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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

NOT Single Malt Report: Booker's Straight Bourbon, batch 2013-6

Here's the other unexpected review I got to do during Thanksgiving weekend.  I've had Booker's a couple of times and found it to be good (though very hot).  My brother-in-law likes the stuff and often has a bottle on hand.  So, here's batch 2013-6, sampled from mid-bottle.

Owner: Beam Suntory
Brand: Booker's
Type: Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Distillery: Jim Beam Distillery
Location: Clermont, Kentucky
Mash Bill: Standard 15% rye (probably)
Age: 7 years, 6 months
Batch: 2013-6
Alcohol by volume: 62.95% ABV
Bottle code: L3255
Thank you, Andrew!

It has the color of maple syrup.  The nose starts off with nothing but tree things (forest, sap, charred pulp).  Gradually a corn syrup note evolves, as do rock candy and hard caramel candies.  Then toasted sesame oil and dry soil.  It almost burned my nose at first sniff but then softened up with air.  The palate shows candied smoky oak, caramel-covered tree bark, sea salt caramel sauce, and cotton candy.  Lots of candy corn too.  Smaller notes of used french fry oil and black cherry syrup arrive later.  It's not complex, though the delivery is intensely hot.  The hot finish has a big note of smoky char.  Then some burnt corn and bananas meet a green woody bitterness.

I'd never added water to Booker's before but I gave it a try here...

WITH WATER (around 46-50% abv)
More nuts and caramel appear in the nose, as do lemon peels, horseradish, and celery seed.  Maybe some sherry-ish prunes.  The palate gets sweeter, with richer caramel and toffee.  Some vanilla and cherry lollipops as well.  The green woody bitterness starts to appear here.  The finish is sweet too, with lots of sugar, corn syrup, and cherry lollipops.

One thing I've noticed about Booker's is that its ethyl burn is more intense than bourbons with higher ABVs (specifically the BTACs and Elijah Craig BP).  Perhaps that's due to its younger age or it has something to do with warehouse climate.  Beam shows its pride in the high ABV by using multiple decimal places in its listing, but more alcohol doesn't necessarily mean more flavor.  For instance, I find their Baker's product to be more vibrant than Booker's even though it is bottled at a lower abv (53.5%) and at about the same age (7 years).

Adding water improved things with this batch.  When neat, the nose is hot oak juice.  With water, it starts developing a wider variety of characteristics.  When neat, the palate is hot and simple, though better than the nose.  With water, it becomes richer.  The finish ain't great when neat; water softens and sweetens it up.  That's why I'm going to recommend adding water to this batch.  I still want to recommend Baker's over Booker's overall, but I won't do so until I try them side by side.

Availability - Most US liquor retailers
Pricing - $45-$65
Rating - 79 for this batch (with water only, 5+ points lower when neat)