Tag Archives: jimbeam

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.

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Jim Beam Black

Surely, one of the first bourbons I ever tasted was Jim Beam – probably the white label variety and probably with more attention paid to the effects of the drink than its characteristics, sadly.  This is a classic brand that has maintained its status as the standard for Kentucky bourbon for many years.  As a result, it’s difficult to look at a bottle of Jim Beam Black with a fresh and critical set of eyes.

Presentation:

JBB is aged 8 years – twice that of the white label and one year short of Beam’s Knob Creek.  The packaging strays little from the design of the mainline variety, sporting the familiar signature, family tree, red seal, and typeface.  The marketing copy on the side is relatively understated in both its description of the product as well as in the coy humility inserted at the end: “…we know a little about making exceptional bourbon.”

All in all, the packaging is what you expect from Jim Beam, it is one of the standards against which other whiskeys judge their appearance.  The grabs at nostalgia here seem more genuine than fetish-object: the signature at the bottom was introduced decades ago as a hedge against trademark infringement (forgery carrying a higher penalty than the infringement itself).

What can one really say about this bottle?

Tasting:

There is nothing overpowering in the nose of Jim Beam Black, nor is there anything overly complex.  Notes of floral sweetness, oak, and fruit present themselves and quietly retreat.

On the palate Black is much more assertive.  Immediately the corn-driven sweetness is prominent at first, followed by something akin to berries, fresh legumes, and char.  The finish is largely clean with a hint of lingering spice.

Over all:

The similarity between Jim Beam Black and Knob Creek is certainly clear, yet it seems that Knob Creek’s extra year in the barrel made significant difference in the product.  Black is punchier than Four Roses, more interesting than Bulleit, but falls short of Knob Creek in terms of depth and complexity.  Regardless, with the lower price, this would be a good buy.