barrel proof

Review: Booker’s 2019-03 “Booker’s Country Ham”

A while back during a local Knob Creek tasting here in New Orleans, the local Beam Suntory team brought out one of Fred Noe’s country hams for the group to enjoy. I eat ham all the time, but this one still sticks out in my memories.

Country Ham is the name for the third batch of Booker’s bourbon in 2019. Booker Noe loved his ham. In fact, there’s a story in Jim Kokoris’s book, “The Big Man of Jim Beam,” in which Booker brought one of his smoked hams to a fine restaurant in Chicago. You know, to show them how real ham was supposed to taste!

This batch is 6 years, 4 months, and 2 days old, and has been bottled at 62.35% ABV (124.7 proof). The nose is typical Booker’s – lots of vanilla and caramel alongside hints of honey-roasted nuts and oak. At just over 124 proof, Booker’s Country Ham drinks fine neat. Taste-wise, it’s more of what you’ve come to expect: lots of vanilla, roasted sweet corn, caramel-covered cinnamon rolls, and some oak spice. The long finish wraps you in a sweet, warming Kentucky hug.

Booker’s Country Ham is another solid batch of Jim Beam’s cask strength bourbon. It’s a great one to introduce people curious about the brand as it solidly represents the Booker’s standard flavor profile. Recommended! Now, if I could just get my hands on more of that country ham…

Bookersbourbon.com

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

Review: Heaven Hill 27-Year-Old Bourbon

This fall, Heaven Hill is releasing a 27-year-old barrel proof bourbon. This would be the oldest bourbon I’ve tasted. That title was previously held by Orphan Barrel’s 26-year-old Old Blowhard.

The one-time release was distilled in 1989 and 1990 at the Old Heaven Hills Springs Distillery. For this bottling, 41 barrels were batched together. Thirty-six of those barrels came from the first and second floors. Maturation on lower floors of a warehouse is generally slower than barrels aging on the top floors. Temperature swings aren’t as varied on the lower floors.

The 41 barrels yielded less than 3,000 bottles. The angels took more than their fair share. After 27 years, those barrels didn’t have much whiskey in them. The proof after batching came to 94.7, or 47.35% abv.

After a few minutes of airtime, the nose is quite fragrant with hints of dark toffee, cloves,  dried fruit, and leather.  There’s a kind of dusty quality that develops, but it’s ever so slight.  On the palate, there’s an initial burst of dark chocolate-covered cherries.  Hints of slightly burned caramel, vanilla bean, and dried fruit soon develop, giving way to old oak, leather and spice – notably cloves and nutmeg.  I love the development of flavors on the palate.  The long finish is dry, with lingering notes of dried fruit and oak spice.

I’m quite surprised this bourbon isn’t over-oaked.  At 27 years old, there’s obviously a soft bed of old oak on which all other flavors play on, but the overall flavor profile is not dominated by oak. The folks at Heaven Hill certainly know how to craft an ultra-aged whiskey.   At an SRP of $399 a bottle, Heaven Hill 27-year-old bourbon isn’t a whiskey to shoot or rush through.  This old bourbon is elegant and requires your attention as you nose and taste it.  I hope to have the chance to buy a bottle when it’s released.  This is a must-have for fans of older whiskey.  9/10

Thanks to Heaven Hill for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Review: Booker’s Bourbon 2018-01 (Kathleen’s Batch)

The first of four 2018 batches of Booker’s is hitting shelves now. Batch 2018-01, also known as “Kathleen’s Batch” is a Booker’s Roundtable selection, picked with the help of longtime Beam employee Kathleen DiBenedetto. She helped with the launch of the Jim Beam Small Batch Collection with Booker Noe and was also the collection’s first brand manager. This bourbon’s namesake took DiBenedetto under his wings and made her learn every step of the bourbon-making process. In 2015, she was inducted into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame. Clearly, DiBenedetto is no stranger to whiskey.

Now for this particulars of this batch. Kathleen’s Batch is six years, three months, and 14 days old. Those are the youngest barrels in the batch. Barrels come from five production dates and culled from three warehouses. As always, Booker’s is uncut and unfiltered.

Like every batch of Booker’s before it, the nose here is fantastic. Buttered sweet corn bread and maple syrup give way to vanilla and aromatic toasted oak. The palate is equally inviting. Brown sugar and pecan-topped coffee cake kick things off followed by waves of dried fruit, oak spice, and that Booker’s trademark vanilla. A touch of bittersweet barrel char hit the back palate along with medium roast coffee beans. The long, warming finish is sweet and slightly dry, with a lingering rich caramel and sweet oak note.

Damn, this is good. This batch of Booker’s comes across as richer and a bit sweeter than previous batches of late. The Booker’s Roundtable picked a wonderful batch that is still “Booker’s” in every sense while offering something extra. Booker’s is a batched product. BUT…here it’s like if all Booker’s was a single barrel product and this particular batch was a honey barrel. It’s that good. This one will be hard to beat. Wow. 9/10

Bookersbourbon.com

Thanks to Beam Suntory for the sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.