I first tried Booker’s about 3 or so years ago. It was the first barrel-proof bourbon I tasted. I remember thinking, “Hell, this is hot!” A few years and a few barrel-proof bourbons later, I bought a bottle of Booker’s 25th Anniversary early 2014 and loved it. That left me wanting to try a normal batch of Booker’s again. With the 25th anniversary release being so good, how does a normal batch of Booker’s bourbon compare? Read on.
Jim Beam releases several batches of Booker’s each year. Each one is slightly different in age and proof. Booker Noe, the former (and now passed) master distiller at Jim Beam who first released this in the late 1980s, loved his bourbon to be aged between six and eight years. The releases of Booker’s tend to live within that range. Booker’s is barrel-proof, uncut and unfiltered. This batch (2014-06) is 7 years 2 months and 14 days old, and comes in at 127.7 proof. Booker’s is part of Jim Beam’s Small Batch Collection, a premium line of bourbons that also includes Knob Creek, Baker’s and Basil Hayden. (The distillery’s PR firm provided this sample for review.)
Right out front I get a really robust aromas. Caramel, oak, orange peel, vanilla, ripe banana. On the palate there is lots of caramel and sweet oak. There’s a slightly herbal quality… mint maybe? I also get a little cinnamon spice. The finish is sweet and long, with a little spice. Afterwards, there’s a slight bit of dry oak. Let’s compare to the 25th anniversary: that one is a bit more vanilla and oak forward, and seems a little more elegant (not a term I’d normally use for a barrel proof bourbon) compared to this. As of this writing, your chances of finding a bottle of Booker’s 25th are slim to none.
This is one outstanding bourbon. It’s got all the classic bourbon flavors I love turned up to 11. The high proof on this release adds to the robust nature of the bourbon instead of detracting. I find it completely drinkable, even at such a high proof. Sure, some folks will have a hard time with bourbon proofs north of 100. To those people I’d suggest a splash of water. A bottle of Booker’s will run you just north of $50. I think every bourbon collector should have a barrel proof bourbon in their collection. Thankfully, this one is readily available on store shelves. Recommended.