in the nose of Jim Beam Black, nor is there anything overly complex.  Notes of floral sweetness, oak, and fruit present themselves and quietly retreat.

On the palate Black is much more assertive.  Immediately the corn-driven sweetness is prominent at first, followed by something akin to berries, fresh legumes, and char.  The finish is largely clean with a hint of lingering spice.

Over all:

The similarity between Jim Beam Black and Knob Creek is certainly clear, yet it seems that Knob Creek’s extra year in the barrel made significant difference in the product.  Black is punchier than Four Roses, more interesting than Bulleit, but falls short of Knob Creek in terms of depth and complexity.  Regardless, with the lower price, this would be a good buy.