Baker’s Bourbon Debuts New Look, Relaunches As A Single Barrel Whiskey

Baker’s Bourbon has cooked up a brand new look — and a change to what’s inside the bottle.

Part of the Jim Beam Small Batch Bourbons collection — along with Knob Creek, Basil Hayden and Booker’s — this bourbon has stayed under the radar since its launch in 1992. It’s named for Baker Beam, 83, who was a distiller for the company, the grand-nephew of Jim Beam and the cousin of the late Booker Noe (the Booker from Booker’s Bourbon). 

The wine-shaped bottle has some hard-core fans, but is the least popular of the four small batches. The company thinks that’s about to change as it changes into a single-barrel product in a more traditional shaped bourbon bottle with a barrel-ring inspired topper.

“When I first heard about the idea, I said ‘hell no.’ At first people might be a little upset because it’s a classic,” said Tim Heuisler, an American Whiskey ambassador at Beam Suntory. “But I think when they open it and taste it, I think real fans will get psyched we are taking that great liquid and putting a spotlight on it.”

Some things will stay the same: The age statement is still seven years, and the bourbon is bottled at 107 proof. What’s changing, explained Fred Noe (Jim Beam’s great grandson and Baker’s cousin), is that instead combining about 200 barrels before bottling, individual barrels will be bottled.

The timing is good for Baker’s to make the switch. A decade into the American bourbon boom, casual “everyman” whiskey drinkers have become aficionados, said Sother Teague, the beverage director of Honeybee’s and Amor y Amargo. This means they are diving deeper and trying smaller unique expressions like single barrels.

“[Single barrels] showcase unique characteristics in each expression as well as highlight the skill of the maker,” Teague said. “Single barrel bourbons are here to stay and I couldn’t be more excited.” 

Curious what barrel you have? The serial number and warehouse are printed at the neck of the bottle. That means if you’re tasting two bottles from different barrels side-by-side, you’ll notice slight variations in flavor; one bottle might have more baking spices where the other might have more intense pepper notes. It also means all the barrels have to be up-to-par. You might be able to hide one barrel if you’re mixing it with a couple hundred others, but these will all have to stand on their own.

There is also a price increase with the switch to single barrel — it’s going from about $50 a bottle to $60. Shipments are currently on their way out to stores and bars — when you see them will depend on which state you live in.

And while some of the other brands in the small bourbon collection have single-barrel products, Baker’s will be the only line that is exclusively single barrel.

It would be easy to draw parallels between Baker Beam and his namesake bourbon. Fred Noe joked at a tasting event Tuesday in New York that the soft-spoken Baker would rather stay at home in Clermont, Kentucky with his cat than come out and tout his bourbon, but that he had a say in the packaging and relaunch, which has been in the works for a few years.

So what’s the best way drink the new single barrel? Fred is quick to tell anyone they should drink whiskey “however the hell they want.” It’s smooth enough to drink neat, but at 107 proof, some ice or water isn’t a horrible idea. 

And Heuisler said one of the best combinations he had might surprise you: Baker’s and Pepsi.

“It was the best cocktail I ever had,” Heusiler said. “But that’s because Baker made it and handed it to me in his house.”

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