Whiskey Review: Booker’s Bourbon, Booker’s Bluegrass

Booker's Bourbon, Booker's BluegrassEditor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a free sample to review. The Whiskey Wash, while appreciative of this, did keep full independent editorial control over this article.

Booker’s Bourbon, Booker’s Bluegrass, as we chronicled at the beginning of the year when this release first hit retail, was the first of six 2016 expressions under this brand. It followed a rather successful run for Beam Suntory in 2015 of a labeling practice under which one sees graphics associated with the naming of each batch. The general concept of Booker’s as a whiskey in the Beam portfolio has existed since the early 1990s, and the whiskey is called Booker’s because in its original inception it was chosen by Booker Noe, then master distiller at the Beam distillery.

Beloved for his skill in the rickhouse, Noe was also apparently quite the lover of music. This release is said to be a dedication to Noe’s dual love of whiskey and bluegrass music, and it thus features “a custom label depicting a banjo, one of the most popular and distinctive instruments in bluegrass music.”

Blended from a variety of barrels aged between six years and 11 months, to seven years and 11 months is bottled at cask strength. The barrels were chosen by a specially selected team from barrels that were stored in 7 different rack houses: 61% of the barrels were stored in nine-story houses, 34% were stored in seven-story houses, and remaining 5% were stored in a five-story rack house.

“My Dad, Booker, created Booker’s Bourbon to be his version of the perfect whiskey — uncut and full of rich flavor,” said Fred Noe, Beam’s seventh-generation master distiller, in a prepared statement at the time this was released. “Booker’s Bluegrass’ is a reflection of just that, and is a true testament to Dad’s larger-than-life personality. Whenever there was bluegrass music, he could be found dancing front-and-center or trying his hand at playing with the band.”

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Jim Beam is no stranger to special releases curated with tradition in mind, and Booker’s Bluegrass is a welcome addition to the family.

Tasting Notes: Booker’s Bourbon, Booker’s Bluegrass

Vital Stats: 6 years and 11 months. Aged in new charred oak. Cask strength of 127.9 proof.

Appearance: Booker’s Bluegrass is a fetching dark caramel brown in the glass.

Nose: The spirit is dark and sweet on the nose, hinting at dark chocolate-covered cherries, burnt coffee beans, and Pedro Ximenez sherry.

Palate: As on the nose, Booker’s Bluegrass is rich with chocolate, dark fruits, and spice. Chili-spiced dark chocolate, poached stone fruit, dried candied fruit, and bold pepper bring out the sweet and spicy notes of the spirit. Viscous and decadent. Has quite a bite to it that balances out the rich sweetness. Velvety on the palate, but prickly on the way down!

Final Thoughts:

Booker’s Bourbon, Booker’s Bluegrass has more body, viscosity, and peppered heat than any other Booker’s release I can recall. The high proof and richness of the spirit make it, in my mind, a digestif. This whiskey is definitely one I would only consider drinking after a hearty winter meal to scare away the ghosts before bed! I can’t wait to see how this release progresses in flavor and selection as the years go on.