Classification: Straight Bourbon
Company: Beam Suntory
Distillery: Jim Beam
Release Date: Ongoing
Age: 8 Years, 6 Months (7 years is minimum for the brand, exact age is also stated on the bottle)
Mashbill: 77% Corn, 13% Rye, 10% Malted Barley
MSRP: $60 (2020)
Baker’s Bourbon is one of four bourbons that comprise Jim Beam’s Small Batch Bourbon Collection. The others in the series are Basil Hayden’s, Knob Creek, and Booker’s Bourbon. Baker’s falls third in line proof-wise, with Basil Hayden’s and Knob Creek carrying lower proofs and Booker’s being proofed the highest of the four. Baker’s Bourbon is named after Baker Beam, grandnephew of the legendary Jim Beam.
In the past, Baker’s was a small batch bourbon of around 200 barrels blended together before becoming a single barrel product in 2019. Additionally, the bottle states that it is aged a minimum of 7 years with many single barrels chosen for this bottling appearing to be much older in age. The bottle being reviewed was barrelled in January 2011, comes from warehouse CL-D, and has a serial number of 000185706.
This bourbon instantly identifies as a Beam product, as a nutty aroma jumps out, which is really potent and initially blocks out other scents. Giving a deep inhale however, brings out baking spices along with hints of caramel and vanilla. It would be nice if the nuttiness was not so dominating, however it still presents as a fine way to open the sip.
A plethora of flavors opens up the palate, starting with slightly burnt caramel and spiced vanilla, which mix with green peppercorn and rye spice. Exploring more reveals a trace of sweet syrup which adds a hint of sweetness. While the nose may hide the proof, the boldness of the sip is revealed here and helps to pull forward and exemplify all of the flavors.
The nuttiness found in the nose develops again on the finish and is joined with oak and vanilla. The vanilla quickly dissipates leaving a warming dry oak and nut flavor that dance around each other. These are propped up by a base of heat that reminds you of the 107 proof the bourbon is bottled at. Overall, the medium length finish is a nice way to end the sip.
Baker’s Bourbon 7 Year Single Barrel is the next evolution of the Baker’s brand. Since the brand was first introduced, it was always marked as a batched product, consisting of around 200 barrels or less before bottling. This allowed the brand to produce a consistent flavor profile. While it wasn’t the most popular of the Small Batch Collection, it was an above-average consistent pour and helped fill a proof range that no other bottle in the Small Batch Collection did.
At the end of 2019 that all changed, as Baker’s was no longer a small batch product. Instead, it was split into two new products, the ongoing 7 Year Single Barrel and the more limited 13 Year Single Barrel. While the more limited 13 Year variant sticks to its age statement more closely, the 7 Year Single Barrel often features many barrels actually being 8 years or older.
In the past, I’ve always found Baker’s to be the odd man out in the Small Batch Collection. Thinking of others in the collection, Basil Hayden’s is a gateway bourbon for many partly due to its lower 80 proof and appealing bottle design. Knob Creek Small Batch delivers a bold pour in its standard 100 proof bottling and cranks up the proof for its 120 proof single barrel variant. Booker’s rounds things out with its 120+ proof offerings. This used to leave Baker’s trying to slot in proof-wise between Knob Creek Small Batch and Knob Creek Single Barrel.
Compared to the prior small batch version, designating Baker’s as a single barrel and also introducing an older 13 year version too, helps the brand stand out more in the Small Batch Collection. Consumers now have the chance to try a single barrel that doesn’t ring in at a high proof of 120. Sure Baker’s 7 Year Single Barrel’s 107 proof is no slouch, but the difference between a 107 proof bourbon and a 120 proof bourbon is a lot for many consumers. Additionally, by becoming a single barrel, Baker’s 7 Year is now more differentiated from Knob Creek Small Batch. It was the right move for Beam to do and helps give more purpose to the brand inside of the Small Batch Collection.
It’s interesting that Beam decided to go the single barrel route for it’s younger version of Baker’s. The Small Batch Collection already has the standard Knob Creek Single Barrel which offers a great pour often at a price tag that’s about $10 less than the MSRP of Baker’s 7 Year Single Barrel. Oh and it’s 120 proof. Additionally, with the re-introduction of the 9 year age statement to the standard Knob Creek Small Batch, consumers can pick up a 100 proof 9 year old bottle with the same exact mashbill.
While I found the discontinued small batch Baker’s Bourbon to be a below-average value, the new bottling changes the paradigm slightly. Coming in at only $5-$10 more, the consumer is now getting a single barrel product that is a minimum of 7 years and over 100 proof bottled in a more premium design. While its own sibling Knob Creek 9 Year delivers an overall much better value, not everyone wants or needs a 120 proof single barrel age stated bourbon. This is where the value of Baker’s Single Barrel 7 Year resides.
Baker’s new single barrel status helps give it new purpose in the Small Batch Collection, providing a flavor profile that is uniquely Beam.
The evolution of the Baker’s brand has been an interesting one. While the more limited 13 Year Single Barrel release was able to stand out due to its age, the 7 Year Single Barrel is targeted at a really niche set of consumers. My theory is that Beam was hoping that the new bottle design would help it stand out on shelves and that its continuation of 107 proof attracts those who want to explore 100+ proof single barrel bourbons but are scared off by anything labeled a 110 proof or higher.
The new Baker’s 7 Year Single Barrel may come with a slightly higher price tag, but it still ends up delivering a pleasing above-average sip that is hard to find fault in. Additionally, it helps fill a niche gap in the market of 7 year single barrels in its proof range. It will be interesting to see if the age of this bourbon eventually starts settling closer to that 7 year minimum stated on the bottle, but in the meantime, it’s fun to try Baker’s bottled at an age that no other brand in the Small Batch Collection currently targets. If you’re a fan of other bottles in the Small Batch Collection, it’ll be a bottle worth seeking out and trying once.