I went all-out with this week’s selection and tried Booker’s, which sits atop Jim Beam’s small batch bourbon series. I quite enjoyed Knob Creek and was pleased with Jim Beam Black, so I figured I’d see what the best they have to offer is like.
To signify (or justify) the higher price tag and quality, Booker’s comes in a wine bottle. Whether this is due to some naturally more graceful form or merely the association with the beverage of a pricier heritage, I’m not sure. The top of the bottle is encased in black wax, covering a raised and tasseled ‘B’ at the base of the neck – a tasteful effect over all.
The marketing copy is short yet prominent. The label is faux hand-written – one is to presume this is the posthumous hand of the titular Booker Noe himself. Looks nice, but either hand label your bottles or don’t, splitting the difference just makes me think I’m not getting what you want me to think I’m paying for.
Additionally, there is a smaller label higher on the bottle with a specific age and proof statement (5 years, 5 months, 126.8 proof in my bottle’s case). Seeing as this is a single-barrel expression, I’m fairly sure that this changes from bottle to bottle.
Despite my complaining about the fake hand-writing and wine associations, Booker’s does come across as appealingly simple over all.
To the nose, I could hardly tell that Booker’s was 126+ proof. The nose was quite subtle and complex. Mainly it was sweet in a molasses and maple sort of way, yet there were also intriguing elements of oak, vanilla, and buttercream. Very appealing.
If I thought that Booker’s was easy on the nose, it was saving the full wallop of its proof for the palate. It was very difficult to discern much of any flavor in the first sip as a result of the overwhelming alcohol. The second sip revealed a bit more of what was behind the curtain, but it wasn’t until I added some water (which I rarely do) that the full flavor of Booker’s came through.
In it are notes of fresh baked bread, burnt sugar, the familiar Beam sweetness, buttercream and oak. The finish begins spicy and fades into a grassy freshness.
Booker’s is a very good bourbon. There are flavors in it that I have never tasted in a bourbon before (buttercream mostly) that were a pleasant surprise. I’m definitely glad that I own a bottle to bring out on special occasions, but ultimately the price tag makes this a prohibitive purchase for anyone who isn’t serious about their drink.