Booker's Roundtable: What Exactly It Is - The Whiskey Wash

Booker’s Roundtable: What Exactly It Is

By Maggie Kimberl / May 26, 2016

When Booker Noe first came up with the idea of Booker’s Bourbon, a barrel-strength non chill-filtered whiskey that harkened back to the days of taking your jug down to the tavern to fill up, he would select each batch with a group of friends around his kitchen table. Nowadays, the Booker’s Roundtable panel consists of many different whiskey experts who all take turns on a rotating basis selecting your next bottle of Booker’s.

The Whiskey Wash recently caught up with noted bourbon author Chuck Cowdery, who is regularly a member of this panel, to learn more about his experiences on it over the years:

Booker's Roundtable

Booker Noe and his Booker’s Bourbon (image via Beam-Suntory)

Booker’s was the first bourbon to be marketed as “small batch.” This term means different things to different people. What does it mean to Booker’s?

“Small Batch Bourbons Collection” was a name coined by Beam to describe Booker’s, Baker’s, Knob Creek, and Basil Hayden, although Booker’s had already been on the market for a year or two. Beam never really defined ‘small batch’ unless you asked. Then they said it meant a small (relative to Jim Beam white) selection of barrels dumped for a bottling run. The term became popular and other producers started to use it, along with their own definitions. Today a Booker’s ‘batch’ consists of 350 – 375 barrels and they do six batches per year.

You wrote back in 2014 the roundtables were being done over the phone. Are they still largely done this way? Have you ever done one in person?

I haven’t participated in all of them, but I have participated in two in-person, including [one recently]. The original plan was to do them over Skype but that technology failed. We’ve done several on conference call and that works pretty well, although it’s more fun in person.

How many samples do you typically go through and what are you looking for in each one?

It is always three samples. We’re looking for the one that tastes the most like Booker’s, i.e., the usual Booker’s flavor profile. It’s not unusual for one of us to say, “I like A better but B tastes more like Booker’s.”

What are some of the subtle or not-so-subtle differences in the samples?

More or less char, more or less vanilla, more or less sweetness. The amazing thing is that although they are all Booker’s, there are real differences.

Sometimes things in the whiskey business look more fun from the outside than they really are, but I can imagine the Booker’s Round Table is actually a lot of fun. Is it more laid back or is it all business?

It’s fun because it’s a fun group of people. That’s what makes it. There are always new people. And it’s pretty easy work.