In Kentucky, distilling whiskey is a family affair—one generation follows the next as fathers teach the trade to their sons, who eventually succeed them. The only difference is that distillers are no longer known solely to whiskey geeks; they’re bona fide celebrities. The faces of their brands, they’re expected to show up—not just at their distilleries but at events and meet and greets worldwide.
All of which puts a little pressure on Freddie Noe. He is an eighth-generation distiller at Jim Beam, the son of current Master Distiller Fred Noe, and the grandson of the legendary, late Booker Noe, who introduced Booker’s Bourbon and Knob Creek, among others, during his tenure. That’s a lot to live up to for a guy who’s just turned 30 and has only been working at the distillery for 4 years.
Of course, Freddie has spent his whole life learning from geniuses of the art of making whiskey, and that knowledge comes through in the first whiskey released under his name. Little Book: The Easy ($80) is a blend quite unlike anything we’ve seen before from Beam. It consists of a 4-year-old bourbon; a rye and a malt whiskey, both about 6 years old; and a 13-year-old corn whiskey, so called because it doesn’t employ the strict distilling and aging techniques required to call it bourbon. It’s got the sweet vanilla and caramel notes from the bourbon and corn whiskey, a healthy helping of spice from the rye, and toasted cereal notes on the finish from the malt. Bottled at barrel strength (a hair over 128 proof), it holds up well to a splash of water, keeping its flavor balance while toning down the alcoholic heat.
Blending is Freddie’s passion and is a great tool to set him apart from his father and grandfather, who made their names with single-barrel and small-batch bourbons. Little Book (Booker Noe’s childhood nickname for Freddie), which will be released annually, will have a different blend each year. That makes this whiskey a one-time-only deal—and given the limited quantities on hand, finding The Easy will be difficult before long.