Readers of this blog know I’m a huge fan of Booker’s bourbon. I think it’s generally the best whiskey Jim Beam produces. Booker’s is a barrel proof bourbon usually aged between six and eight years. The 25th Anniversary Edition from a couple of years ago was aged 10 years, and it was phenomenal. My curiosity peaked when rumors of a Booker’s rye whiskey spread around social media earlier this year. The time’s come to turn rumors into fact.Here we have Booker’s rye whiskey. It’s a one-time release, and not your run-of-the-mill Jim Beam rye whiskey. Apparently Booker Noe liked experimenting at the company’s Boston, KY plant (now known as the Booker Noe Plant). He managed to distill rye whiskey from a mashbill containing between 70-80% rye grain, much more than what’s found in standard Beam ryes. This is some of the last whiskey Booker Noe distilled before his death, and there’s not a lot of it to go around. Press materials say this release is about half the size of Booker’s 25th Anniversary. My best estimate is puts the number somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000 bottles. Take all of this in, and it might help explain the $300 price tag this whiskey commands.
Booker’s Rye is aged 13 years, 1 month and 12 days, making this the oldest Booker’s release to date. It’s also one of the strongest. This whiskey is bottled at a whopping 136.2 proof, or as old timers would say, “this’ll put some hair on your chest.”
So how is it?
After this whiskey is done scorching your nose hairs, the smells are quite lovely. Toasted rye and brown sugar lead off the nose, closely followed by anise, vanilla and a generous amount of oak. This rye whiskey is viscous. The legs on the glass go on for days. A burst of concentrated dark caramel, brown sugar and vanilla attack your palate. Sharp rye notes quickly develop. It’s evident there’s more rye grain in the mashbill. Warm biscuits show up towards the back palate. The long, warm finish carries sweet rye grain, oak, and fresh mint notes. After a while, the finish becomes a little dry, making you reach for another sip.
Booker’s Rye is going to go down as one of the best rye whiskey releases in years. It’s that good. I may have just added fuel to the bourbon black market fire by typing that. Bourbon flippers will be out in droves trying to find this whiskey, which greatly slim down the chances of finding a bottle. However, if you happen to be so lucky as to find one, open it up and savor it. That’s the only reason whiskey exists.