Jim Beam is one of the most famous names in the American whiskey world. The historic roots of the Beam family cover over 200 years in bourbon making, but the Jim Beam brand name actually dates back to 1933 when James Beauregard Beam (Jim Beam) built the family’s Clermont distillery (after Prohibition) near Bardstown. Jim Beam, the great-grandson of the patriarch of the Beam family, Jacob Boehm, was responsible for keeping the Beam’s bourbon legacy alive after Prohibition ended. A second, larger distillery was later built about 9-10 miles away in Boston, KY in 1953.
Jim Beam’s grandson, Booker Noe Jr., was responsible for launching Jim Beam’s small batch collection. Blanton’s (created by Elmer T. Lee in 1984 at the George T.Stagg Distillery) had created the first “single barrel” expression of bourbon whiskey. In 1987, Jim Beam’s master distiller, Booker Noe, introduced Booker’s uncut, unfiltered cask strength bourbon (his first of the small batch series) to friends and family, and then went on to release it to the public in 1992. The idea of “small batch” was Booker Noe’s creation, and their releases from Jim Beam would go on to become specialty whiskeys in the marketplace. They would be assigned special locations in Jim Beam’s 29, 9 strory warehouses to age optimally.
Knob Creek’s original “small batch” Kentucky straight bourbon release was introduced in 1992. The primary expression is bottled at 100 proof in Clemont , KY. It was designed by Booker Noe to reflect a pre-Prohibition bourbon style, which I assume he meant to mean deep flavors, because unlike those whiskeys, this one is approximately 9 years old (pre-Prohibition whiskey would certainly not have been that old). In 2010, Jim Beam released Knob Creek’s Single Barrel expression. Later, they would release a rye (2012) and a smoked maple (2013) version.
Baker’s is one of the younger small batch releases at 7 years old. It is named after Baker Beam, the grand-nephew of Jim Beam and cousin to Booker Noe, who was distiller at Jim Beam distillery. It supposedly uses a different yeast strain than the others, though when their website describes that it ”utilizes a special strain of jug yeast that has been in the family for over 60 years” I can’t see how that differs from any of the other whiskeys released by Jim Beam. This release is always 107 proof.
Basil Haden’s straight bourbon whiskey is the fourth of the small batch options and the lightest at 80 proof. It is named after Basil Hayden, Sr. who was a distiller from the Maryland area that used a lot of rye in his bourbon mash. His grandson, Raymond B. Hayden founded a distillery in Frankfort, KY in 1840 and created the Old Grand Dad brand. Jim Beam now owns Old Grand Dad and gives a nod to the high rye mash bill (about 30% rye) in their Basil Haden’s bourbon small batch release. Most of Jim Beam’s bourbons have closer to 15% rye in their mashbills.