Classification: Blended Straight Whiskey
Company: Beam Suntory
Distillery: Jim Beam
Release Date: August 2021
Age: 2 Years (Neck tag states it’s a blend of 2, 3, 5, and 15 year old whiskeys)
Mashbill: Undisclosed (Blend of 2 year old Kentucky Straight Bourbon, 3 year old Kentucky Straight Rye Malt Whiskey, 5 year old Kentucky Straight Bourbon, and 15 year old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey)
MSRP: $125 (2021)
Little Book is an ongoing annual release curated by Freddie Noe, eighth generation Beam family member and son of current Beam master distiller, Fred Noe. This year’s edition, Chapter 5, has been titled “The Invitation.” Chapter 5 is a unique blend of whiskeys: 2 year old Kentucky Straight Bourbon, 3 year old Kentucky Straight Rye Malt Whiskey, 5 year old Kentucky Straight Bourbon, and 15 year old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. The blend is bottled uncut at 116.8 proof and is available nationwide. You can read more about this year's edition in the company’s press release.
Baking aromas are instantly noticeable with baking spice and cinnamon jumping out the most. Taking the time to push past these dominant scents reveals hints of vanilla and toasted caramel, along with charred oak and dried leather. There is also the faintest hint of kneaded dough that joins the mix. The result is a nose that tends to go more towards the average age of the blended whiskeys and displays neither youth or overly oaked characteristics. It’s a very pleasing way to start things off and sets the rest of the sip up nicely.
Cinnamon spice in the form of Fireball candy leaps out. This is mixed with rye spice, tobacco leaf, peppercorn, and baking spice. As the palate reveals these flavors, an overlaying tannic wet oak emerges. While the earthy tobacco leaf plays nicely with the spice, it is hard to escape this oak flavor which clips the wings of the palate and grounds it from achieving a higher level than it does.
The wet tannic oak from the palate flares but then quickly dissipates. In its place the finish doubles down on earthy flavors in the form of leather, cigar box, and tobacco, along with green peppercorn. Propping up all of these is a base of spice that ultimately provides the end note of the finish in the form of a lingering heat. It’s a nice way to end the sip and helps redeem the low point of the palate.
The Little Book series is a fun way for Beam to release a blend of unique whiskeys that often results in a drinking experience different from anything else in their portfolio. Freddie Noe has often chosen some really interesting base components such as the high aged corn whiskey in Chapter 1 and Chapter 2, or the brown rice bourbon in Chapter 4. In Chapter 5’s case, the wild card is its 15 year old bourbon. While it’s not been uncommon to see 15 year old bourbon recently, as even Beam highlighted their prowess with 15 year old whiskey in Knob Creek 15 Year, it’s not exactly common either.
Additionally, Little Book mashbills often contain a mix of bourbon and rye, and Chapter 5 is no exception. The rye helps to really emphasize a spiciness that plays well throughout. The end result is a whiskey that won’t knock your socks off, but offers just enough differentiation to stand out from Beam’s current offerings, along with differentiating itself from the Chapters that came before it.
Little Book Chapter 5 holds steady at the $125 price tag that was introduced with the release of Little Book Chapter 3. Beam prices the Little Book series as their premium product above all of their Small Batch Collection, including Booker’s which now sports a $90 price tag. While in Chapters past you usually got a unique offering - whether it was an extremely high aged whiskey, a unique component of the mashbill, or a unique offering such as Chapter 3 - Chapter 5 doesn’t really offer such a component. Yes, you have the addition of a 15 year old bourbon, however it doesn’t seem like that is necessarily an above average value given we don’t know how much of the blend it makes up. Instead, Chapter 5 is a below average value for what it offers. It’s a rare miss for the brand which usually delivers a higher value to the consumer, but it’s a miss nonetheless.
Little Book Chapter 5 delivers a good pour, however it fails to live up to the bar that was set by the Chapters that came before it.
The Little Book series has so far stood out to be a high point for Jim Beam every year. The company gives Freddie Noe a wide range to play with and he usually delivers a solid whiskey in return. While the 5th chapter in this series delivers a slightly above average sip, it fails to live up to the precedent that was set by those Chapters that came before. It lacks overall pizzazz, instead delivering a sip that is hard-pressed to justify its price tag. Chapter 5 is more akin to an actual book. Not every chapter will be a knockout, and some are there to just drive the story forward. While it will still please those who enjoy a unique Beam product, casual fans of the series may be more inclined to wait to see what next year's Chapter 6 brings instead.