Tag Archives: Booker’s

Basil Hayden’s

basilhaydenBasil Hayden’s is the other of Jim Beam’s top-shelf selection, along with Booker’s and Knob Creek which I’ve written about before.  I’ve heard that BH is a lot smoother and gentler than those other two.  That could be a good or a bad things depending on who’s saying it and what the occasion is, though I have to admit I prefer a bolder drink so I’m a little wary.  On to the stats!

Stats:

  • $30-$40
  • 80 proof
  • Made by the Jim Beam folks

Presentation:

Certainly the bottle reflects Basil Hayden’s relative lighness to an extent.  Soft tones and carefully constructed curves contrast with Booker’s homemade feel and Knob’s bursting angularity.  The labeling is actually pretty interesting.  It consists of a smooth, brown paper tunic over the neck of the bottle and extending down the sides and belted by a band of wood and copper.

I like the consistent soft coloring and relatively minimal look, but the story about George Washington and the four-year-old state of Kentucky is a little schlocky.  I suppose anyone who’s read this blog before could have seen that coming.

Tasting:

Basil Hayden’s immediately lets off a sweet aroma once it is poured.  While strong, further inspection opens up tree bark and dry wheat, but remains powerfully candied all along.  Candied wheat?  Is that a thing?

On tasting, there is a quick hint of the explosiveness of Knob Creek, but it quickly fades into a strawberry mingled with a bit of spice.  Toward the end there’s a slow burn of something like dry corn followed by a very clean and easy finish.

One thing that did surprise me here was the mouth feel – it was much bigger than I’d expect from the lighter end of the Beam small-batchers.

Over all:

Basil Hayden’s was very pleasant.  Just now I’ve poured myself another tasting, in fact.  But ultimately it’s nothing to get excited about.

It would make an excellent introductory bourbon for the uninitiated or those used to lighter fare, but only if it weren’t so pricey.  This will be nice to have around and contrast with some of the rest of my collection, but isn’t my favorite of its immediate family.

Booker’s

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.

Presentation:

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.
Tasting:

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.

Over all:

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.