Spirits Review: Baker’s Bourbon

by KeithP on October 20, 2010

theSpeakista is back from a little R and R down south and what better way to kick things off then by posting our next spirits review.  As mentioned, we have several of these lined up and I can think of no better way to start then by becoming reacquainted with a truly fantastic bourbon; a bourbon that I have shunned for far too long.  Truth be told, when I first encountered this bourbon I was but a babe in the woods when it came to spirits and it was for that reason that I think I didn’t appreciate what it has to offer and as a result, had left it off my radar.  Things have changed for the better and here we go …

Note: technical difficulties with pictures of the bottle prior to opening occurred and as such, I had to re-shoot after opening/use.

Spirit Type: Bourbon (American whiskey)

Distillery or Company: James B. Beam Distilling Co., part of The Original Small Batch Bourbon Collection

Spirit Name: Baker’s 7 year old Bourbon Whiskey (107 proof)

Style: Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey (sour mash whiskey)

Testing: Occurred over five days, over two concurrent weeks

Tasting Step 1: Neat, all on its own with no added water or ice

- Appearance: deep, rich reddish brown hue

- Aroma: oaky, somewhat smoky wood (at first) smell yielding to hints of coffee and a smell of burnt caramel

- Taste: oh my — heat and spice grab you right off the bat – this is a powerful bourbon.  As you slowly sip this spirit, flavors of toasted marshmallow and oddly toasted nuts come forth behind a tinge of caramel sweetness

Tasting Step 2: With a splash of slightly chilled, filtered water added

- Appearance: similar as before to slightly muted

- Aroma: less sweet smelling than previously; more toasted wood and caramel notes with subtle hints of grains

- Taste: mellower and smoother than in Step1 the bourbon feels the mouth with a lush-coating-like mouth feel; pronounced flavors of dried fruits, such as raisins and currants, and toasted, oaky-like wood.  This time around the taste profile is less sweet with the heat more of an afterthought lingering nicely on the after palate

Tasting Step 3: Served over large cubed ice

- Appearance: hazy brownish hue

- Aroma: similar as in Step 2 to slightly more muted aromas

- Taste: The chilled spirit really reaches out to coat the mouth.  This version of tasting reveals strong spice notes and a noticeable punch of heat on the early part of a sip yielding to the toffee/caramel-like sweetness.  Similar to before there are subtle hints of coffee, toasted nuts and oddly cereal-like grains all linger nicely on the after palate.

Tasting Notes Summary: I am happy to become reacquainted with this lovely bourbon.  It really is a complex sipper that, like a chameleon, changes its complexion (fancy for saying its underlying properties) based on what role it is being asked to perform.  If casual, longer-term sipping is on tap then feel free to add some ice and watch the bourbon hold up nicely albeit with a more “heated” flavor profile.  After sampling over several sittings my preferred method would be to add a splash or two of chilled, filtered water to the glass.  The heat and spice were still present but became less of a force (more structure to the house) with a balanced flavor profile.  This is an excellent sipping whiskey.

Tasting Step 4: Mixed into a drink (review below)

The Baker’s Roll
Recipe created/adapted by theSpeakista as a variation on the Rack-n-Rye cocktail from PDT in New York.

•    1 1/2 oz Baker’s Bourbon
•    3/4 oz Appleton V/X rum
•    1/2 oz demerara syrup (2:1 ratio)
•    2 dashes of Angostura bitters
•    2 dashes of Regan’s Orange bitters
Garnish: orange and lemon twists
Glass: rocks glass
Tools: mixing glass, barspoon and a julep strainer

Assembly: Combine all of the ingredients in the mixing glass with ice and stir for at least 30 seconds until well chilled, strain the mixture into the serving glass that has been filled with large cubed ice and garnish. Sip, repeat over and over again until you are done … then remake and repeat said process.

The Baker's Roll Cocktail

The verdict: Hhhhhmmmm … Oh my, there is something so very nice going on in this little glass (sorry, not really intending to toot my own horn).  I first made this drink in its original recipe form using rye and Batavia Arrack and loved it.  In prepping for this review theSpeakista tried out about five different drinks and in the end, for some strange reason, I returned to the Rack-n-Rye.  I love the pairing of rye and rum in the Doral so I made a few attempts of this drink using the Baker’s and settled on this formulation.

There is a nice balanced interplay between the two spirits — heat, spice and nice toasted flavors blending with the equally spicy and rich, sugar-like flavors of the rum.  Sweetness? Yes but not so much from the sweetening agent – which acts more like a binder than an actual sweetener – but from the two spirits; layered notes of toffee, burnt caramel and brown sugar build as you sip the drink. In an earlier go of the drink I backed off the amount of the sweetening agent not wanting to skew the drink on the too sweet side but I felt like the added demerara added a subtle balance to the overall profile while also serving to “tame” the bourbon somewhat.  It ends with a wonderful bitterness … a nice way to cap off this drink.

Final Thoughts/Overall: This is a really fantastic bourbon and one that I am frankly sad to have only re-discovered (sad because I have been missing out on its goodness for some time).  This spirit works equally well as a sipper or in a cocktail/drink and on the later point, a drink that calls for a bold, assertive master.  While I sampled and enjoyed the Baker’s in several different drink recipes (yes, this makes a world class Old Fashioned) my preference is to keep this one as a sipper and more specifically with a little chilled, filtered water added.

theSpeakista’s Rating: 4 1/4 stars (out of  5 stars)

Next up on the review front … scotch baby.

theSpeakista asks:

1. So, are you a Baker’s fan? What do you think of The Baker’s Roll?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

DJ HawaiianShirt October 21, 2010 at 8:45 am

Baker’s is great. I first tried it at a bar, where I get my bourbon normally with 1 ice cube (a tasting step that’s between your number 2 and 3). I recall being assaulted by spice and dried fruits. With that said, I can see how it would work well with the raisiny flavors of Appleton Estate. This drink sounds really good.

KeithP October 23, 2010 at 5:43 pm

Still can’t believe it took me so long to “re-discover” this bourbon – it really is great. I like sipping it both ways … a splash of water and also with some ice.

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