Jim Beam

Review: Maker’s Mark Private Select (New Orleans Bourbon Fest 2019)

With the New Orleans Bourbon Festival right around the corner, now is as good a time as ever to take a look at some of their 2019 single barrel picks in a series of short reviews.  A lot of the whiskies in this series are still available in certain New Orleans retail stores and will be poured at the 2019 New Orleans Bourbon Festival.

Maker’s Mark Private Select is a great way to put your personal touch on a “single barrel” of the bourbon.  You can read more about the process here.  For the 2019 New Orleans Bourbon Festival Private Select, co-founders Barbara & Tracy Napolitano, Martin Wine Cellar’s Jeff Hirtius, and others (including myself) sat through one of the first remote programs for the whisky.  Generally, MMPS is done at the distillery.  Regrettably,  I had to leave before the final oak finishing stave combination was chosen.

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For the 2019 New Orleans Bourbon Festival edition of Maker’s Mark Private Select, the following oak staves were chosen:

  • 3 Baked American Pure 2
  • 1 Seared French Cuvee
  • 3 Roasted French Mocha
  • 3 Toasted French Spice

Thinking back to my memories of tasting each of the stave finishes, I really enjoyed what those last two brought to Maker’s Mark whisky.

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This edition is bottled at 110.1 proof.  The nose features spiced caramel, espresso, kettle corn, and vanilla bean.  Taste-wise, that rich caramel hinted at on the nose kicks things off here.  Vanilla cake follows just as baking spices develop.  Towards the back palate, dark-roasted coffee and some toasted oak darken things a bit.  The medium-length finish continues those rich, sweet, and spicy flavors.

This is kind of like eating coffee cake while drinking some espresso.  It’s quite tasty, and is perfect as an after-dinner pour.  I really like Private Select as a concept.  The different combinations of barrel staves can bring about some fantastic whisky.  That’s certainly true here.  8.5/10

Review: Basil Hayden’s 10-Year-Old Bourbon

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A few years back, Basil Hayden’s bourbon lost its 8 year age statement.  The brand did a nice job of keeping the flavor profile of its NAS replacement the same, or at least very, very close.  The latest limited edition offering from Basil Hayden is a 10-year-old bourbon.  It’s made from Jim Beam’s high rye mash bill, which is also used in Old Grand Dad.  Bottled at 40% ABV, Basil Hayden 10-year-old bourbon is available for $60, which is about a $20 premium over the brand’s standard bourbon.

The nose features brown sugar, rye spice, and oak.  There’s a bit of charred fruit and slightly herbaceous.  The entry is light, due to the bourbon’s low 80 proof bottling.  Delicate flavors of caramel, toasted rye bread, and oak spice emerge.  A bit of orange rind and nuts add some complexity.  The finish is short-to-medium length with hints of cinnamon sugar, toasted rye grain, and oak.  Compared to the standard Basil Hayden’s, this new 10-year-old offering isn’t as vibrant and showcases darker notes.

Is it good?  Yes.  It’s a nice enough bourbon, and fits in line with other Basil Hayden products.  Jim Beam’s high rye mash bill can be quite delicious, and this whiskey shows it.  The negative side is its low proof, which dampens the entry and diminishes the finish.

Is it worth the price of admission?  No.  Basil Hayden’s low 80 proof doesn’t seem to fit into the current world of high-proof bourbon offerings.  That aside, this bourbon doesn’t offer much more than the very solid standard bottling.  7.5/10

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

Review: Booker’s 30th Anniversary Bourbon

Booker’s bourbon has been going strong for 30 years, and the brand is celebrating with this limited edition release. Since I got into whiskey, I’ve seen (and enjoyed) two other Booker’s special releases – their 10-year-old 25th Anniversary bourbon and 13-year-old rye whiskey. Both were phenomenal releases, so I greatly anticipated this new one.

Louisiana only got a handful of cases, and close to half of those went to on-premise accounts which didn’t leave a lot leftover for retail. I’m glad I found a bottle for just under the suggested retail price of $199. Thank goodness for those strong retail relationships.

The whiskey itself is comprised of about 70% 9-year-old bourbon and about 30% 16-year-old bourbon. Very early in the process, it was reported to be a 16-year-old release. However, Jim Beam Master Distiller Fred Noe decided it was too oak forward and added the younger stock.

As is consistent with the brand, Booker’s 30th Anniversary is bottled uncut and unfiltered at 62.9% ABV, or 125.8 proof. According to the brand, barrels for this batch came from three different floors in warehouse H and E. Percentages break down as follows:

  • Warehouse H, 3rd floor – 12%
  • Warehouse H, 4th floor – 29%
  • Warehouse H, 5th floor – 11%
  • Warehouse E, 5th floor – 48%

The nose is full of rich caramel and vanilla – Booker’s usual profile. However, the caramel is darker and vanilla is more aromatic. The older whiskey shows through as well, providing a prominent toasted oak note, as well as some oak spice. The palate sees sweet oak as a driver, but it’s beautifully integrated with dark brown sugar, molasses, vanilla bean, and a slight earthiness. Leather and oak spice develop in the back palate. By the way, this is perfectly drinkable at this high proof – no water required. The finish is short-to-medium, becoming slightly dry.

My initial casual pour was quite satisfactory. However, going back for a second pour a few days later saw an improvement. The caramel and vanilla sweet notes seemed to be turned up a notch, slightly taming the drier oak notes. There’s more depth and complexity compared to standard Booker’s releases. I really like this bourbon, though I wish the finish were longer. That’s really my only criticism. The short, dry finish keeps this whiskey from hitting the high marks achieved by Booker’s 25th Anniversary and Booker’s Rye. That said, this bourbon is certainly no slouch. It’s a very well-crafted release. The decision by Noe to add the 9-year-old bourbon turned out to be a smart one. Even with the shorter finish, Booker’s 30th Anniversary comes highly recommended. 9/10