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