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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Booker's Little Book, Chapter 1, Straight Blended Whiskey

There's a rumor that July Fourth happened two weeks ago. Just in case that's true, I should probably continue with American whiskies this week as a late celebration.

My local friend, A.S., gave me a sample of the first Booker's Little Book more than a year ago. I did not realize at the time that this wasn't just another Booker's bourbon. In fact it's a blended whiskey, like Kessler, but (allegedly) better. Per Mr. Minnick, the whiskey is a mix of 4 year old bourbon, 13 year old corn, 5 year old 100% malt and 5 year old rye.

"Little Book" was Booker Noe's grandson's nickname, even though Little Book's actual name is Fred, like his father, and he's grownup, meanwhile they're treating the word "book" like a thing with pages so each chapter is a batch. If you follow. This whiskey is of Freddie's design, his first.

Owner: Beam Suntory
Brand: Booker's
Type: Straight Blended Whiskey
Distillery: Jim Beam Distillery
Location: Clermont, Kentucky
Blend: 4 year old bourbon, 13 year old corn, 5 year old 100% malt and 5 year old rye
Batch: "The Easy"
Alcohol by volume: 64.1% ABV
(thank you to A.S. for the sample!)

At first sniff, it noses like a first-fill bourbon barrel Speyside single malt, then it shifts paths towards something closer to America. There's barrel char, cherry lollipops, gummi bears, paint VOCs and halvah. It sounds like a mess but it works. After 30 minutes it's picked up grilled corn, multigrain pancakes, vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce notes.

The palate is neither as hot or peanutty as I'd expected. The heat reads more like chiles than ethyl. It's very salty and floral. Notes say, "A mix of young corny bourbon and oversteeped sencha." Okay then. It improves after 30 minutes, gaining fresh ginger, lemons, honey, oranges and umami notes.

It finishes salty/brothy. More of that oversteeped sencha. It also has honey, oranges and barrel char. It gets woodier with time.

Little Book batch 1 is better than most of the Booker's bourbon batches I've tried. It also doesn't cook the esophagus like Booker's bourbons do. I wouldn't call it the most coordinated or balanced whiskey but it's fun and (another terrible adjective warning) interesting. I would drink this again, though maybe not on these 95ºF days, and try to parse out how its elements work together or against each other. Though this release had a suggested retail price of $60, the Little Books now go for $125 in Ohio, so I will avoid hunting down a bottle.

Availability - Mostly sold out
Pricing - probably $100 and higher
Rating - 83