Freddie Noe is the son of Fred Noe who’s the son of Booker Noe. If you are not familiar with these names, these men are essentially bourbon royalty, with a lineage that has been part of Jim Beam and its many brand offshoots for eight generations. Booker was sort of a bourbon luminary, a larger-than-life presence who was responsible for creating the Small Batch Collection — Basil Hayden’s, Knob Creek, Baker’s, and the eponymous Booker’s. Fred took over as master distiller in 2007, and has been a ubiquitous presence on the road promoting Beam products and holding court at the distillery. And now his son Freddie has taken an integral role at the distillery, most prominently with his Little Book series of blended straight whiskeys. The latest release, Chapter 4: “Lessons Honored,” is an homage to his dad and the things he’s taught him over the years, and it’s really an excellent example of a conceptual whiskey that delivers in flavor as much as it does in ideas.
Like all the past chapters, this fourth installment is a blended straight whiskey (no neutral grain spirits here, folks). The components in this edition are: a 4-year-old Kentucky straight brown rice bourbon, an 8-year-old Kentucky straight “high rye” rye whiskey, and a 7-year-old Kentucky straight bourbon. I had a chance to taste through the components and the final product with Freddie a few weeks ago, and he had a lot to say about picking these particular whiskeys. The brown rice bourbon is the base of the blend, and on its own it really stands out from other Beam-distilled whiskeys. Freddie said that rice is a soft grain to work with, containing lots of starch, and it converts well. The resulting whiskey drinks beyond its four years, with dry spice and an underlying flavor that’s almost like a sherry cask finish. The next largest component is the 7-year-old bourbon, which is actually a younger, cask strength version of Knob Creek. Freddie brought Knob Creek aged between seven and nine years to his dad for a blind tasting, and the elder Noe chose this one. There’s a touch of astringency in this liquid, but it’s still got those deep vanilla and caramel notes that make up Knob Creek. Finally, the last whiskey in the blend is a “higher rye” rye. At about 65% rye, that’s definitely more of the grain in the mash bill than other Beam rye whiskeys. According to Freddie, this whiskey was made using the same mash bill as Booker’s Rye, but he said it really hasn’t been used for any Beam products before this Little Book release.
The final product, Little Book Chapter 4, is another winner. I think all of the releases have been successful, some more than others, but I’d put this one near the top. There is an interesting note of Earl Grey tea that underlies all the classic flavors of sweet, soft vanilla and dark caramel, along with some ripe stone fruit notes. Freddie, working along with his crack team, has really come into his own as a blender. And he believes the concept of blending is gaining more respect among American whiskey drinkers, who for years weren’t so keen on the category due to a glut of subpar grain-alcohol-infused swill labeled as blends. As we ended our conversation, Freddie brought another concept into the fold, philosophizing on the relationship between distilling whiskey and the natural world. “Being in touch with nature is what creates a quality product,” he told me, ruminating on the history of farmer-distillers and the grains they grew. I can’t wait to see what Freddie’s relationship with nature will bring us with future Little Book releases. In the meantime, I’l be sipping on this one.
Little Book Chapter 4: “Lessons Honored” is available now for an SRP of $124.99.
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