By Father John Rayls
Have you ever heard of a “marketing faux pas?” Beam Suntory recently experienced this when they underestimated the blowback from their passionate, loyal following concerning a near doubling in price for Booker’s Bourbon beginning in 2017. The tidal wave of criticism and threatened product rejection apparently gave the company pause.
After reconsideration, a more palatable price increase of just 25%, from $60 to $75, was introduced. Some criticism and declarations of “I won’t buy Booker’s at that price” continue, and ultimately the marketplace will determine through supply and demand whether it was a good decision.
Less controversial was a decision made at the same time to reduce the annual number of Booker’s batches from six to four. “Tommy’s Batch” is the most recent, bottled in January of 2017 at 128.50 proof. It was named after a personal friend and long time co-worker of Booker and Fred Noe’s, Tommy Crume, who recently retired from the distillery after 30 years.
Tommy Crume helped pick this batch along with the Booker Roundtable. (There’s a meeting I would gladly attend!) It’s a blending of batches from January 2009 and July 2010 with:
- 41% coming from the 6th floor of the 9 story warehouse E
- 13% coming from the 6th floor of the 9 story warehouse H
- 46% coming from the 7th floor of the 9 story warehouse D
The youngest part of this bourbon is 6 years, 4 months and 6 days.
The bourbon presents a dark orange coloring in the glass. The legs are, as usual, the stuff of minor legend. They are thick, slow, even reticent, and long. It is a worthwhile part of the experience simply to observe them run in the glass. The nose is readily apparent and filled with vanilla, molasses and old oak. It’s not aggressive, but is quickly available.
Booker’s Bourbon has always been known as big, bold and aggressive, but always presents a very flavorful taste profile as well, and Tommy’s Batch is no exception to the rule. At 128.5 proof, you can expect this version of Booker’s to drink a little hot. The mouthfeel is of light syrup and immediately coats the mouth. Most of the mouth action happens at the back of the mouth roof and down into the throat. It’s filled with a taste that takes me back to my childhood with flavors of sweet roasted/grilled corn on the cob from the Howard County Fair. The additional flavors of brown sugar, nuttiness and caramel flood the taste buds.
This is a bourbon you can enjoy neat, but take your time with it. However, there’s plenty of room to add ice or just a small amount of water. Please don’t use it as a mixer. It’s simply too good for that destiny. The finish is very long and is very peppery. You don’t want the experience to end.
Regardless of where you are on the price of great bourbon, this is one to seriously consider for a splurge. The expected retail for Booker’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (Tommy’s Batch) is between $64.95 and $70.00. All of us want inexpensive great tasting bourbon. This one is still financially within reach for most of us (occasionally) and is a truly great tasting bourbon. You won’t regret it.