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Friday, December 16, 2016

Bourbon and Rye Day Friday: Baker's 7 year old versus those two batches of Booker's at 107 proof

I've always liked Baker's better than Booker's bourbon. Named after Jim Beam's grandnephew, Baker's has always been bottled at 107 proof and at 7 years of age. I do hope those two factors remain in future Baker's bottlings, but who knows. In addition to the recent Booker's announcement, Beam removed the 9yo age statement from Knob's Creek this year, took away the 8yo statement on Jim Black a year before, and OGD 114 may be disappearing next year. So what awaits Baker's?

Well, it awaits a Taste Off here. I took Booker's batches C05-A-12 and 2015-06, proofed them down to 53.5% and let them sit for a day. Then I lined them up next to Baker's batch B90-001 (a batch number that hasn't changed for several years) to see what worked best at that ABV.

For stats on Booker's batches C05-A-12 and 2015-06, see their reviews.

Baker's 7 year old 107 proof, batch B90-001
Owner: Beam Suntory
Brand: Booker's
Type: Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Distillery: Jim Beam Distillery
Location: Clermont, Kentucky
Mash Bill: 77% corn, 13% rye, 10% malted barley (probably)
Age: 7 years
Batch: B90-001
Alcohol by volume: 53.5% ABV

Baker's @ 53.5%abv - Brown sugar, caramel and limes. Hints of roses and cucumber skin. Play-Doh. More toffee pudding with time.
Booker's C05-A-12 @ 53.5%abv - Flowers, paint, oregano, sawdust and a little bit of hazelnut.
Booker's 2015-06 @ 53.5%abv - Orange oil, pine needles and sap, floral soap. Hints of vanilla and simple syrup.
Winner: Baker's, just slightly over 2015-06

Baker's @ 53.5%abv - NOT HOT. More savory than sweet. Smaller notes of wood smoke and toffee. Larger notes of mint, dark cherries and ginger.
Booker's C05-A-12 @ 53.5%abv - Bitter, floral, salty and nutty. Black pepper and root beer. Grows nuttier with every sip.
Booker's 2015-06 @ 53.5%abv - Less bitter than C05. Salty. Lots of toasted (grain and oak) notes. Wood spice.
Winner: Baker's

Baker's @ 53.5%abv - Mild. Tangy and salty. Subtle maple and corn sweetness. Black pepper.
Booker's C05-A-12 @ 53.5%abv - Bitter. Hot. Dry as hell. Fouls up the palate.
Booker's 2015-06 @ 53.5%abv - Not bitter. Warm. Ginger.
Winner: Baker's, just slightly over 2015-06

With 5 additional drops of water
Baker's - The nose is slightly more floral, nutty, narrower. The palate gets a spicy rye edge to it, along with vanilla frosting. Holds onto the savory note. The finish is similar to the palate.
Booker's C05-A-12 - The nose gets more desserty (sugar and corn syrup) with a side of barrel char, then out of nowhere it's all peanuts. The palate gets very sweet. Otherwise it's bitter, nutty, and full of floral soap. It finishes nutty, peppery, perfumy and bitter.
Booker's 2015-06 - The nose is very corny, like polenta. Then vanilla, Play-Doh and molasses. The palate is mild, with small notes of vanilla, caramel, ginger beer, and sawdust. Nuts and sawdust in the finish.
Winner: Baker's, again 2015-06 isn't too far behind.

That Baker's was the overall winner didn't come as a surprise to me, but there were two revelations. Firstly, Booker's 2015-06 wasn't that far off in my esteem when proofed down, and if I were to consider how it registers at full proof, it's probably about even with Baker's. Secondly, I wasn't terribly thrilled by any of these three whiskies. I thought I'd be doing a whole writeup about how awesome Baker's is, but......it's perfectly fine bourbon, nothing more. Though it does tend to be cheaper than Booker's in bars, I'm in no hurry to buy another bottle of Baker's any time soon.

Booker's batch C05-A-12 is flat out fugly when proofed down. I think that kind of broke my spirit. My palate is still messed up from it, 7 hours later. Don't be surprised if this is the final BARD Friday of 2016. BARD Friday will start up again in January. In the meantime, there are a couple of other spirits I have in mind for the last two Fridays of this year.

(Note: the two Booker's ratings will not change)

Baker's 7 year old, batch B09-001
Availability - All US specialty retailers, as well as many non-specialty retailers (depending on your state)
Pricing - $40-$60
Rating - 83