Jim Beam Devil's Cut Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey and Jim Beam White Label Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. (Supplied)
As the great-grandson of Jim Beam and the seventh generation of his family to make whiskey in Kentucky, Fred Noe III has seen Bourbon from all sides.
Growing up, he wasn’t sure the family business was for him. After graduating university, he effectively ran away from home by going on tour as a member of Hank Williams Jr.’s entourage. But serving as roadie and wrangler for the country music legend didn’t last.
Noe returned to his Kentucky roots in 1983 and started learning the art of making Bourbon from the ground up by working the nightshift on the bottling line. He perfected the trade and became master distiller for Jim Beam in time to witness global interest in Bourbon skyrocket.
“People are just discovering that Bourbon is very versatile and very mixable… it’s not just your dad or your granddad’s drink anymore,” Noe said during a recent tasting in Hamilton, Ont.
Noe explained that the culture of a shot of whiskey and a beer is largely gone as mixology trends have embraced Bourbon for classic cocktails like a Manhattan or Old Fashioned or more modern innovations. It no longer holds the dusty reputation of cowboys and saloons.
“People who are enjoying bourbon are all ages, all genders, which before you didn’t see that many women drinking bourbon,” he said. “But now, a lot of women are getting into bourbon and enjoying the taste.”
Noe’s visit to Canada provided an excuse to show the range of Bourbons the family distillery produces, including the original White Label and premium small batch bottlings like Knob Creek and Booker’s, which was created by and named for Noe’s father.
As someone who routinely encounters people who tell him they don’t like Bourbon, Noe is keen to showcase the diversity of the styles being produced.
“It’s kind of amazing to watch people’s eyes light up when they find something that really pleases them,” he said. “I think that’s where the open-minded people are giving it another shot and seeing, you know, hey, this is pretty good stuff.”
Picks of the Week:
Jim Beam Devil’s Cut Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Kentucky
BC $32.95 (255091) | AB $32 (747315) | MB $32.95 (013376) | ON $33 (272161)
Spirits lost due to evaporation during the aging process are called the Angel’s Share. The Devil’s Cut is the name given to the Bourbon trapped inside the barrel. Essentially, you could call this upscale swish — a full-bodied Bourbon with a long, smooth oak and vanilla-flavoured finish that’s best served on the rocks or with cola.
Jim Beam White Label Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Kentucky
BC $25.45 (021378) | AB $25 (021378) | MB $23.75 (021378) | ON $26.95 (021378)
Four years in heavily toasted American oak barrels has imparted strong caramel and vanilla notes here. Not as distinctive or flavourful as Beam’s more premium offerings, but a great introduction to Bourbon that’s an affordable base for cocktails and mixed drinks.