This past month, Jim Beam released Booker’s 30th Anniversary Bourbon to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the 1988 release of Booker’s bourbon.
We have previously reviewed several batches of Booker’s. Booker’s is a part of Jim Beam’s “Small Batch Collection,” with Basil Hayden’s, Knob Creek and Baker’s. Booker’s is produced “uncut and unfiltered.” According to Beam:
“We focus on the sweet spot. The center of the rackhouse where the temperature and humidity stars align to create the deepest and most intense flavors. Once it’s aged to perfection, which always varies, the liquid is bottled uncut and unfiltered*. We don’t add, we don’t water down, and we don’t apologize for it. For some people, it may be too much. But for true bourbon fans, it’s probably the best ever.”
For this 30th Anniversary, Jim Beam originally announced that the release would be a 16 year bourbon. But after Fred Noe found that the oak notes on this 16 year product to be overpowering, he elected to blend in younger product, to more closely match the vanilla character of traditional Booker’s. Beam doesn’t disclose in their packaging the particular ages of each component, but indicates that it is a blend of 9 year barrels and 16 year barrels, from the following locations:
Warehouse H floor: 3 (12%)
Warehouse H floor: 4 (29%)
Warehouse H floor: 5 (11%)
Warehouse E floor: 5 (48%)
This is not the first Booker’s Anniversary bottling. In around 2014, Booker’s released the 25th Anniversary release to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the release of Booker’s Bourbon. Around 1998-1999, Booker’s also released a 10th Anniversary release.
We don’t have a 10th Anniversary laying around, but we just so happen to have a 25th Anniversary around to compare the 30th Anniversary to.
Booker’s 25th Anniversary Bourbon (130.8 Proof) (10 Years 3 Months) (Batch 2014-01)
Nose: Dense peanut shell; allspice, nutmeg, clove, cinnamon and maybe even other baking spice; caramel; buttered toast; Milky Way candy bar; slightly herbal with some ginger; grilled-to-perfection corn on the cob; buttered toffee. (4/5)
Palate: Silky up front, with rich brown sugar, vanilla and cinnamon spice. Then spice and heat hits about half-way through; salted caramel; salted in shell peanuts; butter; citrus; grilled corn; more cinnamon brown sugar and baking spice. Swishing it around in your mouth intensifies this to amazing levels. (4.5/5)
Finish: Long. Sweet caramel and brown sugar; herbal; grilled corn; sweet lemon; Milky Way candy bar; slightly drying oak at the tail end but with deep, rich chocolate and sweet notes that balance it out. (3.5/5)
Overall: A bit off of what I consider a typical Booker’s profile to be, which is probably by design. Booker’s 25th has sweeter, more oak, and more salted peanut shell notes (versus simply peanut funk). Rich chocolate that only seems to come with age. (4/5)
Value: This originally hit for around $100 a bottle, which is how we picked it up. Obviously, in today’s environment, that is a steal. But that was 5 years ago. Today, this goes on the secondary for $700 plus. We rate this at original MSRP. (4/5).
“Booker’s 25th has sweeter, more oak, and more salted peanut shell notes (versus simply peanut funk).”
Booker’s 30th Anniversary Bourbon (125.8 Proof) (NAS, but a blend of 9 Year and 16 Year)
Nose: Sweet and salty trail mix, with peanut, other mixed nuts, raisins and M&M’s; dust; fruit leather, plum and raisin; stone fruit; yet more of the same fruit, now stewed; butterscotch and brown sugar; butter; herbal rye notes; toasted oak; charred wood. (4/5)
Palate: Rich brown sugar and red fruit; stone fruit; Fuji apples and apple skins; butterscotch; buttered toast; baking spice; dusty oak; ginger and rye spice. Crisp. (4/5)
Finish: Medium, but with the balance of flavors quickly dissipating. Deep candied brown sugar; peanut; lingering boiled peanut shell. (3.5/5)
Overall: Solid. Booker’s can be pretty brash. Booker’s 30th feels toned down and refined. Sure, the proof is quite evident. But the softer fruit and sweet notes help offset the power of this pour. There is still some traditional beam peanut, but interestingly this balances those flavors with some more crisp fruit and herbal/rye spices. (4/5).
Value: This hit recently with an MSRP of $199, but expect to pay 2x this price on the secondary. It’s a quality pour for sure, but that is a steep price tag when compared to both regular Booker’s (still around the $60-$70 price around here) and other allocated bourbons at MSRP. We are satisfied at MSRP, but not overly so. (3/5)
“Booker’s can be pretty brash. Booker’s 30th feels toned down and refined.”
Scott is a co-founder of Flight Club and a frequent writer and reviewer on the Club’s blog.