Jim Beam’s Newest Little Book Whiskey Leans Into the Power of Rye

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Most whiskey drinkers are familiar with Booker’s, the barrel-proof expression that anchor’s the Jim Beam Small Batch Collection. But they are perhaps less familiar with Little Book, the whiskey series created by eighth-generation master distiller Freddie Noe as a tribute to his grandfather, the legendary Beam master distiller Booker Noe. The latest release in the series puts rye whiskey front and center, and we have the details to share.

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The first Little Book release, or Chapter as they are called in this series, came out in 2017. “The Easy” was a blend of bourbon, corn, malt, and rye whiskey, a solid start to the journey Noe set out on with this collection—to highlight the art of blending by experimenting with different liquids, some of which have never been commercially released by the James B. Beam Distilling Co., as the Jim Beam distillery is now known. Fast-forward to 2024, and Noe has focused on Kentucky rye for this new expression by selecting four different whiskeys, along with an older bourbon, to blend together. The makeup is as follows: four-year-old Kentucky straight rye; five-year-old Kentucky straight rye (PA Family-Style, Char 4); five-year-old Kentucky straight rye (PA Family-Style, Char 1); five-year-old Kentucky straight rye (KY Family-Style, Char 4); seven-year-old Kentucky straight rye malt whiskey; 11-year-old Kentucky straight rye; and 18-year-old Kentucky high-rye bourbon. The final blend comes in at 59.1 percent ABV, or 118.2 proof.

This comes on the heels of the addition of A. Overholt to the Beam family, a rye whiskey made in the Pennsylvania Monongahela style from a mashbill of 80 percent rye and 20 percent malted barley. It seems that Noe and the team at the distillery are putting a lot of effort into the rye category instead of relying solely on bourbon’s popularity. Some of the ryes included in this blend are probably found in expressions from Beam brands like Old Overholt, Knob Creek, and regular Jim Beam Rye. But the “family-style” ryes are likely ones that have not been released on their own, which is indicative of the fact that there’s a whole lot of whiskey being made and aged at the distillery that we have yet to taste.

Little Book “Path Not Taken” reads, of course, as a rye whiskey from nose to finish, despite the inclusion of what I assume is just a small amount of bourbon. The nose is floral and fruity with notes of pepper, grape, pear, and cinnamon. That continues onto the palate, with notes of chili powder covered mango, grilled pineapple, salted caramel, pecan, vanilla, and spiced carrot cake. There’s an intensity of flavor here, despite the fact that the blend is made up of Kentucky-style rye whiskeys with lower percentages of rye, and the higher proof suits this whiskey nicely. This is certainly a Little Book release for diehard rye fans, and maybe is not going to appeal to those who prefer the sweeter character typically associated with bourbon.

Little Book Chapter 8 “Path Not Taken” (SRP $150) is just being released, so it might be difficult to find online or in stores at the moment, but keep up the hunt. In the meantime, you can find previous expressions like last year’s “In Retrospect” from websites like Total Wine now.

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