20 Aug 2013
Knob Creek will always hold a special place on my bourbon shelf, as the first bourbon that got me to appreciate the depth and complexity of flavor that the spirit can offer. Since then, Knob Creek has added single barrel and rye varieties, but Knob Creek will always be associated with three other bourbons to make up the Small Batch Collection.
In addition to Knob, there’s Booker’s, low-proof, cocktail-oriented Basil Hayden’s, and the most under-the-radar of the bunch: Baker’s. Named after Baker Beam, Booker Noe’s cousin and another member of the legendary Beam bourbon family, Baker’s uses the same mashbill (grain recipe) as Booker’s and Knob Creek, which makes the differences between them due to the aging process and how much water is added before bottling.
Baker’s, which sells for around $45, carries an age statement of 7 years and is bottled at 107-proof. That makes it younger but higher proof than 9-year-old Knob Creek. Booker’s, meanwhile, varies in age from 6-8 years and is bottled uncut at whatever the barrel proof is (a bottle I currently have spent 6 years and 2 months in oak and is 128.5-proof).
Baker’s pours a reddish amber color and has a distinctive nose with dried fruit, lacquer, and wood. The flavor features lots of wood and cinnamon spice, with a resiny edge that coats the sides and roof of the mouth. Secondary flavors include green banana, apple, and vanilla. The finish is medium in length with more spice, dried fruit, and tight wood.
Overall, it’s a raw and focused style of bourbon. It lacks the sweetness of both Knob Creek and Booker’s and instead is more like an intensified version of the classic Jim Beam White Label, which also uses the same mashbill as Baker’s. It’s very drinkable neat, though a few drops of water help open up the aroma and flavor.
The obvious question is: How does Baker’s stack up to the rest of the Small Batch Collection? For me it’s clearly ahead of Basil Hayden’s. And while I would recommend Baker’s to anyone getting into bourbon, I do prefer both Booker’s and Knob Creek. But that’s not a knock, as those are two exceptional bourbons.
photo credit: Stogie Guys