Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a free sample to review by the party behind it. The Whiskey Wash, while appreciative of this, did keep full independent editorial control over this article
According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, the term “Peanut Gallery” was the nickname for the cheapest and rowdiest seats at a vaudeville production. The most inexpensive snack served was peanuts, which got tossed at underwhelming performers.
I thought about this when trying the Booker’s Bourbon Batch 2015-3.
This bottling, “The Center Cut”, is described by those behind it as being named for two things: first, the central area of the rackhouse for prime whiskey aging, where they feel the temperature, humidity, and sunlight combine to provide perfect aging conditions. Second: The center cut of meat Booker Noe favored and cured on his own. It is aged seven years, two months and 28 days in charred oak, and retails for about $55.
Batch 2015-03 is the first in this series Fred Noe, Beam’s 7th Generation Master Distiller, selected for this year with the help of a group of whiskey experts, enthusiasts and writers normally known as Booker’s Bourbon Roundtable. He also worked with Kentucky chef Coby Ming, “who used her culinary expertise to help select a batch that embodies Booker’s whiskey preferences and ensures an ideal flavor profile for food pairing.”
But at what point does hopeful collaboration become too many cooks? Because I fear this batch may have fallen prey to bourbon crowdsourcing.
The 2015-03 smells like hard candy, with a top layer of molasses and burnt sugar. On the palate, it’s spicy and cinnamon strong: You can taste the high (127.2) proof. It burns a bit going down—but sometimes that’s not a bad thing. Sometimes you want your booze to taste like booze, you know? Even with the spice and strength at first sip, it finishes long, smooth and straightforward. This is one where you might want that glass of ice next to you to drop in a single cube or a few sprinkles of water.
True to its name (and slab of meat adorning the label), this definitely would go well with a meat of any cut, where its richness would be tempered by the 2015-03’s high, spicy notes. I also found myself craving something salty with it. I wanted to like this so much, but I found it paled in comparison to other Booker’s I’ve tried; it lacked nuance. It tries too hard to be too many things to too many people.
Booker’s website claims that in 1992 they introduced the world to small batch bourbon—and coined the term. While the Peanut Gallery certainly wouldn’t be throwing back Booker’s, I do feel like this might have been a case of TMBI (Too Much Bourbon Information), and that’s why I’d give it a 79.
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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...