By Father John Rayls
I am a long time fan of Booker’s Bourbon, and even with so many options around it remains one of my regular “go-to” whiskeys. It’s big and bold and full of flavor, uncut and straight from the barrel. Named for Booker Noe, a Beam Master Distiller for over thirty years who certainly knew a little something about making whiskey.
Jim Beam will be releasing six batches this year from the Booker’s established recipe first released over 25 years ago. This first batch of the 2016 collection (Batch 1-2016 in jargon, separate from regular Booker’s), Booker’s Bluegrass, is bottled at 127.9 proof (63.95% abv) and aged 6 years 11 months.
This whiskey is named in memory of Booker’s fondness for bluegrass music. Apparently, it was almost as great as his love for whiskey. He could often be found dancing and even sitting in with the band. The bottle will be easily recognizable from the custom label complete with banjo.
The company describes the color as “Our darkest and deepest amber and henna color.” Insert your favorite Three Stooges routine here involving “henna color at all”. The bottle is typically dark, which somewhat obscures the natural coloring’ of the bourbon. However, in the glass the color really shines. It is one of the darkest colors of whiskey that I’ve yet seen, what with its reddish-brown appearance. It leads you to expect a deep and rich experience (and you won’t be disappointed!). The whiskey is a little thin in the glass providing shortened legs, but it’s hard not to stare. It is a beautiful whiskey.
The nose is robust. That word was chosen by the marketing department at Beam, but it’s very accurate in the very best sense of the word. It is actually difficult to move on because the aromas are so enticing. You will find it easy to identify various odors wafting up from the glass. Vanilla and caramel combine over a very subtle smokiness to create wonderful, warm, sweet aromas. The most surprising element here is the absence of any burn. At 127.9 proof, how is that possible?
Initially, most of the action in the mouth takes place at mid-tongue to the back of the mouth. It is a rich and complex experience filled with layers of vanilla and nuttiness. All of the layers are on top of a subtle base of sweet caramel. There is a long finish that seems to never quit. It does not drink hot. You know that it’s a high proof bourbon, but the flavors are preeminate. They are never overwhelmed. The finish moves to the front of the mouth before activating the entire mouth. It is a bourbon experience to remember. This is really good whiskey.
Of course, we all know that whiskey is experiencing a remarkable resurgence. We are all watching our favorite bourbons constantly increase their prices. It’s part of our economic system and subject to supply and demand.
However, Booker’s remains at a very good price point in terms of “bang for your buck” regarding proof and flavor. The suggested retail price is $59.99 for a 750 ml bottle. I would suggest that you quickly beat feet to your favorite whiskey store and pick up a bottle of Booker’s Bluegrass. No wait… pick up two bottles.