Whiskey Review: Booker’s Bourbon 2020-03 “Pigskin Batch”

, | February 18, 2021

Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Beam-Suntory. This in no way, per our editorial policiesinfluenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

I will be the first to tell you that I hate football. I absolutely loathe it. I don’t understand the sport in the least; it looks like a bunch of padded robots falling on top of each other. And it’s so slow. Why does the clock always stop? It takes so long. Five minutes goes for 30. You can’t mess with time like that! So boring! I hate football.

But this is not about me, it’s about Booker’s Bourbon and their final batch release from last year:  Booker’s Bourbon 2020-03 “Pigskin Batch.”

This release is a nod to 6th generation master distiller (and grandson of Jim Beam) Booker Noe’s love of football. Standing 6’4” at about 300 pounds, Booker was—according to his son Fred Noe, the 7th generation master distiller at Booker’s—quick for his size and good enough to practice with the football team when he attended the University of Kentucky. Football was a family matter in the Booker family: Booker would set up goal posts in the backyard for his grandson, Freddie, and the clan used to watch football together regularly. In December 2020, Booker Noe would have been 91 years old.

Like all of Booker’s batches, this was selected by Fred Noe personally. Also like all of Booker’s other bourbons, this is bottled uncut at the natural proof—for this batch, that’s a we-are-really-not-messing-around strength of 127.3 proof. Its mash bill, according to Breaking Bourbon, is 77% corn, 13% rye, and 10% malted barley.The breakdown of barrel storage of the barrels that went into Booker’s Pigskin Batch goes like this:

  • 14% from the 6th floor of 7-story warehouse L
  • 15% from the 6th floor of 9-strory warehouse H
  • 27% from the 5th floor of 7-story warehouse M
  • 32% from the 4th floor of 7-story warehouse X
  • 12% from the 5th floor of 7-story warehouse Z
Booker's Bourbon 2020-03 "Pigskin Batch"

Booker’s Bourbon 2020-03 “Pigskin Batch” (image via Beam-Suntory)

Tasting Notes: Booker’s Bourbon 2020-03 “Pigskin Batch”

Vital Stats: 127.3 proof (63.65% alcohol); mash bill of 77% corn, 13% rye, and 10% malted barley; aged a very precise six years, seven months, and seven days; retails for about $90.

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Appearance: In the bottle, it’s tinged with red and glossy, like a polished cordovan leather shoe. In the glass: quite bronze. Sand at sunset. Or someone very tan in the ‘80s who has spent serious time with a low SPF Hawaiian Tropic.

Nose: Honestly, this smells like a good and solid and classic and classy bourbon. It belongs in a library, a deeply wood paneled room, the same color as the whiskey (is that why they do it?). I get vanilla, red apples just-yanked from the tree, graham crackers, sugar about to turn to caramel but not yet all the way there. The tiniest whiff of smoke, but smoke like a just-blown out perfectly scented vanilla candle versus peat smoke. Enticing, really. I did Dry January and so maybe it’s because this is the first whiskey I’ve even sniffed in five weeks, but I find it ragingly delightful.

Palate: Booker’s advises you sip this with a little water or ice—and I get why. This comes out of the gate pretty strong. I like it, but some might get a Maxwell Man vibe. I get strong cinnamon. Not red-hot candy and fake cinnamon, but straight-up cinnamon without the terror of its challenge. Brown sugar. Vanilla. Cherries. Caramel apples. Butterscotch. Just like how it smells like a bourbon should smell, this tastes like how a bourbon should taste. But it is not basic: It’s marvelously complex. There is headiness and then restraint. And the mouthfeel swishes lovely: It’s not too thin and it’s not too viscous. Just right. It tastes rich, and elegant, and not at all high-proof.

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Also note: This is a strong whiskey. It might not come across as alcohol-forward, but it is strong. 127 proof is no joke. A few sips in, I was talking to my cats in a voice that only emerges after finishing a large Manhattan.

The Takeaway


At $90 a bottle, you’re getting a bargain. I may wholly despise football, but I fucking love this whiskey.

User Review
2.97 (61 votes)


Carin Moonin

A decade ago, I traded a 5th floor walkup in Hoboken, NJ for a house in SE Portland and remain grateful for the swap. Portland’s a great whiskey town: It fits the weather and my general mood (even improves it sometimes). I enjoy exploring the many shades of brown liquor...