Hardin’s Creek is a new brand extension in the Beam Suntory family of products. It is being distilled at the new Fred B. Noe Distillery that is being led by master distiller Freddie Noe. According to the press release, “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.”
The brand consists of two bottles for its inaugural release, one low aged and one high aged. Jacob’s Well is a blend of a 15 year old high rye bourbon and 16 year old traditional bourbon. The company states that “this edition pays tribute to the first family distiller, Jacob Beam, and the well he built in 1795.”
A cornucopia of rich scents introduces the bourbon. Sweet caramel, cinnamon sticks, light nutmeg, baking spice, and rye spice are all present. Adding additional depth are notes of aged oak,light dried tobacco and cigar box. The scents play off each other perfectly forming an inviting aroma that draws you in. These are classic aged bourbon scents that provide a great opening to the sip.
The palate continues the journey of classic bourbon notes with a focus more on aged flavors. Aged oak, dried raisins, light dried leather, and spicy rye flavors burst onto the scene. These are joined with a light undertone of syrup and a hint of spice cake. These simple yet classic aged Kentucky bourbon notes prove to be a fantastic midpoint of the sip.
Syrup soaked raisins rise to the top to start things off. From there the finish quickly transitions to drier and spicier notes, with dry oak, rye spice, and heat taking over. As these linger, a slight hint of the more traditional Jim Beam nuttiness kicks in on the very back end. In line with the rest of the sip, the finish falls just short of the height reached by the nose and palate, yet still delivers a solid ending to the sip overall.
The inaugural batches of Hardin’s Creek releases represent a contrast in ages. While the much lower aged Colonel James B. Beam drinks surprisingly well for such a low aged bourbon, Jacob’s Well reaches the heights you would hope for when it comes to high aged Kentucky bourbon. When thinking about this bourbon, I was struck with the thought that while there isn’t anything inherently unique about it, at the same time, it’s also rare to find 15 year old Kentucky bourbon that drinks as well as this does.
Jacob’s Well flirts with being over-oaked, tap-dancing its way around never quite crossing that line. Instead, it uses its age to its advantage, as rich notes deliver a nice balance of aged dried flavors that intermingle with spicier and appropriately placed sweet notes. Most amazing to me is the fact that until you get to the finish you’d be hard pressed to place this as a bourbon coming from a Beam brand due to the lack of nuttiness found throughout the sip. For some this will be a miss, as this is a characteristic that Beam lovers seek out, however, for others it will come as a welcome relief.
Based on the two bottles in the inaugural batch of Hardin’s Creek, it’s clear that the brand will be priced at a premium. In comparison to Colonel James B. Beam, which was a two year bourbon that represented a well below average value for $80, Jacob’s Well seems very reasonable, coming in at $150. Age does not, and should not, directly equate to what a good whiskey is, or what a fair price would be for it. However, it does have a strong correlation when it comes to prices in the marketplace.
As I pointed out in my Colonel James B. Beam review, Beam has many incredible bourbons across its portfolio for $80 or less. When you have other bourbons coming from a Beam Suntory owned distillery like Knob Creek 12 Year, which also happened to be #1 Whiskey of the Year in 2020, the expectations ramp up significantly. However, a more fair comparison would be Knob Creek 15 Year which carries a $100 MSRP. It may not come in the fancy tin tube or the unique bottle that Jacob’s Well comes in, but it delivers a well above average pour for the price. Yet even at a 50% price premium, Jacob’s Well delivers a sip that edges Knob Creek 15 Year, and stands out as one of the better 15+ year old bourbons of the past year. Its price of entry may be high, but in this case, the price shouldn’t scare anyone away.
A rich sip full of flavor, Jacob’s Well owns up to every one of its 184 months it spent in the barrel, and delivers a classic sip that will please any who try.
Not surprisingly, Jacob’s Well is the clear standout of this year’s two Hardin’s Creek releases. While aged Kentucky bourbon in the 15 year range has become more prevalent these past two years, Jacob’s Well carries a flavor profile that is distinctively its own. The nose and palate are grounded in a soiree of classic notes that prop up the sip nicely. The finish comes close to matching, and offers the only hint in terms of slight nuttiness that this is a product from a Beam Suntory owned distillery. If this release is an indication of what’s to come from the Hardin’s Creek line, I'm excited for what’s to come.