Hardin’s Creek is a new limited edition concept originally launched in 2022 by Beam Suntory. The first release consisted of 2 year old and 15 year, 4 month old bourbons, aptly named Hardin's Creek: Colonel James B. Beam and Hardin's Creek: Jacob’s Well, respectively. The brand follows up last year's release with an ambitious three part release named the Hardin’s Creek Kentucky Series, which will be highlighting Kentucky terroir. The company states in their press release that “each expression within The Kentucky Series is a 17-year-old Bourbon, aged at one of three James B. Beam Distilling Company [Kentucky] campuses: Clermont, Frankfort, and Boston. All three liquids were laid down with the same mash bill at the same time seventeen years ago but aged at different campus locations.” An additional press release was published for the Boston release containing many of the same details.
In our talk with Freddie Noe, he stated that the Boston campus is also known as the Booker Noe campus, since according to Freddie Noe, this is where Booker typically worked. He went on to say that the barrels were pulled from a group of warehouses that “sit up off to the side.” The campus itself is consistently windy with less tree coverage compared to the others. Like their Claremont location, the Boston facility does distill on-site.
Notably, the company has chosen to label each bottle in this series with an age statement of 204 months, which translates to exactly 17 years. Each release in the series will carry the same age statement and will be bottled at 110 proof.
For the Boston release, the company provides the following information: Average Elevation: 139 meters, Average Daily Sunlight: 7.4 hours, Longitude: 85° 41’ 29” W, Latitude: 37° 48’ 41” N, Number of Rackhouses: 28
Rich dark scents waft out of the glass in the form of baking chocolate, cinnamon stick, and charred oak. Kentucky cream pull candy adds sweetness, while a dash of light rye spice and leather help ground everything. Inhaling deeper pulls out a scent of dark fruits which helps add intrigue. It’s a nuanced yet delicious way to open up the sip.
Earthy notes of dried charred oak, green peppercorn spice, and dry cinnamon march their way forward. Behind these are notes of rye spice and plumb dark raisins. The proof is tempered in the palate, instead, the focus is on the age of the bourbon. The extended time spent in barrels is evident, yet the bourbon doesn’t come across as over-oaked. It may not quite reach the same level that the nose does, however, it exemplifies all the flavors you’d want out of a bourbon this age.
A gentle rush of rye spice comes forward. Immediately behind this are dried charred oak and leather, along with a light note of heavily charred caramel. A dash of green peppercorn and baking spices are also present, however, the focus is clearly on the drier oak and leather notes that prop up a canopy of rye spice. It lingers appropriately for a bourbon this age and provides adequate time between sips to dissect what you just tasted.
I discussed in detail in my Hardin's Creek Kentucky Series: Clermont and Hardin's Creek Kentucky Series: Frankfort reviews the backstory behind the Hardin’s Creek Kentucky Series is worth repeating. Having been distilled with the exact same mashbill, laid down the exact same day, and aged for the exact same amount of time, yet aged in different parts of Kentucky, asks the question if the resulting bourbons will carry similar or unique flavor profiles. While terroir (and terroir-themed) experiments have been done before, and new ones are popping up such as Russell’s Reserve’s Single Rickhouse Collection, nothing quite this controlled and long term has been done to the extent of what Hardin’s Creek Kentucky Series is doing.
In our conversation with Freddie Noe, it was revealed that all three bourbons were distilled using the mashbill found in a standard bottle of Jim Beam, were laid down within 24 hours of each other, and all were aged on the 2nd or 3rd floor of their warehouses. Normally bourbon distilled at the Clermont campus (which is aged at Clermont and Frankfort) is blended with bourbon distilled at the company’s Boston campus. Instead for this series, the barrels for each release were only blended with other barrels aged in their own respective locations. The barrels used for this experiment were initially identified when they were all 15.5 years old. Seeing as how they use the standard Jim Beam mashbill and were being aged beyond the 4 to 5 years found in a blend of standard Jim Beam, it’s an interesting and unique concept in terms of what impact the location’s terroir has on the bourbon, as well as what really high aged Jim Beam tastes like.
Noe explained to us that the batch size for each of the three releases is about the same, with each consisting of a blend of 55-60 barrels, with the angel’s share percentages all being within 2% of each other. While no exact number was given for how many bottles will be in each of the three releases in this series, he did state that the yield was small.
Unique backstory aside, highly aged bourbon from Jim Beam is still a rarity for the most part. While Hardin’s Creek: Jacob’s Well came in over 15 years old, other higher aged Beam products have usually come in the form of Knob Creek over the last decade including Knob Creek 2001, Knob Creek 15 Year, and Knob Creek 18 Year. The latter which shares the same mashbill and similar age, however, has the flexibility of being able to blend in bourbon from various warehouses to hone in its flavor profile.
Compared to the other two releases, Hardin's Creek Kentucky Series: Boston trends closest to the Clermont release. Considering the fact that both locations have distilleries on-site versus Frankfort’s campus being used for aging only, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Where the Frankfort release distinguished itself with its slightly elevated palate, the Boston release, like the Clermont release, punches above in the nose the most. Their flavor profiles are similar yet slightly differentiated enough to provide a subtle contrast between the two bottles.
At the end of the day, this entire series is one of the more unique concepts that the market has seen as of late. While you clearly need the barrel selection depth of a massive company such as Beam Suntory to pull this off, you also have to give the company credit for greenlighting this. It would have been just as easy to let this bourbon rest a little longer and release it as another higher aged Knob Creek. Instead, consumers now have a fun way to compare and contrast how the landscape of Kentucky shapes a bourbon.
The value for this bourbon falls very in line with its Clermont and Frankfort counterparts almost to a T, which makes sense when you think about how closely similar this entire line is in terms of age, mashbill, and distillation source. Both of these releases fall in line with the brand's pricing for the first release. While Hardin’s Creek: Jacob’s Well was a 15 year, 4 month old bourbon, it carried a $150 price tag. Adding on an additional year in a half of aging brings with it a reasonable $20 bump in price. It’s a fair price to pay considering its age and flavor profile.
In my Clermont and Frankfort reviews I stated that my main gripe with this price tag is that it’s for a single bottle. It became even more apparent when tasting the Boston release that in order to really experience the whole series, you’ll need to be lucky enough to track down all three bottles over several months and compare them side by side. I specifically called out that it would be great to see all three bottles in the series released in a pack of 200mL bottles to taste side by side.
Thankfully after this bottle came out, the brand announced The Hardin’s Creek Kentucky Series Trio in mid-October. The Trio delivers all three bottles in the series in, you guessed it, a package that includes a 200mL bottle of each release. This is honestly what the brand should have done from the get-go as this series is much more fun to taste side by side versus individually.
Concluding Freddie Noe’s ambitious experiment in Kentucky terroir, the Hardin’s Creek Kentucky Series ends on a note similar to where it started and provides consumers the chance to dive into the subtle changes that each aging location imparted on this batch of bourbon.
Hardin's Creek Kentucky Series: Boston is a nice conclusion to Beam Suntory’s “Kentucky terroir” trilogy. While it's similar in line to the Clermont release in terms of what the sip is capable of delivering, it also offers enough subtle differences to be able to stand alone as a well-aged Kentucky bourbon. Its price is high, but also in line with expectations for bourbon aged this long nowadays. As a standalone high aged bourbon, the Boston release executes in line with the other releases and provides a great sip.
I’m glad consumers now have a chance to buy The Hardin’s Creek Kentucky Series Trio since this is truly the best way to experience this set. The true magic of the Boston release, and really the other two releases in general, comes to light when you’re finally able to sit down and compare all three releases of this trilogy side by side. It’s then that you’re able to see how the various aging locations imparted their own unique touch on the barrels. Subtle yet noticeable, it’s a reminder that aging location plays an important role in the overall process of making bourbon. And in this case, the bourbon in the barrel is thankfully really good.