Barrel Strength

Booker’s Bourbon Batch 2016-05 “Off Your Rocker” Review

Photo credit: Booker’s Bourbon


As autumn hits us, so does a new batch of Booker’s bourbon.  The fifth batch of 2016, “Off Your Rocker,” references both late Jim Beam Master Distiller Booker Noe’s favorite chair and his lively personality.  A statue of Booker sitting in a rocking chair can be found on the grounds of the Jim Beam distillery.  As for the man himself, he was known as a straight shooter and a funny guy.  I just started reading a new book about Booker’s life – “The Big Man of Jim Beam” by Jim Kokoris.  So far, it’s a great read about an interesting, larger-than-life man.  I’ll share some thoughts on the book soon.  In the meantime, let’s talk about the whiskey.

Booker’s bourbon is always bottled at barrel strength.  This batch comes in at a high 129.7 proof.  The youngest barrels in this batch are 6 years, 7 months, 23 days old, and all barrels come from four different rack houses.

One thing that’s common among all batches of Booker’s is a big vanilla note.  “Off Your Rocker” is no exception.  Buttered corn grits, vanilla and molasses play big on the nose.  That high proof is evident on entry at first, ever so slightly numbing the tongue.   Your sense of taste quickly recovers and experiences big vanilla, cornbread, and cinnamon & allspice notes alongside some oak, roasted peanuts and a touch of leather.  I’ve never detected leather as a tasting note in Booker’s until now.   (After several tastings it’s still there.) The finish is long and warm, as expected, and carries caramel corn and oak notes.

I’ve said before that I’ve never encountered a batch of Booker’s I didn’t like.  Sure, on the surface they all have that Booker’s flavor profile.  Dig a little deeper and you can find some nuances that differ from batch to batch.  Most batches I like, and some batches I really like.  Batch 2016-05 falls in the latter category.  The subtleties here make it slightly more intriguing than previous batches.  Pick up a bottle and let me know what you think.  Highly recommend.  9/10

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

Booker’s Batch 2016-02 “Annis’ Answer” Bourbon Review

Bookers 2016_02

The second batch of Booker’s bourbon released in 2016 is called “Annis’ Answer”, honoring the day former Jim Beam master distiller (and this bourbon’s namesake) Booker Noe proposed to his wife Annis.  Since 2015, every batch of Booker’s is dedicated to one aspect of Booker Noe’s life, both professional and personal.

Bookers 2016_02 BBooker’s is a barrel-strength bourbon.  Other than filtering out chunks of barrel wood, this bourbon is pretty much straight out of the barrel.  This uncut whiskey is usually aged between six and eight years.  Fred Noe, current Jim Beam master distiller and Booker’s son, said, “The batch is made up of barrels from four different production dates stored in 5 different storage areas. The oldest barrels in the batch were 7 years, 1 month old and the youngest barrels were 6 years, 2 month old.”

Batch 2016-02 is bottled at 126.7 proof.  Bourbon beginners might want to add a splash of water.  However, I think everyone should experience a barrel strength whiskey at least once.  Maybe take a few sips neat before adding water.

The nose is filled with robust vanilla, caramelized sugar, burnt orange peel, and charcoal over a hint of lavender.  Taste-wise, a tantalizing concentration of dark brown sugar, vanilla extract, fresh orange, and toasted oak.  The finish is long and warm with notes of cinnamon, vanilla and slightly drying oak tannins.

This is one of my favorite batches of Booker’s since “Dot’s Batch,” which was released early 2015.  It’s a tad more complex than the usual releases.  However, I haven’t run across a bad batch yet.  My reaction to Booker’s usually goes from “mmm… me likey” to “oh my God!”  The latter was from tasting Booker’s 25th Anniversary, one of my favorite bourbons ever.  Just like Annis said to Booker the night he asked her to be his wife, say “yes” to this batch of Booker’s.

8.5/10
(Note: A review sample was provided by Beam Suntory.)

Michter’s Barrel Strength Rye Whiskey (2016) Review

Michters Barrel Strength Rye 2016

Michter’s Distillery has released a year’s worth of limited production whiskies, and it’s only May.  So far, 2016 has seen both their limited production 10-year-old rye whiskey and 10-year-old bourbon hit shelves.  Now, add another limited production whiskey to the list, as we’re seeing the second release of their robust barrel strength rye whiskey.  The first bottling came last spring, and it was fantastic.  You can read my review here.

The standard rye expression from Michter’s is bottled at 84.8 proof.  I think it is tasty, but lacks some “oomph”.  That was all corrected with their barrel strength rye.  This single barrel rye whiskey ranges in proof from 110.2 to 114.8 proof.  My sample bottle, from barrel 16D432, comes in at 111.8 proof.  Retail for Michter’s Barrel Strength Rye Whiskey is $75.

Michter’s barrel entry proof is 103 proof, which is lower than a majority of the big producers.  Why does the mean for the flavor of the whiskey?  Bourbon historian Michael Veach explains barrel entry proof at length in a great article on his website.

Rich and mouthwatering is a good description for the nose.  Concentrated aromas of dark brown sugar, allspice, vanilla frosting, and creamy caramel hit your nose all at once.  In a strange way, it sort of reminds me of the nose from a 1980 bottling of Wild Turkey 101 I had a few months back.  That sort of makes sense, as high-rye mashbilled Wild Turkey’s barrel entry proof back then was pretty low.  Michter’s Barrel Strength Rye is full-bodied, coating your tongue in a melange of bold flavors.  What appeared on the nose is also found on the palate.  Think caramelized dark brown sugar and creamy butter on the entry.  Allspice, rye spice, cinnamon stick, and some vanilla extract soon develop mid-palate, as does a touch of oak and black cherry.  This almost comes across as a high-rye bourbon rather than a rye whiskey.  The rich, dark brown sugar/caramel/vanilla/spice flavor combination lacks the overt sharpness of most rye whiskies.  The rye grain shows up in the modest finish, which is a bit dry.

I find that this 2016 release is slightly more enjoyable than the 2015 release, which was a standout rye.  This year’s edition is dangerously drinkable.  No, seriously.  Michter’s Barrel Strength rye whiskey is one you will fall in love with instantly.  Spoil yourself and pick up a bottle.

9/10
(Note: A review sample was provided by Michter’s.)