Little Book Chapter 3: The Road Home (with some Booker’s 2018-04 on the side)

LITTLE BOOK CHAPTER 3: THE ROAD HOME
2019 Limited Release

MASH BILL – Undisclosed (rumored 77% corn, 13% rye, 10% barley)

PROOF – 122.6

AGE – Blend of Basil Hayden’s 9-year, Knob Creek 9-year, Booker’s 11-year, and Baker’s 12-year

DISTILLERY – Jim Beam

PRICE – $87

BUY AGAIN? – Not likely, because of $$ not taste. But if a great sale came along…

BOOKER’S 2018-04 “KITCHEN TABLE”

MASH BILL – Undisclosed (rumored 77% corn, 13% rye, 10% barley)

PROOF – 128

AGE – 6 years 8 months 7 days

DISTILLERY – Jim Beam

PRICE – $54 (now ~$65)

BUY AGAIN? – Not likely, because so many Booker’s so little time!

I prepped my pallet with some Booker’s 2018-04, watered down from its natural 128-proof to roughly 86-proof. I wanted to get my Jim Beam senses going, and to alert my pallet to the proof-onslaught to come without over-exposing it up front. “Always leave ’em wanting more,” as they say in showbiz. Watered down to that extent, the Booker’s reminded me of a cinnamon-dusted Basil Hayden, the flavors discernible but thin and not terribly attention grabbing.

Pallet alerted, I then poured about half a shot of Little Book 3 into four different glasses. I wanted to give this blend of four classic Jim Beam products a thorough tasting. I cycled through the four glasses for each category of notes, and here they are in brief:

COLOR – a nice, clear, darkly toasted honey-orange

NOSE – cinnamon, rich salty caramel fudge, rich vanilla, dusty fine-grained oak, a bit of grilled orange peel, all of it notably restrained at first but opening up gradually with air

TASTE – rich tangy caramel, smooth chocolate, oily organic peanut butter, smooth oak, a very smooth and even burn given the proof

FINISH – warm and rich with the caramel, peanut butter, oak, and a nice soft tingle left to slowly fade…

OVERALL – a gentleman’s Booker’s

I was very excited by the prospects of Little Book 3 when I read about it. The blend of well-aged Jim Beam bourbons sounded like bourbon heaven. The four lines included in the blend (Basil Hayden, Knob Creek, Baker’s, and Booker’s) are like a band of brothers. Basil Hayden, with its fancy packaging and too friendly 80-proof, has never really held my attention. It’s the Horatio bourbon of the four—as friendly as it is forgettable. Knob Creek, with its characteristic robust extremes, has been hit and miss for me—though any “miss” has never been bad, maybe just too familiar to stand out. Whereas the Knob Creek “hits” are like good fireworks on a dark night, colorful and bright and rich. As for Baker’s, it’s been two years since I enjoyed making my way through a bottle of it, which struck me from first to last ounce as a gateway Booker’s, tame and steady by comparison. Booker’s, of course, is my touchstone—a dependable wild card.

Of the four siblings, it’s Booker’s I’m most fluent with. And this Little Book does not disappoint the expectations I have built up along my Booker’s journey. Little Book 3 is more restrained and elegant than the average Booker’s. Being a fan of misfits and oddballs, I favor Booker’s rambunctious multiplicity. But Little Book 3 offers a refined variation I greatly appreciate. Ironically, this also means I’ll most likely not pick up a second bottle, given the average cost. But I’m very glad for this one and will continue to enjoy it.

Mid-tasting, I went ahead and tried an undiluted shot of the Booker’s 2018-04 next to the Little Book 3:

BOOKER’S 2018-04 “KITCHEN TABLE”

COLOR – a rich auburn-orange

NOSE – caramel, chocolate, vanilla, oak, toasted cinnamon, lemon zest, rustic bread with melted butter, all very well integrated

TASTE – oak, caramel, a bit of cherry, dark roasted peanut and cashew, fancy dried blood orange covered in dark chocolate, some not unpleasing tannins

FINISH – lingering with lovely smooth oak tannins against a background of chocolate covered caramel

OVERALL – This is a good cozy bonfire in autumn

Trying this Booker’s 2018-04 alongside the Little Book 3, they’re clearly family. I look to any Booker’s for an outburst. Little Book 3 provides a less demonstrative but wholly satisfying experience. Booker’s is the bucking Branco and Little Book 3 is the thoroughbred. Booker’s is for a game of poker. Little Book 3 is for a game of chess.

If this bottle continues to air out well, I can imagine picking up another should it turn up at a sale price later in the year—or to console myself for having missed something I’d been after at a similar price. (😉) It’s really good. A very nicely refined blend. It reminds me of Wild Turkey’s habit of seldom straying too far from the path. That means a dependable experience, but also a lack of surprise. And when I’m weighing my buying dollars, I tend to lean more toward the pours that will spontaneously raise my eyebrows.

In 2018, Little Book 2 had the exotic attraction of some 40-year Canadian whiskey in its mix. In 2017, Little Book 1 was a fine but easily forgotten blend of 13-year corn whiskey (aged in used barrels), 4-year bourbon, and 6-year rye and malt whiskeys. Little Book 3 is indeed a return home, focused on core Beam family bourbons and making something lovely out of their combined attributes. It’s too bad these Little Book blends cost as much as they tend to do. Yet for those of us invested in the Beam journey—and, in the case of Little Book 3, considering the impressive age range in the blend—the Little Books make a worthy effort and experience.

Cheers!

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