‘Small-batch bourbon’ as a phrase rose to prominence with Jim Bean’s introduction of its famed bourbons namely Booker’s and Knob Creek. But how is it created?
In the event that the master blender finds at his disposal several barrels of exceptional bourbon, he can use his discretion to mix content of all or some of these barrels to create perfectly crafted “small-batch” bourbon. This is a standard practice followed by many distilleries including Jim Beam whose popular “small-batch” bourbons include Baker’s, Booker’s, Knob Creek and Basil Hayden. As a result of the blend, the outcome is an essentially unique beverage that boasts of its own distinct personality.
Essentially, when bourbon from several barrels are ‘married’ together on the basis of their ability to complement each other, the product of the union is small-batch bourbon. Another interesting point in the case of small-batch bourbons is the numbers of parent bourbons, which might vary from a minimum of two to a maximum of 80 or more as per the imagination of the master-blender.
Some distilleries label their bottled bourbon with details such as batch number, date of bottling, and number of barrels used in order to help customers comprehend the difference and eventually make an educated choice. It is the batch number that is usually assigned to a particular batch of bourbon to distinguish it from the product of another set of barrels. As a visitor or customer you can use this information to find whether the bourbon in question is a virgin, meaning single-barrel, or a hybrid, meaning small-batch.
But if you are a bourbon lover who is out on a night of experimenting, I always advocating trying both single barrel and small batch bourbon to make your own determination as to which one is best!