We’re four years into Freddie Noe’s Little Book experiment, which should need no major introduction at this point. For 2020’s “Lessons Honored,” Noe has come up with one of the strangest concoctions in the whiskey’s history. It’s a blend of three spirits: a 4-year-old Kentucky Straight Brown Rice Bourbon, an 8-year-old Kentucky Straight “high rye” Rye Whiskey, and a 7-year-old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. If the idea of brown rice bourbon raises eyebrows, you might take a look at Beam’s limited edition brown rice bourbon from its Signature Collection in 2015, though that whiskey was aged for 11 years, not 4.
Well, let’s see about these lessons, shall we?
Poured directly from the bottle, the nose is instantly, well, weird. The peanut butter, butterscotch, honey, and maple notes are amped up to 11, but there’s also a dusty, coal-like element here along with a petrol element. There’s lots of spice in the mix, but not the sweet bakery notes you might expect; alongside some well-salted caramel character I get a whiff of curry powder.
The theme continues on the palate, showcasing a whiskey that is both sweet and peppery, with notes of cayenne prominent. It’s got a vaguely Jamaican flavor, with notes of dark chocolate, burnt caramel, match heads, and burnt oak embers all in effect. The finish is extremely warming and full of heat, and the whiskey seems to cry out for water. Alas, adding water just muddies the situation, leading to a kind of indistinct and doughy character on the tongue. A Mexican chocolate note lingers, but it’s kind of an afterthought.
My overall impression is of a rather scattered experience, and while Little Book 4 is decidedly drinkable, it travels awfully far afield from expectations. I’d sip on it again, but putting it next to other Little Books, it’s definitely not at the top of my list.
B / $125 / jimbeam.com