February 2019: Booker’s Bourbon 2018 Batches

Pop quiz: What is the first bourbon to be commercially released nationwide at barrel proof? According to Jim Beam, it is Booker’s Bourbon.

Booker's Bourbon 2018

Booker’s Bourbon is a member of Jim Beam‘s Small Batch Collection, along with Knob Creek, Baker’s, and Basil Hayden’s. Its namesake, former Master Distiller Booker Noe, used to select choice barrels from the center of the rickhouse as holiday gifts for close friends. In 1988, Jim Beam decided to release the purportedly first barrel proof bourbon nationwide.

Booker Noe retired as Master Distiller in 1992, but continued to work closely with Jim Beam. Booker’s Bourbon has continued to enjoy a reputation for consistent quality  since its initial release.

In 2013, Booker’s began releasing “Roundtable” batches. These batches were selected by a handful of whiskey influencers and Fred Noe. While many Booker’s releases, if not all for the past few years, have been selected by collaboration between Fred Noe and friends, not every batch is promoted as a “Roundtable” release.

The following chart is an attempt to identify each Booker’s Roundtable release, with each bottle’s age and proof:

Name Age Proof
2013-06 7 years 6 months 125.9
C07-B-7 (2014) 7 years 2 months 130.8
2014-06 7 years 2 months 127.7
2015-03 “The Center Cut” 7 years 2 months 127.2
2015-4 “Oven Buster” 6 years 5 months 20 days 127
2015-06 “Noe’s Secret” 6 years 8 months 7 days 128.1
2016-03 “Toogie’s Invitation” 6 years 4 months 129
2017-1 “Tommy’s Batch” 6 years 4 months 6 days 128.5
2018-1 “Kathleen’s Batch” 6 years 3 months 14 days 127.4

Booker's Bourbon 2018

Originally, each Booker’s batch was labeled with a code, which distinguished the year of release or distillation. In 2015, each batch was also given a moniker. Beginning in 2017, Booker’s trimmed down its number of yearly batches from 6 to 4. Also, with much controversy, Booker’s increased its price beginning in 2017, by about $20/bottle. It was not a graceful announcement, as Jim Beam originally announced a greater price increase, then backtracked and decided to progressively raise the price over time. Eventually, what was once released 6 times per year at $50, was released 4 times per year at $70, effective 2017, and will eventually $100 per bottle in the coming years.

So, for the people who lament Booker’s Bourbon price increase, what is there to do? This tasting was partially to experiment with whether another member of Jim Beam’s Small Batch Collection could hang with Booker’s, while also giving some relief to consumers’ pocketbooks: Baker’s.

Baker’s seems to be the forgotten member of the Jim Beam Small Batch Collection. It is 107 proof, 7 years old, at retails for about $49.99. It is, therefore, aged a bit more than most Booker’s Bourbon, proofed a bit less, and priced at Booker’s former retail price.

Our tasting featured each of the 4 Booker’s Bourbon batches released in 2018 and one bottle of Baker’s. The guests tasted these blind, not knowing anything about what was being sampled other than what was observed in the glasses.

Cocktail

2 ounces high-proof bourbon

1 ounce Cointreau

1/2 ounce sweet vermouth

1/2 ounce lemon juice

Splash of cola

Add ingredients to cocktail shaker with ice and shake until thoroughly chilled. Strain into glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with lemon twist.

Baker's Bourbon

Baker’s Bourbon

Age: 7 years

Proof: 107

Additional information about this bottle:

Baker’s is named after Baker Noe, Jim Beam’s grandnephew. While a member of the Jim Beam Small Batch Collection, each of which contain the same mash bill of 77% corn, 13% rye, 10% malted barley, Baker’s is a bit different in that it uses a different yeast strain. Baker’s uses a special jug yeast strain, meant to impart a more silky texture.

Booker’s Bourbon 2018-01 “Kathleen’s Batch”

Age: 6 years 3 months 14 days

Proof: 127.4

Additional information about this bottle:

This is the 2018 Roundtable release. The name is derived from Kathleen DiBenedetto, who helped launch the Jim Beam Small Batch Bourbon Collection with Booker Noe in the early 90s. She was also the first brand manager of Knob Creek, Basil Hayden’s, Baker’s, and Booker’s. The barrels were selected from the following locations:

4% came from the 5th floor of 7-story warehouse ONE
6% came from the 4th floor of 9-story warehouse F
3% came from the 7th floor of 9-story warehouse F
19% came from the 4th floor of 9-story warehouse H
30% came from the 5th floor of 9-story warehouse H
13% came from the 6th floor of 9-story warehouse H
25% came from the 7th floor of 9-story warehouse H

Booker's Bourbon 2018

Booker’s Bourbon 2018-02 “Backyard BBQ”

Age: 6 years 2 months 10 days

Proof: 128.8

Additional information about this bottle:

Fred Noe named this after his dad’s  “Bourbon-ques” that he would host throughout the summer in Bardstown, KY. This bourbon brought to memory Booker Noe’s pork chops, which he flambeed with Booker’s. The barrels were selected from the following locations:

4% came from the 4th floor of 9-story warehouse E
29% came from the 5th floor of 9-story warehouse E
10% came from the 7th floor of 9-story warehouse E
8% came from the 5th floor of 9-story warehouse J
32% came from the 6th floor of 9-story warehouse I
17% came from the 7th floor of 9-story warehouse I

Booker's Bourbon 2018

Booker’s Bourbon 2018-03 “Kentucky Chew”

Age: 6 years 4 months 12 days

Proof: 126.7

When Booker Noe would sample from the barrels that would later become Booker’s, his looked like he was chewing the bourbon, swishing it around and smacking his lips. When visitors come to Jim Beam’s distillery for a tour, they are taught to try this method, to help coat their mouths with all the bourbon’s flavors. The barrels for this batch came from the following locations:

29% came from the 4th floor of 9-story warehouse D
42% came from the 6th floor of 9-story warehouse D
8% came from the 4th floor of 9-story warehouse I
8% came from the 7th floor of 9-story warehouse I
6% came from the 6th floor of 9-story warehouse J
2% came from the 7th floor of 9-story warehouse J
5% came from the 5th floor of 7-story warehouse N

Booker's Bourbon 2018

Booker’s Bourbon 2018-04 “Kitchen Table”

Age: 6 years 8 months 7 days

Proof: 128.0

Additional information about this bottle:

When Booker Noe would invite family or friends to help him pick out a new batch of Booker’s, his favorite place to congregate was his kitchen table. The barrels for this batch came from the following locations:

7% came from the 4th floor of 9-story warehouse E
14% came from the 5th floor of 9-story warehouse E
4% came from the 6th floor of 9-story warehouse E
24% came from the 5th floor of 9-story warehouse J
44% came from the 6th floor of 9-story warehouse J
7% came from the 6th floor of 9-story warehouse D

2 Replies to “February 2019: Booker’s Bourbon 2018 Batches”

  1. I’m confused. I’m reading your article where you compared the 4 2018 Booker’s releases alongside the Bakers. Yet, I don’t see any results. I’ll keep searching the page but don’t see it.

    1. You are correct. The Baker’s was thrown in to the blind tasting to see whether the guests could identify its differences, but also to see whether it could stand up to any of the Booker’s batches. The result was that most were able to identify something different about Baker’s, mostly the texture, and thought that the quality was just as good, if not better, than the Booker’s batches.

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