Hardin’s Creek: Colonel James B. Beam Bourbon Review

As a proof of concept, Freddie Noe knocked this expression out of the park. With notes of strawberry puree, that familiar Jim Beam peanut brittle, and flavorful baking spice to go along with a truly satisfying Kentucky hug, Hardin’s Creek: Colonel James B. Beam has a lot to like on the palate.

Col. James B. Beam header image


  • DISTILLER: Fred B. Noe Distillery
  • MASH BILL: Undisclosed
  • AGE: 2 years
  • YEAR: 2022
  • PROOF: 108 Proof (54% ABV)
  • MSRP: $80


SHARE WITH: Anyone who doubts good whiskey can be produced after only two years. They'll be pleasantly surprised.

WORTH THE PRICE: No, Despite being unique, and proof that Freddie Noe can wrest a great deal of flavor out of distillate at only two years, the $80 price point is a tough sell.

BOTTLE, BAR OR BUST: Bar. This is an undoubtedly tasty pour, and I think it will surprise a lot of people bold enough to enter it with an open mind.

OVERALL: As a proof of concept, Freddie Noe knocked this expression out of the park. With notes of strawberry puree, that familiar Jim Beam peanut brittle, and flavorful baking spice to go along with a truly satisfying Kentucky hug, this release has a lot to like on the palate. The greatest nit to pick, of course, lies with the decision to price this bottle at $80. Within the wider Jim Beam portfolio, the pricing is a head scratcher. And though it's a vast improvement on Jim Beam’s white and black label offerings, I'd be hard pressed to pay more than double the price of Knob Creek 9 year to acquire a bottle of this.

I'm stuck considering the Jurassic Park wisdom of "just because you can, doesn't mean you should." Does this showcase a ton of flavor at a surprisingly low age? Yes, without a doubt. But who exactly is the target audience for such a release? For folks most inclined to buy young whiskey (such as the aforementioned Jim Beam white label), I can't imagine they'll be interested in paying $80 for it. Likewise, for folks inclined to buy $80 whiskey, I can't imagine the novelty of trying a tasty 2-year expression will cause them to open their wallets more than once for the experience.

It impresses even as it confounds, and perhaps that's the point. In the initial press release announcing Freddie Noe as the master distiller of the Fred B. Noe Distillery, it was said that he would "experiment with new fermentation, distillation, and blending techniques to produce category-defining and boundary-pushing whiskey of the highest quality." If this inaugural release is any indication, he's certainly set on living up to that aim. We'll have to remain patient to see if the distillery will continue to defy expectations, but so long as the price is kept in check I'm hopeful for what comes next.


OVERALL: I think Frank’s insights on this spirit are excellent, and I commend him for finding much more character in this young bourbon than I did. All I taste in this 2-year-old liquid is youth and promise. In the thoroughbred horse business, promise is exactly what pinhookers (keen-eyed horse buyers) look for in young, potential racing stock. Judging potential in race horses is difficult, risky and costly. But in a bourbon, far less guessing is involved. It’s proven that at least four years of age is a great start, and double that can become remarkable whiskey. I think most bourbon drinkers will taste this and wish it was older.


The repeal of Prohibition ushered in a new age of opportunity and Colonel James B. Beam was quick to seize the moment. Setting out to rebuild what had been lost and build upon it further. It took just 120 days for Colonel James B. Beam, also known as Jim Beam, to get Clermont Distillery up and running again – proof that quality is not necessarily a function of time. In honor of the Colonel’s legacy, Colonel James B. Beam was crafted. The limited-edition, two-year-old whiskey achieves a depth of flavor usually reserved for more mature bourbons by taking it off the still at a lower distillation proof, imparting more flavor from the fermentation process and letting the barrel’s characteristics shine through at a younger age. In making this whiskey, Freddie Noe was inspired by the style of bourbon the Colonel was making on day 121: low distillation proof for a fuller flavor, guaranteeing the rich complexity of the young whiskey stays intact.

NOSE: Robust vanilla and caramel notes.

TASTE: Deep and complex flavors of vanilla, nuts, and oak.

FINISH: Long and full finish.

Disclaimer: James B. Beam Distillery provided Bourbon & Banter with a sample of their product for this review. We appreciate their willingness to allow us to review their products with no strings attached. Thank you.