The Tasting Panel magazine

January / February 2018

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Page 95 of 124

january/february 2018  /  the tasting panel  /  95 stimulating instead of slowing demand for higher-priced products. Knob Creek Winds Its Way to California Hundreds of miles west of the holy land of American whiskey production, California doesn't get to host whiskey royalty as often it would like. This past October, Noe visited both Northern and Southern California to celebrate new releases, regale spirits industry professionals with his stories from the still, and, of course, sample the merchandise. Noe commemorated Knob Creek's 25th anniversary at an intimate lun- cheon in San Francisco, where area bartenders were among the first to taste the anniversary expression. The 120.6 proof was precisely balanced, with honeyed barbeque and toasty vanilla notes that carried a medium attack; the 122 proof had a softer nose and more apparent cherried fruit; and the 124.3 proof was a high-octane pour with a more significant attack support- ing all of the desired flavors. Not one to let grass grow under his feet, Noe has the eighth generation of the Jim Beam family already hard at work. His son, Freddie, fondly known as "Little Book" for his resemblance to his late grandfather, is charged with developing a new blend each year. Noe described Freddie's inaugural effort, "The Easy"—which retails for $80 and is made with 13-year-old corn whiskey, six-year-old American malt whiskey, six-year-old rye, and four-year-old bourbon—as "purse whiskey" for its light aromas, round, nutty flavors, and gentle attack that's already finding an audience with small-batch fans. During a tasting in Los Angeles, Noe explained that when he started at Beam, his dad, Booker, put him to work as the night-shift bottling line supervi- sor—essentially the worst job he could find—to see if he was serious about the family business. "Thirty-five years later and they haven't run me off yet," he joked. "After I went to work, my dad said, 'I'm gonna teach you how to drink bourbon.' I said, 'Dad, I pretty much got that down,' and he said, 'I'm gonna teach you how to drink it properly.'" When the time came for Freddie to start at Beam, Noe said "he wanted to learn everything about the business, so he had a regimented internship" that exposed him to every side of its operations. That included a stint in Research and Development, where Freddie wanted to see if he could blend corn, rye, and malt whiskeys at the same percentage as the mash bill of Jim Beam and have it taste the same. Little Book spawned from Freddie's efforts to revisit this idea; in a tribute to his grandfather, it's bottled at cask strength and will continue with a unique release every year. Once Noe walked through his family's personal rules for tasting (see the sidebar below), he led Los Angeles area bartenders through a sampling of Jim Beam Double Oak, Basil Hayden's Rye, the Knob Creek 25th Anniversary expression, and Little Book. Freddie was just named the eighth-generation Beam Family Distiller, and Noe says it's easy to predict what comes next for the company. "Freddie just turned 30 and I just turned 60: He's on his way in, I'm on my way out," he said as he gestured toward the bottle of Little Book. Something in his tone signaled to the room that they were witnessing a changing of the guard. "The company's in good hands; I still have projects to work on," Noe continued. "But there's a lot of fun I've got to have with my granddaughter, too." Booker's Four-Step Tasting, As Told by Fred Noe COLOR: "You can tell a lot about what you're drinking by the color. Lighter color means lighter flavor; deeper and darker is more complex." NOSE/AROMA: "There's a little trick to nosing bourbon. When you stick your nose into the glass, part your lips. If you don't, you'll pull too much alcohol into your nose and it will overwhelm. If you part your lips, you can almost taste the whiskey before it's in your mouth." TASTING WITH THE "KENTUCKY CHEW": "Take a sip of the bourbon, roll it all around, and really chew on it—pulling a little air in it while you chew. Because different parts of your mouth taste different things, you roll it around so you can assess all the flavors. I'll demonstrate the Kentucky chew because I need a little drink, and I want to make sure you're doing it right." ASSESS THE FINISH: "The finish is the flavor the bourbon leaves behind. If you taste bourbon and you make a face, it's too strong. You need it to cut it down to where it's pleasing to your palate. If you want to add water, that's fine. If you want to add a soft drink, that's okay, too. My mom drank her bourbon with ginger my whole life, and I never saw my dad give her [exple- tive] about it." THE TAKEAWAY: "Drink your bourbon any damn way you want to, and don't let anyone tell you how to do it. There ain't no rules back in Kentucky: We can drink out of the bottle, out of a nice glass, or we can drink out of a Dixie cup."

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