Monday, May 16, 2016

Fred Noe Select For Seijo Ishi

Age:6 Years 10 Months
Price:JPY 6,000 - 12,000

Booker's Fred Noe Select for Seijo Ishi is essentially a store selection of Booker's with collectible packaging. There have been three releases of this bourbon (so far):

ReleaseAgeProof# of Bottles
1st6 Years 10 Months1251000
2nd6 Years 10 Months122700
3rd6 Years 10 Months122300

First, let's break down the name. "Booker's," of course, is the name of Jim Beams' cask-strength flagship bourbon. It is called "Fred Noe Select" because Fred Noe is supposed to have specially selected choice barrels of Booker's for this bottling. Finally, it says "for Seijo Ishi" because this is a special bottling for Seijo Ishi, a specialty import grocery store in Japan.

While these may seem to be simply a store bottlings of Booker's, the packaging is specially designed and dramatically different from regular Booker's. Each bottle is numbered and comes in what can best be described as a "mini-barrel." In addition, the label of each release has a different picture of Fred Noe with a glass of Booker's in his hand along with the text "Fred Noe, Master Distiller, bourbon legend and true friend. 1957 -."

While this is essentially a limited edition bottling of Booker's, it differs from normal editions because the number of bottles is so small. Because of the limited number of bottles, far fewer barrels went into each batch of Fred Noe Select than go into a regular batch of Booker's. A regular batch of Booker's is made up of 360 barrels, while each batch of Fred Noe Select is made up of far fewer.

Based on the descriptions of the 1st and 3rd release, there were 10 barrels in the 1st release and 5 barrels in the 3rd release. I am unable to find any information about the number of barrels that made up the 2nd release. This is a surprising number of barrels given the small number of bottles in each batch; it seems like each barrel is yielding 100 bottles or less. For comparison, Four Roses estimates that a barrel used for Four Roses Single Barrel will yield between 150 and 200 bottles.

My guess is that the difference between the Four Roses barrel yields and the barrel yields for these batches of Booker's comes from the barrel position in the rickhouse. Four Roses uses single-story rickhouses and stacks six barrels high, while Beam uses nine-story rickhouses and stacks three barrels per floor. Booker's tends to come from barrels aged on the fifth floor (the "center cut"). Therefore, an average barrel of Booker's is stored much higher than an average barrel of Four Roses. Barrels that are stored higher tend to age faster and lose more to the angel's share meaning that higher stored barrels will yield fewer bottles. 

Given the relatively small batch size, these releases are Booker's are apt to have more character and variability than the standard release. That being said, each of these releases was made from barrels that fit the standard Booker's profile. Even though the 2nd and 3rd release have the same specifications, the product description for the 3rd release specifies that the 3rd release is from a different lot of barrels.  

I'm not going to provide detailed tasting notes because, in short, it taste like Booker's. Nevertheless, I've tasted the second and third release side-by-side and would strongly recommend the second release over the third. You could, however, find the same variation when tasting any too batches of Booker's.

Verdict: If you're a Booker's collector, buy it. If you're faced with the choice of choosing between the second release and the third release, buy the second.  

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