Baker's 13 Year Old Single Barrel Bourbon (2023) Review
Of the entire Jim Beam whiskey line, Baker’s Bourbon is perhaps the most fascinating but least talked about. First released in 1992 and named for sixth-generation distiller Baker Beam, Baker’s has always held a relatively quiet place in the company’s Small Batch lineup. But with an uncommon (and uncommonly old) recent release, it’s high time we put Baker’s back in the spotlight.
In 2019, parent company Beam Suntory relaunched Baker’s as a single barrel product with two age-stated expressions. The first was a widely available seven-year Baker’s — a real workhorse in the Beam roster, if you ask me — clocking in at 107 proof. The second was an allocated 13 year expression, which unlike its younger sibling did not receive regular distribution or even an annual release.
In 2023, Beam finally brought back Baker’s 13 from its four-year hiatus. And we’re long overdue for a revisit.
Today’s review comes from a freshly opened bottle that originated from barrel #224728. It’s worth emphasizing that no matter the producer, single barrel releases will exhibit variance in flavor. Indeed, Baker’s embraces this phenomenon in their marketing material. Customers can learn more about specific barrel age and warehouse location by entering a bottle’s serial number on the brand’s Single Barrel Journey page.
Let’s see how those 13 years (minimum!) treated the Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey from this particular Baker’s barrel.
Baker's 13 Year Old Single Barrel Bourbon: Stats and Availability
Aged a minimum of 13 years, Baker’s 13 Year Old Single Barrel Bourbon is made with the same 77 percent corn, 13 percent rye, and 10 percent malted barley mash bill as the seven-year version. It’s bottled at 107 proof, or 53.5 percent ABV.
The 2023 release has an MSRP of $130, up from the $100 MSRP of the prior expression. This is a limited, allocated release. While Baker’s doesn’t command quite the cult following and markups as some other rare bourbon brands, it certainly has plenty of diehard fans. Expect the 13-year release to get snapped up quickly at suggested retail.
Baker's 13 Year Old Single Barrel Bourbon Review
As with all of VinePair’s whiskey reviews, this was tasted in a Glencairn glass and rested for at least five minutes.
There’s immediately rich fruit on the nose, noticeably more than a lot of 12+ year bourbons currently on the market. I smell green apple, pear, and even a bit of pineapple, lending it a refreshing overall scent in the glass. Nosing again brings a surprising new twist: candy peach rings, the artificially colored kind you can eat a whole bag of in a single go.
Eventually, an undercurrent of fresh-scraped vanilla bean wafts up, along with a bit of cinnamon sugar sweetness. At first, there isn’t an intense amount of oak characteristics. Those come, but only after opening up with time in the glass, unveiling themselves subtly and invitingly.
This being a Beam product, there is some nuttiness, but not to the level I was expecting from a 13 year expression. Variance in single barrel offerings could be the culprit, of course, but the lighter and fruitier characteristics take center stage with this particular bottle. The overall effect almost trends toward the tropical, more so than any other Beam product in recent memory.
Baker’s 13 noses right around its 107 proof without allowing ethanol to overpower the experience. I spent quite a bit of time with my nose embedded in the glass, working to pick out any new notes, especially fruit. Even on the nose, this is a fun one to sit with — I’m almost sad to say the notes listed above are hardly exhaustive.
At first sip, that bright fruit comes out swinging then quickly acquiesces to a rich, full-bodied sweetness that carries vanilla and wood sugars across the palate. It’s almost like the peach rings and pineapple were a Trojan Horse for classic bourbon notes: oak, caramel, and praline, along with an appropriately dialed amount of rye spice.
Another sip brings less fruit and more char plus spice. There’s certainly some trademark Beam spice and nuttiness on the tongue, less peanut and more macadamia. That note doesn’t drag the bourbon down into overly heavy or syrupy territory in the slightest.
If anything, the mouthfeel is a touch thinner than optimal for this proof and flavor profile. But that’s a small knock against an otherwise densely flavored bourbon that hits almost every part of the palate.
The long finish is where this bourbon really shows its age and proof, with a heartily warming sensation all the way down; in a blind tasting, I could be convinced this is over 110 proof. To be honest, I wouldn’t have complained about some of that punchiness revealing itself earlier.
It’s oak through and through, with a touch of tannic astringency that’s frankly a bit comforting. The nose and palate are so surprisingly refreshing, it takes this sort of finish to remind the drinker of this bourbon’s (minimum) 13 year age statement. (This is a 13 year old Kentucky bourbon, after all!)
Baker's 13 Year Old Single Barrel Bourbon Rating
This much is certain: The 2023 release of Baker’s 13 Year Old will vary from one barrel to the next. But while some brands emphasize consistency across their single barrel releases, Baker’s fully embraces the unpredictable nature of cask aging. (Without throwing quality to the wind, of course; there are folks sampling barrels before they hit the bottling line!)
From what I sampled, the result is a balanced bourbon that comes in fruity before driving home with a more classic Baker’s profile. This is certainly a fun one, best sipped with an open mind.
Fingers crossed we won’t have to wait another four years to do it again.