Age statements have become somewhat of a rarity lately in the bourbon industry. At Beam-Suntory, parent of the Jim Beam family of products, age statements have disappeared on the Jim Beam Black line and come, gone, and come back on the Knob Creek brand. The rejuvenation of the Baker’s brand has brought a fresh take on Beam’s small batch line-up.
A Rebel in the Making
Every family has a member that adds color and character (the nice way of saying “a bit of a rebel”). The Beam family was no exception and their rebel was named Baker. At his peak, Baker Beam – the grand-nephew of founder Jim Beam - would show up at the distillery campus in Clermont, Kentucky riding a motorcycle, wearing a black leather jacket and a wide-brimmed hat.
Baker led the Beam distillery through some tough years as America’s taste for bourbon waned, and clear spirits and wine coolers were in vogue. Baker’s cousin – Booker Noe – was hard at work on reviving the Beam brand as he focused on a small batch lineup. Today, Beam’s small batch brands include Basil Hayden, Knob Creek, Booker’s and Booker’s tribute to his cousin – Baker’s.
For years, Baker’s was a small-batch product resulting from a blend of 200 barrels. In 2019, Baker’s switched to a single-barrel offering. Today, the brand that serves as a tribute to Baker is aged a minimum of 7-years.
Baker’s utilizes the standard Beam mash bill of 77% corn, 13% rye, and 10% malted barley. This particular bottle of Baker’s was barreled in October 2012 and was aged 7 years and 11 months in warehouse CL-M. The finished product, serial number 1589716, is bottled at the signature 107 proof. Baker’s is 3rd in proof in Beam’s small batch lineup, with Basil Hayden and Knob Creek having lower proofs and Booker’s bearing the highest proof.
Nose: Definitely from the Beam family. Roasted nuts, caramel and vanilla.
Palate: There is some heat front and center, reminding you this is 107 proof. After your palate adjusts, there is vanilla and rye spiciness present. I feel Knob Creek has a little more balance over Baker’s without the heat.
Finish: Medium-long with more roasted nuts, vanilla and charred oak. Pretty pleasant.
Overall: This is a pretty tasty pour. The question I have is one of value. In local markets, this brand commands somewhere between $53 and $64. While it is higher proof than sibling Knob Creek (107 proof vs. 100 proof) and a single barrel vs. small batch, Knob Creek commands a year or two more in age (now that the 9-year age statement is back on the label) and a price that’s nearly half that of Baker’s.
As a single-barreled product, Baker’s fits a unique spot in Beam’s small batch lineup, especially for those desiring a higher proof. But I’ve also seen several single barrel special selections from Knob Creek coming in at a whopping 120 proof. While Baker’s is tasty, the best bargain (“bang for your buck”) award may go to Knob Creek.