For the first time in the series, Little Book isn’t a blended whiskey but is actually a bourbon — or rather, a blend of each of the four bourbon styles made by Jim Beam and bottled as part of its Small Batch Bourbon Collection. And no, you can’t just grab these four bottles and whip up your own version of The Road Home; each of the whiskies in the blend is uncut and unfiltered, and some have extra age on them.
As usual, Noe provides plenty of information about what’s in the bottle. In this case, the whiskeys included are the following: 9-year-old Knob Creek and Basil Hayden’s Bourbons, an 11-year-old Booker’s Bourbon, and a 12-year-old Baker’s Bourbon. (Most bottlings of Booker’s you’ll find today are in the 6 year old range; Baker’s is typically about 7 years old.)
“‘The Road Home’ is about going back to your roots – literally and figuratively,” Noe said. “With the birth of my son this year I spent a lot more time at home, reflecting often on family and our legacy. I wanted to create something that honored the legacy and values passed down to me by my family. Whenever I drive down the road to the distillery, the same one my granddaddy Booker drove down, I’m reminded of his adventurous spirit, especially of his creation of the Small Batch Collection in a time when no one was drinking premium bourbon. I like to think he passed that same spirit along to me, which ultimately led me to blending.”
“This particular blend carries a lot of sentimental value for me,” Noe explained. “Each of the individual bourbons are special to me, just as they were to my granddad, and I really wanted to make sure they came through the final blend in a way that would make him proud. Every aspect of Chapter 3 had to be absolutely perfect – the vanilla notes, the finish, the aroma – so I meticulously tested each blend to get it to a place that represented the entire Small Batch Collection while creating something totally new that I think people are really going to love.”
OK, we’ve set everything up and expectations are high. Let’s dig in.
I was immediately surprised to find the nose most reminiscent of Basil Hayden’s, a somewhat nougat-like note masking notes of smoky barrel char, plum preserves, and licorice. With water, there’s a lot of fruit here — fresh apple and baking spice emerging.
The palate is a bit of a shift: Big pepper, burnt caramel, and clear black cherry notes (shades of Baker’s) alongside a modest vanilla character. There’s more licorice here but also a hint of maple, adding some sweetness to the mix. The finish is hot — this is over 61% abv at full strength — with lots of red pepper, dark chocolate, and a lingering salted caramel note enduring.
As those notes may indicate, there’s a lot going on in the glass here, and the overall experience is indeed a bit scattered. Water is a huge help, but it’s not a cure-all; even with appropriate time and care, it’s still tricky to get things to just the right point that elevates The Road Home to a place where it’s greater than the sum of its parts.