Booker’s Small Batch Bourbon – Review

Booker’s Background

Booker's Bourbon
Booker’s Bourbon

Booker’s has a special place in my heart as not only one of my first upper shelf Bourbons, but also my first barrel proof Bourbon. I was enjoying Scotch and decided to try some Bourbons and this was one of them. I bought my first Booker’s at the airport in Las Vegas. I was standing waiting for my bags and noticed there was a liquor store right in the airport. Not a duty-free store, but an actual liquor store. This is ingenious! Vegas hotel bars can be hit and miss for decent whisk(e)y, but always expensive. So taking a bottle back to the room from the airport was a neat idea.

Booker’s launched in 1992 by and named after Jim Beam’s grandson and Beam master distiller Booker Noe. Booker’s originally was bottled up by Noe as gifts to friends and family and then was rolled out as a commercial release. Booker’s was noteworthy being “straight from the barrel” as unfiltered and barrel proof Bourbon. Booker’s was way ahead of its time as today unfiltered and barrel proof Bourbons are quite popular among enthusiasts. Booker’s is a part of Beam’s small batch Bourbon collection that includes Knob Creek, Basil Hayden’s, and Baker’s.

Booker’s isn’t particularly aged as far as premium Bourbons go at about 6-8 years old. So, one should expect a lively pour in addition to that unadulterated uncut goodness.

Details

7 Years, Aged 3 Months Old. Batch C06-B-15, 63.55%. Mash bill of 73% corn, 13% rye, and 10% barley. MSRP – $59.99 (2016 Price)

Aroma

Nutty, peanuts. Lots of caramel. Popcorn. Rich. Cedar wood. Distinctly Beam.

Flavor

Burnt popcorn. Toffee. Nutty. Biscuity. Roasted flavors. Potent. Dark fruits like raisin and currents. Sticky sweet caramel. Jolly Rancher. Hot alcohols. A little woody tannins in the finish

Overall

Booker’s is beefy both in proof and flavor. A little water dials things down a bit and take the edge off the alcohol. Dominant flavors seem to be corn and burnt sugars. Plus that nuttiness I get from the Beam yeast.

Booker’s can be hit and miss with me. Sometimes I really enjoy it and sometimes the corn and Beam yeast flavors don’t fit my mood. It weird and changes day to day for me. I think Beam Bourbon in general can be a little polarizing, but Booker’s maybe a little more so. It’s an iconic Bourbon, however, so certainly worth a try.

Beam has gotten a little more savvy with batches of Booker’s and in 2013 they stared putting better date codes on bottles. Before it was a typical cryptic industrial code and now it’s simply year and batch number. This bottle I’m reviewing here is from 2012, so before they rolled out the new codes. The more consumer friendly code I think encourages people to collect the bottles, especially with the nifty round table batches that were/are choses by a group of Bourbon nerds. Last couple years I’ve been picking up a bottle just for the heck of it.

Booker’s is priced I think reasonable enough and has been stable over the years. For a big, uncut, unfiltered barrel proof release it’s a good value. I think it’s a must buy for every Bourbon drinker at least once. From there you can decide if you’re a fan of the flavor profile.

Recommendation

Buy Again- 4.0 out of 5.0 Rating

(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)

Buying Options and Further Research

As described Booker’s is a big barrel-proof Bourbon, so we’ll look at similar types around its price. If you can find it, every batch I’ve had of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof has been great. Another strong recommendation would be a private bottling of a Four Roses barrel. You can also check out Noah’s Mill, Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel is also a high proof Bourbon, and Stagg Jr could also be something to look into in this price range.

Links & Other Review

Four Roses – Low Rye Private Selections – Review

Background

Four Roses Private SelectionThis is a bit of a journey, but first, a quick background. The deal with the 10 recipes at Four Roses has been told many times, but it’s kind of critical for what is happening here. Four Roses makes 10 different recipes of 5 yeast and two mashes. One mash is 35% rye and the other is 20% rye with the difference make up with corn. Both are relatively high rye Bourbon recipes. Four of those recipes goes into the Four Roses Small Batch, OBSV goes into the Four Roses Single Barrel, and a combination of all 10 can be used for the Four Roses Yellow Label. Four Roses has a barrel program where stores and restaurants can select a single barrel of one of the 10 recipes and have them bottled up for their customers. In my opinion, these private barrels are one of the best bottles of Bourbon that you can actually walk in and buy.

My first goal was to collect and sample bottles of the 10 individual recipes. This write-up here looks at 5 of the recipes within the lower rye E mash. I’m still sampling the B recipe bottles. After I tracked down bottles of all the recipes, which took probably like 8 months or so and a trip to Kentucky, my next goal was to figure out which recipes I prefer.  What I’m wondering is which recipes I may like best so in the future I’ll know what to grab when I find it. I’d be happy to have any of these bottles, but if there are recipes I prefer I might as well focus on stocking up on those.

Each of one of these private barrels are pretty good. Four Roses screens samples before sending them out for selection, so we should all feel confident that no matter what every bottle should be a winner. Still, there’s a lot of variability between selections of the same recipe. I’ve experienced different opinions of the same recipe between different selections, so there can still be a factor of simply picking out an outstanding barrel of Bourbon regardless of recipe. Beyond the recipe, there are factors in barrel age, proof, and aging location. Even with all those other variables, I think there’s still a preference to be had in the recipe.

So, my first pass through this will be to figure which yeasts I like the most within the two mashes from the bottles I’ve gathered. The second pass will see which I like overall between those favorites. Then, I want to start looking at additional selections of the recipes I liked the best. I’m not sure how helpful this will be to others since your preference may be for a different recipe, plus you’ll likely not find the specific barrel selections outlined here. So, mostly this is just me documenting the journey for myself, but hopefully you’ll still find it interesting.

Process

I’m not go into a full review of each bottle. What I’ve done is sample all five side by side and ranked them. My ranking was Good, Better, Best. I’ll include some notes about each and also details on the barrel, which might prove to be interesting eventually. What if it turns outs I prefer bottles from a particular warehouse? Or even a location within a warehouse? Or maybe upper, middle or lower positions on the rack? (Warehouses at Four Roses are all single floor, but they stack barrels six high)

Welcome to my rabbit hole. The Bourbon is tasty.

Results

Best

OESV
– Garry’s |  Wayne, NJ |10 yr |57.6% _ GW 39-3G

Fruity. Some graininess. Nice. Kind of neutral. Roasted flavors. Nice drinking. A little spice in the end.

OESK
– Four Roses | Lawrenceburg, KY | 9yr-7mo | 58.1% | HE 24-32
– Spec’s | Houston, TX | 9yr-2mo | 55.4% | KW 89-1N

Fruity. Lush. Bright Caramel, full body. Minty. Mild. Drying astringency finish

Better

OESF
– Spec’s | Houston, TX |9yr-7mo | 59.5% | GE 5-3D

Caramel, light chocolate. Sweet Grassy, Minty, Spicy. Rye seems to come through. Tingly mouthfeel. Some bitterness in the finish

OESQ
– Spec’s | Houston, TX |  9yr-11mo |54.4% | RN 85-1P

A little medicinal. Nice rye profile. After taste is little harsh

Good

OESO
– Tippin’s | Ann Arbor, MI |10yr-5mo | BN 31-2K | 63.6%

Fruity, Spearmint, Fresh. Sweet. Caramel. A little acrid bitter alcohol in the finish. Something odd.

Conclusion

Again, these are all nice bottles. Issues seem be most apparent when tasting them in a lineup. If I find a bottle of one of the Best recipes, I’ll jump on it and add it to the bunker.

Next I’ll do the same rundown for the OBSx bottles and see what we get. And then I’ll stack up my favorites there against these OESV and OESK bottles for a final grudge match.