It’s unicorn launch time — again — as Beam (now formally known as the James B. Beam Distilling Company) launches Hardin’s Creek, a brand that will offer “unique and rare, limited-edition whiskeys rooted in the Beam family legacy. These new whiskeys have been crafted by Freddie Noe, recently announced as master distiller of the new Fred B. Noe Distillery, the small distilling operation on Beam’s Clermont campus that opened last year.
What’s the gist with these whiskeys?
Hardin’s Creek is the next generation of boundary-pushing, premium American Whiskey inspired by the expertise of seven generations of Beam Master Distillers. Hardin’s Creek is an ongoing series of annual releases, featuring some of James B. Beam Distilling Co.’s rarest and most unique liquids and grounded in the rich experience and distilling expertise of James B. Beam Distilling Co. Each set of releases will showcase the breadth and depth of the James B. Beam Distilling Co’s whiskey-making credentials inclusive of age, blending, mash bill, distillation, barrels, rackhouse locations, and more. This year’s inaugural Hardin’s Creek series will launch with two expressions: Jacob’s Well Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, a thoughtful blend of two ultra-aged bourbons, and Colonel James B. Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, a carefully crafted young whiskey.
“We couldn’t be more excited to launch Hardin’s Creek, particularly after the refresh of the James B. Beam Distillery and the opening of the Fred B. Noe Distillery. This has been a long time in the making, and I can’t wait to share it with the world,” said Freddie Noe, the newly appointed Master Distiller of the Fred B. Noe Distillery. “Every detail, from the blending techniques to the labels, draws inspiration from centuries of our family’s history, paying homage to our heritage while looking towards our future.”
With that prologue, we’re ready to dip into both releases. Here we go.
Both are 108 proof.
Hardin’s Creek Jacob’s Well Bourbon – “A thoughtful blend of two ultra-aged expressions: one 16-year-old traditional bourbon and one 15-year-old high-rye bourbon blended to achieve a depth of flavor unlike any other in Beam history.” I’ll be straightforward on this and say this is one of the best bourbons I’ve had in years, period. The nose is instantly engaging, a solid slug of oak paired with notes of toasted coconut, licorice, and vanilla. It’s intense but not over-oaked or off-putting, coming across as inviting as a big leather chair. On the palate a burst of fruit starts things off — blackberry and a little cherry — before lots of oak and leather come back into the mix. The fruit and savory notes balance almost perfectly with one another, a light layer of spice adding connecting tissue for the experience. Cinnamon, cloves, and baked apples all linger as the finish builds — and it’s a long time coming. 54% abv feels just about perfect for this whiskey, which is warming but never hot, comforting yet intense with flavor. Hot chocolate hangs on to the finish forever. I couldn’t put this whiskey down, and I didn’t want to. Regular readers know I don’t give out A+ ratings like candy. Buy all you can right now before the price skyrockets. A+ / $150
Hardin’s Creek Colonel James B. Beam Bourbon – “This limited-edition, two-year-old whiskey achieves a depth of flavor usually reserved for more mature bourbons by taking it off the still at a lower distillation proof, imparting more flavor from the fermentation process and letting the barrel’s characteristics shine through at a younger age.” Can a two year old bourbon really measure up to the luxe aspirations of this brand? Well, if nothing else, this is a huge step back, though it’s not bad for what it is. Especially if you like peanuts. Powerful peanut shell notes on both nose and palate, paired with vanilla-dusted oak, pave a very traditional and somewhat boring road, with a hint of caramel and fresh lumberyard elements all in the mix. There are hints of red pepper on the finish, but otherwise it wears everything on its sleeve. Nothing offensive about it, but I can’t see a path to paying $80 for a bottle. B- / $80