Reviews

Booker’s Bourbon Batch 2017-01 “Tommy’s Batch” Review


Earlier this year, I was asked to take part in the Booker’s Roundtable selection of the next batch of Booker’s.  That batch, 2017-01, or “Tommy’s Batch”, is now upon us.  Though I took part in selecting this batch, I’ll do my best to be as impartial as I can be with this post.

This batch is named after Tommy Crume, a longtime distillery who worked closely with the late Booker Noe.  Jim Beam Master Distiller Fred Noe said the following about Tommy:

“I’m proud to share the first of four batches in the Booker’s® Bourbon 2017 Batch Collection, Batch 2017-01, also called Booker’s “Tommy’s Batch.” I’m especially pleased to release this special batch as our first, as it is named in tribute to Tommy Crume, who started his career at the distillery as a young man and worked closely alongside Dad for decades. They spent so much time together that we used to joke that he was like a second son to Dad!   

Over all those years, Tommy learned just how Dad liked things to be done around the distillery, especially when it came to his namesake bourbon and eventually worked his way up to Distillery Manager at the Clermont, Ky. plant, helping to make sure that everything continued to run just the way Dad would have wanted.   

After almost 30 years with us, Tommy retired in 2016 and I know Dad would be honored to name the first batch of 2017 after his dear friend. I hope you’ll join me in raising a glass of Booker’s “Tommy’s Batch” in celebration of Dad’s legacy and Tommy’s, too.” 

As for the bourbon, it’s a blend of whiskies from two production dates (January 2009 & July 2010) – making the youngest whiskey in the batch 6 years, 4 months, and 6 days old.  Barrels were pulled from the 6th and 7th floor of three warehouses.  It was a small batch (for Jim Beam, anyway), with 335 barrels comprising this release.  Like all batches of Booker’s, this is bottled at barrel proof (128.5). Also, it’s the first to be priced between $69.99 – $74.99, though a friend of mine saw it on a shelf for $54.  If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know my thoughts on the price increase.  Agree or disagree, we all have an opinion.

The nose is classic Booker’s – big and robust, with hints of vanilla, molasses, charred oak, kettle corn and herbs.  Taste-wise, right past that intital high octane burn, find toasted sweet corn and light brown sugar, developing into some cigar box, vanilla and toasted almonds.  A hint of chocolate covered oranges appears late-palate, along with a touch of fresh basil.  The finish is long and warming.  Something I’ve come to expect from Booker’s.  Lingering notes of honey nut cereal, molasses, and barrel char make you want to reach for another sip.  

Tommy’s Batch is another fantastic release of Booker’s.  It’s as good or slightly better than recent batches.  The faint ‘chocolate-covered oranges’ note is a welcome surprise.  I know the price increase is a touchy subject with many, and we all have our opinions.  Price aside, this new batch is classic “Booker’s,” and comes with my recommendation.  9/10

Thanks to Booker’s for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tyrconnell 16-Year-Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey Review


A limited edition 16-year-old Tyrconnell Single Malt.  Have I got your attention?  It definitely has mine.  

Tyrconnell, produced at the Cooley Distillery, is one of the few Irish whiskies that is double-distilled, as opposed to the more traditional triple-distillation utilized in other Irish whiskies.  This 16-year-old expression was matured in American ex-bourbon barrels, so I’m expecting some creaminess and vanilla.  It’s also bottled at a healthy 46% abv.

Curious about where the name Tyrconnell came from?  The whiskey is named after a racing horse that, in 1876, took the crowd by surprise and won first place at 10th running of the National Produce Stakes Horse Race.  A family in that crowd also owned a distillery, and soon after produced a small batch whiskey named after the winner of the race – Tyrconnell.  A whisky named after a racing horse?  Love it.  But how is it?

The nose is full of fruit, especially cinnamon apples and tropical fruit.  There are also hints of grassiness, vanilla bean, and ripe grapefruit.  Honestly one of the fruitiest noses I’ve come across in quite a while.  The palate closely follows the nose with crisp orchard fruits bursting upon entry, only to reveal some mango and honeydew.  A slightly creamy spiced caramel adds some richness.  I agree with the official tasting notes on the finish:  “a very long, herbal spice-rich finish.”  Specifically, I’m picking up a little dried thyme, ginger and a touch of black pepper.

The development of this whiskey is beautiful.  A lovely fruity nose and initial entry, then developing into some rich caramel followed by that herbal/spice finish.  Sadly, there’s not a lot of this stuff to go around.  It’s available in select markets for about $100/bottle.  I’m hoping it comes to New Orleans.  I really need to find a bottle of this lucious, fruity whiskey.  Highly recommended.  9/10

Thanks to Tyrconnell’s PR firm for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Bourbon & New Orleans: A Perfect Pair

We’re less than a week out from the inaugural New Orleans Bourbon Festival.  It’s really shaping up to be a great event.  Tracy Napolitano, one of the festival’s founders, told me it’s becoming much bigger than originally planned.  At the moment, almost 100 different bourbons and rye whiskies are expected to be featured at the festival’s two Grand Tastings, and the number of seminars has grown.  

This is the first whisky festival of any sort here in New Orleans, and it’s a very welcome addition to the city’s high number of fairs and festivals.  We have an adage down here, “There’s always something to do in New Orleans.”  I’m glad a celebration of bourbon will be among them.

The festival will take place at both the Marriott-Convention Center and the Sugar Mill. Here’s an updated, day-by-day look at what to expect next weekend (March 23rd – 26th).  

THURSDAY, MARCH 23rd

Similar to Tales of the Cocktails’ Spirited Dinners, the Bourbon Festival is hosting a night of bourbon dinners at several New Orleans restaurants.  The creative retaurant chefs are creating several course dinners to match with the different whiskies being featured.  Tickets are $130 a plate, and you walk away with a signed bottle of bourbon with most of the dinners.

  • Foundation Room at the House of Blues, presented by Jim Beam.  Master Distiller Fred Noe will lead through tastings of Jim Beam’s Small Batch Collection, as well as signing a bottle for participants.
  • Kenton’s presented by Heaven Hill.  Expect Heaven Hill Global Whiskey Ambassador Bernie Lubbers to drop some Bottled-I-Bond knowledge alongside a four-course dinner.
  • Salon by Sucré presented by Jefferson’s Bourbon.  Jefferson’s founder Trey Zoeller is sharing different Jefferson’s bourbons with guests alongside a four-course dinner.
  • Bourbon House presented by Wild Turkey.  A fun night with Master Distiller Eddie Russell, some Wild Turkey & Russell’s Reserve expressions, and a four course dinner.
  • Morton’s Steakhouse presented by Diageo.  Steak and seafood lovers will enjoy a multicourse dinner (including USDA Prime steaks…  mmm… ) alongside Bulleit bourbon.
  • Cochon presented by Sazerac.  The night will feature pre-dinner cocktails, and dinner (including pork smoked over E.H. Taylor barrel staves!) and bourbon pairings.  The whiskies will include Sazerac Rye, Eagle Rare, Col. E.H. Taylor and a Van Winkle bourbon.

FRIDAY, MARCH 24th

Friday is all about two events:  the bourbon judging and the first Grand Tasting.  Forty Ultimate VIP ticketholders will gather for a few hours for a blind tasting of several bourbons and ryes.  

Friday night is the first of two Grand Tastings.  Close to 100 different whiskies will be featured, along with a cigar lounge, jazz band and marketplace.  VIP ticketholders come in an hour early, and might get to taste some “off menu” whiskies. 

SATURDAY, MARCH 25th

The day will be filled with all sorts of whiskey seminars from some of the biggest names in the industry.  Bourbon historian Michael Veach will talk about the Bottled-In-Bond Act, while Carla Carlton will pontificate the future of bourbon.  The equally entertaining and educating Bernie Lubbers is presenting “Bourbon Thru Bluegrass”.  Meanwhile, Chuck Cowdery addresses the state of the industry.  There are MANY, MANY other interesting seminars scheduled that day, including cigar pairings, food pairings, bourbon basics, women in bourbon, the importance of yeast, and the boundaries of bourbon.  

However, the seminar I’m looking forward to most, and not because I’m moderating it (cheap plug, I know!), is the Legends of Bourbon panel with master distillers Fred Noe and Eddie Russell.  I say moderate, though “attempt to moderate” might be more accurate, because once these guys start telling stories, who knows what’ll happen.

Saturday night brings the second of the Grand Tastings.  Both of the tastings will feature the same whiskies, so don’t feel the need to sample everything in one night.

SUNDAY, MARCH 26th

The last day of the festival is centered around the Bourbon Awards Brunch.  Remember the bourbon tasting from Friday?  The votes will be tabulated and the winners announced.  Ultimate VIP and VIP ticketholders will all get invitations to this event.

For more information or to buy tickets, visit NewOrleansBourbonFestival.com.  Keep in mind at least 25% of profits will be donated to the St. Michael Special School general fund.