Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Jim Beam. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced 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.
Nepotism isn’t always a bad thing, especially when it comes to whiskey and a nearly 200-year family tradition of spirits and distilling. Booker Noe is the grandson of Jim Beam and a 6th Generation Master Distiller, and Booker’s Bourbon is a small batch label nestled under the more imposing Jim Beam brand. Booker himself was the person who coined the term “small-batch,” a term that tends to conjure the more rarefied and special blends of bourbon.
Booker Noe first came into his own in 1988, launching Booker’s Bourbon with a very small release. At the time, whiskey tended to be light-bodied, less robust, lower-proofed, and overall, somewhat pushed to the side in favor of the clear spirits. Fred Noe, Booker’s son, and 7th Generation Master Distiller, has stated “my dad thought bourbon and whiskey were getting a bad rap.” As a result, Booker’s Bourbon emerged, taken straight from the barrel, a true barrel-strength bourbon. As Booker used to say, straight from the barrel was “the way bourbon used to be, the way it was meant to be.”
Booker’s Bourbon is a rare beast, as it is one of the only bourbons bottled at its natural proof, uncut and non-chill filtered. Such a high-proof bourbon can be overpowering if there is not consideration given to the flavor profile and complexity within the spirit, but Booker’s Bourbon takes itself and its reputation very seriously, and they don’t disappoint.
Fred Noe has taken over the position of Master Distiller for Booker’s Bourbon from his father. The newest output from Booker’s Bourbon and today’s tasting is the Booker’s Bourbon Batch 2021-02 “Tagalong Batch,” a name derived from the tradition of Fred’s father tagging along with his father and grandfather on the distillery floor. Those days of asking questions and observing the distilling process fed Booker’s desire to learn the family business.
The Booker’s Bourbon Batch 2021-02“Tagalong Batch” doesn’t burn a hole in your throat, despite its impressive 127.9 proof, and is a rather fiery spirit with a lot of character. It was aged six years and five months, and was selected by Fred Noe with quality being of the upmost importance. I’d say he did a smashing job.
Tasting Notes: Booker’s Bourbon Batch 2021-02 “Tagalong Batch”
Vital Stats: 127.9 proof (63.95% ABV). Aged 6 years, 5 months. Batch no. 2021-02. Average price at around $97. Aged in charred white oak barrels.
Appearance: Rich burnished copper.
Nose: Waves of honeysuckle and earthy, musty wood. A bit of cherry and vanilla swirls, crashing into one another with the promise of a rich, full-bodied taste.
Palate: First impression is this is a smooth, rich bourbon that is not at all overpowering for its proof. Mid-palate the spice begins to shine through, baking spices, nutmeg, and vanilla. The finish is clean but fiery, but not off-putting, with the hint of cherry straight off the tree.
This is one of the better high-proof bourbons I’ve had the pleasure of tasting. It is very clear that Booker’s Bourbon takes pride in its output, and I think Master Distiller Noe pulled these barrels at the perfect time. There is a subtlety to the bourbon that warms the belly without burning the palate, so all the nuanced flavors come through and gently move through different iterations. One sip will be robust, another will highlight the vanilla, another, perhaps with a drop or two of water, will open to perfectly feature the white oak. It’s a well-made bourbon from a brand that knows its purpose.
User Review3.44 (16 votes)
Jerry Jenae Sampson
Jerry Sampson is a freelance writer, editor and screenwriter. Her creative work is ever improved by her love of whiskey and craft cocktails. She enjoys taking cool fall days to explore the great distilleries around Portland to get a closer look at the inner workings of her favorite spirits.