Review Of The Month: The Booker's review
Company: Jim Beam
Age: 7 years 2 months 5 days
Extra Note: Batch 2015-02
Classification: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Breakdown: 75% corn, 13% rye, 12% barley
Price: c. £60
Our first Review of the Month for 2019 is Booker’s. Wow, doesn’t time fly when you’re drinking whiskey? We first reviewed this bourbon back in November 2016 and looking back at the review below amuses the Gents somewhat. After a recent tasting, our nose, palate and finish notes are still pretty accurate, even though the finishing comments are a little short. We also declared that we generally add water to the higher proof bourbons. Right or wrong, we definitely don’t do that on a regular basis these days. Maybe if we did our tasting notes would benefit?
The number of releases each year has fallen since 2016 and for the past 2 years there have been 4 batches each with a different age and strengths. Everything you ever wanted to know about Booker’s bourbon can be found at their dedicated website Bookers.
We have now reviewed the full suite of the Jim Beam Small Batch collection and we were surprised to find that Booker’s was not in first place once you’ve combined our review scores. In reverse order we scored the collection as Basil Hayden, Knob Creek, Booker’s and in first place Baker’s. You probably don’t need us to tell you that they are all fine bourbons and each are well worth a place in your bar collection.
Booker’s is part of the Jim Beam small batch collection (others being Knob Creek, Basil Hayden’s, and Baker’s) and has the highest alcohol content of the collection. Each release differs in age and ABV. Ages are between 6-8 years and the ABV is between 60.50% and 64.45%.
The history of Booker’s is a fascinating journey through the bourbon legends. Jim Beam’s grandson Booker Noe (6th generation of bourbon makers) began bottling this cask strength (i.e. straight from the barrel to the bottle), uncut and unfiltered as gifts for family and friends. These hand selected offerings were taken from the centre of the warehouse where the company reports is the perfect spot with regards to temperature and humidity to produce the finest bourbon. The recipients of these gifts encouraged Booker Noe to release these bottles to the wider public. The very first limited release of 1,000 6 bottle cases were made available in 1988. From 1992 onward these selections were released to the general public. Today there are around 6 releases a year. After Booker Noe’s death in 2002 the honour of selecting theses barrels is now in the hands of his son, Fred Noe.
For this review we drank it neat in a Glencairn glass and due to its very high ABV added water after tasting neat.
What we got – Butterscotch, toffee, brown sugar, sweetness, caramel, honey, vanilla, blackberry, (mixture of Toffos and Werthers original sweets) oak and a hint of leather
With water – adding water opens up the dram with a little smoky tobacco (Mr Pie)
What they say we should get - Robust vanilla and caramel notes; slightly smoky
What we got – Starts hot, super fiery and oaky, oily (Mr Pie), toffee apple, hint of coffee and tobacco. Its intensity levels out after each tasting
With water – with only a few drops it calms the intensity down significantly
What they say we should get - Deep and complex flavours of vanilla, nuts and oak
What we got – Super long and a little dry
With water - Pretty obvious but the diluting of the bourbon reduces the finish from to long to medium
What they say we should get - Long and full; perfect for easy going sipping
Full disclosure - Mav was suffering from severe influenza (girly cold) during this review.
For the incredibly high ABV this bourbon surprisingly does not over power you on the nose in the first instance. Super multifaceted, intense, flavoursome bourbon and it is incredibly easy to pick out numerous smells on the nose. The heated palate could be tempered down for a more comfortable experience with a sphere of ice if you prefer. The Gents generally also add water for tasting the particular high ABV bourbons but so far (definitely for Mav) have not found that this improves the occasion.
Mr Pie struggled a little bit with Booker’s and found it a little overpowering (cue mass hysteria from the internet world). Perhaps Mr Pie was off form on the night or just not yet able to appreciate such complex engineering.
As mentioned on the corresponding podcast the expert tastings notes were taken directly from the Booker’s website as we were unable to find explicit tasting notes for this batch. Not the most descriptive of tasting notes from their website but we certainly aligned with them. However Booker’s suggest that this is “perfect for easy going sipping”. We don’t necessarily agree with this generalised statement. You really have to be an experienced aficionado and lover of the higher strength whiskies to sip on this all night.
8 out of 10 - Mav
7 out of 10 – Mr. Pie