Frederick “Fred” Booker Noe III, Jim Beam’s master distiller and a seventh-generation distiller, is steeped in whiskey culture. The son of the late Frederick “Booker” Noe Jr., and great grandson of Jim Beam, shared the craft of whiskey and the rich history of his family’s legacy with bourbon making at Atlantis’ first Bourbon Bash at the Ocean Club Golf Course Clubhouse.
Noe, who serves as ambassador of The Small Batch Bourbon Collection – Basil Hayden’s, Knob Creek, Baker’s and Booker’s – his father Fred “Booker” Noe’s whiskies – has played an important role in the development and promotion of the ultra-premium bourbons, which are aged longer, feature higher proofs and representative of pre-prohibition whiskey.
Q: I’ve heard you referred to as a bourbon evangelist rather than a bourbon technician, what’s the difference?
A: I grew up in the industry, so as far as making the bourbon, my father from the time I was a little boy taught me how to do it. The part that’s important I think is spreading the word and educating people. Bourbon is a relatively new product as far as popularity, and people don’t understand it. There are a lot of misconceptions out there and so with me being Jim Beam’s great-grandson, people want to hear it from me. It’s like hearing it from the “horse’s mouth”. And I try to speak in terms anyone can understand. I don’t get too technical. I’m not teaching school. I’m trying to educate you on what bourbon’s all about and how to enjoy it.
Q: What is the difference between bourbon and whiskey?
A: Whiskey is the big category: within that category you have Scotch whiskey, Canadian whiskey, Blended whiskey – bourbon is a type of whiskey. I always say all bourbon is whiskey, but all whiskey ain’t bourbon.
Q: Who gravitates towards bourbon?
A: In this day in time, anybody can if it’s presented to ‘em correctly. I’ve got a saying – I say drink it any damn way you want. If you like it with a soft drink that’s okay. If you like a cocktail that’s okay. If you want to drink it neat or on a rock, that’s okay too. I drink it a lot of ways.
Q: Your advice to the novice bourbon drinker?
A: If you taste the bourbon and make a face, then it’s too strong. Cut it down to where you can enjoy it without a grimace. It ought to be a pleasurable experience. A lot of times people try to drink it too strong. The cocktails they’re making, they’re unbelievable. Try a mint julep because it’s very light, a lot of ice, mint and a little sugar and it’s a sweet, refreshing drink – very cold, and would go well here in The Bahamas with the heat.
Q: What have you learnt about The Bahamas’ bourbon drinking culture?
A: From what everyone has told me, there’s a lot of opportunity here with some education. Sometimes people think bourbon’s just about shots, and that’s fine, but you need to sip it and savor it and get it down to a strength that’s pleasing to your palate. Don’t worry about what the bartender gives to you. You may want to add a little water to it. You may want to put some ice and kind of let the ice melt. As it does, it opens the bourbon up and makes it a lot more palatable. Or you can take a Basil Hayden, which is a very light bourbon…you can go down to the one that’s 80 proof and it’s light and easier to drink so you can ease into it. It’s kind of an acquired taste for sure.
Q: What is the “Kentucky Chew”? Explain please.
A: My father (Frederick “Booker” Noe) actually started it, which is the way he tastes the bourbon. He puts it in his mouth, rolls it all around, because different parts of your mouth pick up different flavors. So, he rolls it all around, brings a little air in and as he swallows it, then the flavor it leaves behind is the finish. A whiskey writer years ago coined the term “The Kentucky Chew” on the way Booker tasted his bourbon.
Q: Wine and food pairings are commonplace, beer and food pairings are becoming popular, what about bourbon and food pairings?
A: Absolutely. A lot of chefs are doing it all over the United States. I’ve done a lot of bourbon dinners. I’ve even seen ice cream made with bourbon.
Q: Bourbon’s future?
A: Premiumization is what we see in the future of bourbon. People wanting more premium products with maybe more age, more flavors, maybe secondary aging and different barrels. They want different flavors. They don’t want the same old thing all the time.