bourbon review

Barrell Bourbon Batch 012 Review

Following its award-winning Batch 011, Barrell Bourbon has unveiled its latest – the 9-year-old Batch 012.  Following in the footsteps of several previous batches, Batch 012 was distilled and aged in Tennessee.  The youngest stuff in the bottle is 9-years-old, but the company says there are “selected older barrels” blended into this batch.  Proof-wise, we’re looking at a strong but not overpowering cask strength of 108.5 proof.  Batch 012 was distilled from the same mash bill as Batch 011:  70% corn, 25% rye, and 5% malted barley.

Batches 005 and 006 were close to the same age, and they’re still my favorites of the bunch.  How does this new batch stack up?

The nose carries a vibrant citrus note that brightens up dark caramel, baking spices (especially cinnamon), vanilla and a slightly earthy note and something else (cigar box?). It sort of recalls a fantastic Four Roses single barrel I had once.  Don’t ask me the recipe – I don’t remember.  On entry, creamy caramel and vanilla cake create a wonderfully rich bed.  Waves of spice build, while dark chocolate arrives on the mid-palate.  Some oak tannins and leather show up late to the party.  Nice.  Complex.  The finish is long and warm, with hints of fresh squeezed citrus, a hint of wood smoke, and slightly astringent oak spice.  

I rather enjoyed this batch.  A lot.  To my tastes, whatever Tennessee distillery Barrell Bourbon sources these barrels from, they hit their peak around the 9-year mark.  The spirit is complex but extremely easy to drink.  Well done! 9/10

Booker’s Batch 2017-02 “Blue Knights Batch” Bourbon Review

The second of 2017’s four batches of Booker’s bourbon has been released.  Last year saw owner Beam Suntory announce a price hike (now $70 – $75) and a reduction in the number of batches of the cask-strength bourbon released each year.  The new batch, “Blue Knights Batch,” is named after the Blue Knights, an organization of retired and active law enforcement officers who love motorcycles.  What does that have to do with Booker Noe?  Well, as you guessed – there’s always a story involving Booker.  Many years ago he was invited to take part in a Blue Knights rally near the distillery.  Ever the friendly soul, Booker ended up invited about 300 members to his house for a BBQ lunch the next day.  Booker’s son and current Jim Beam Master Distiller Fred Noe said, “You can imagine Mom’s face when he told her at breakfast the next day. But, that was Dad – larger-than-life and always making new friends.”  The entire local chapter of the organization showed up for lunch, and it became an annual tradition for years.  Booker was even named an honorary member.  

This batch of Booker’s comes in at 63.7%, or 127.4 proof.  The youngest whiskey in the batch is 6 years, 3 months, and 6 days old.  Barrels were pulled from four different warehouses.  Noe says a few barrels were more than nine years old.  Blue Knights Batch is as robust as you’d expect, with hints of charred sweet corn, vanilla bean, cinnamon-spiced caramel and oak on the nose.  The palate comes across as rich, but has moments of vibrancy.  Big notes of vanilla pudding, sweet buttered corn bread, slight nuttiness, and maple syrup give us the rich side, as a touch of citrus and wood spice add some sparkle.  The backend has some bitterness, courtesy of charred oak.  The long, warm finish is what fans of Booker’s have come to expect.  There are a few lingering notes of orange peel, vanilla and oak tannins.

Booker’s is typically a powerful barrel-strength bourbon, and this batch easily fufills its role.  Ever so full of character, Booker’s 2017-02 still tastes like “Booker’s,” but offers a slightly more straight-forward, leaner tone.  I didn’t pick up some of the herbalness past batches offered.  Rather, the classic bourbon notes of vanilla, caramel and oak shine.  It’s a nice batch, and it’s always refreshing to see slight variations on the Booker’s house style.  8/10

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

Booker’s Bourbon Batch 2016-06 “Noe Hard Times” Review

My first whiskey review of 2017 is of one of the most controversial newsmakers of the past year – Booker’s bourbon.  Batch 2016-06 is the last batch of 2016, and the last to carry the old SRP of $59.99.  Beam Suntory has decided to raise the price of Booker’s to $99.99, only to come back with the decision to gradually raise the price.  We’ll first see a small increase to $69.99 in the beginning of 2017 with the next batch, followed by an eventual increase to $74.99 by the end of the year.  I think it’s a move they should have made from the start, as I agree with the company in that Booker’s has been undervalued. A few years ago $50-$60 was just the right price for this whiskey, one I’ve called the best regular production bourbon in the Jim Beam staple.  However, in today’s current bourbon market, where $100 seems to be the new $50, I’m not so upset seeing Booker’s eventually make it to the $100 price range.  There’s currently nothing in the Beam lineup in that price range, and it’d be an idiotic move to not bump up the price.  Yes, they shouldn’t have announced the immediate jump, but they’ve since rethought things (or looked through their anger-filled Twitter feed) and decided upon the incremental price rise.  There will be many of you who disagree, and that’s perfectly fine.  I’ve shared my thoughts and have nothing more to say on the matter.  Now, to the more urgent matter at hand, and the reason you’re here – onwards to the review!

“Noe Hard Times” remembers Booker Noe’s nickname during his football-playing youth.  Jim Beam Master Distiller Fred Noe said this about this current release:

Dad was larger-than-life in personality and stature, and possessed both from an early age. Needless to say, no team in central Kentucky wanted to line up against such a formidable opponent. This, combined with a birthday in December 1929, just on the cusp of the Great Depression, earned him the nickname “Hard Times” on and off the field.

Batch 2016-06 comes from six different rack houses and six different production dates.  It’s bottled uncut and unfiltered at 127.8 proof and is aged a minimum of 6 years, 10 months, and 1 day.

The nose is full of big vanilla and baked corn notes, as well as hints of wood smoke, burnt sugar, black cherries and roasted peanuts.  Booker’s slightly oily and somewhat creamy entry features vanilla bean, cherry cola, barrel char and sweet corn.  A touch of herbs fill the back palate.  Cinnamon sticks and caramel chews linger on the long, warm finish.

As expected, we have another great batch of Booker’s bourbon.  Sure, the pricing controversy has overshadowed this batch, but rest assured – this is the Booker’s bourbon we all know and love.  8.5/10

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