Taste Test: Booker’s Newest Batch Is Its Best Bourbon in Years

It can be a challenge to examine the minutiae that separate whiskeys released in batches throughout the year, usually with relatively small variations in proof, age, and core component percentages. But all of these factors do affect the flavor and quality of a whiskey, even when the base product is consistently good. Such is the case with Booker’s, and the third batch released this year happens to be a standout.

There are whiskey fans who excoriate particular releases of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, High West’s A Midwinter Night’s Dram, and, yes, Booker’s, and unabashedly eulogize others. That’s valid, although it seems like sometimes people get a little too into the weeds or even start imagining things; but taste is entirely subjective and that’s part of the fun. There certainly are some batches that are better than others, and the third release of Booker’s this year, “Mighty Fine Batch,” is one of these. Booker’s is part of the Jim Beam Small Batch Collection, which also includes Baker’s, Knob Creek, and Basil Hayden. These are all very different whiskeys, and Booker’s stands alone as the uncut, unfiltered, barrel-proof member of the family. It was created by the legendary Jim Beam master distiller Booker Noe in the late ’80s, and originally meant to be a Christmas gift for his family and friends. Now, thankfully, everyone can taste this whiskey, even if the price has risen over the past few years.

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I’ve written about the concept of family and legacy in the world of Kentucky bourbon before, most recently in regards to the excellent new Wild Turkey Generations. “Mighty Fine Batch” is a direct tribute to Noe, and according to the brand the name comes from a phrase he would use when approving a sample of Booker’s. When his son, seventh generation master distiller Fred Noe, took over the job of selecting barrels before the elder Noe passed away in 2004, Booker reportedly tasted the sample and said, “Mighty fine job, son.” Whether or not that’s 100 percent accurate really doesn’t matter; it’s a nice image and evokes the family legacy at the James B. Beam Distilling Co.—Booker’s grandson, Freddie Noe, is now a master distiller in charge of the Fred B. Noe Distillery on the Beam campus, and intimately involved with the production of Booker’s.

So let’s get to the current batch. The bourbon is seven years, one month, and 10 days old and bottled at 126.6 proof, which falls in line with most Booker’s batches as far as age and ABV. If you visit the website, you’ll find a detailed breakdown of where all the barrels came from, including specific warehouses and what percentage went into the blend. I won’t bore you with all of this, but the majority were matured on the fifth floor of warehouse three. Obviously, barrel location has a lot to do with how whiskey interacts with wood and subsequently how it tastes, and these appear to have been some premium casks. The nose starts things off with aromas of honey, caramel, brown sugar, and vanilla. There’s some alcohol burn, which is to be expected, but it’s not overpowering. That’s followed by Beam’s signature nutty, sweet grain on the palate, along with corn bread, cherry pie ala mode, baked apple, milk chocolate, and some warming spice on the finish. A little water goes a long way, unlocking notes of cocoa, banana custard, espresso bean, and soft serve butterscotch dip.

When you’re working with a baseline of solid whiskey, it’s hard to really mess it up, but of course that occasionally does happen. More often than not, it tends to work the other way—most Booker’s expressions are good, but some really pop. That is the case with “Mighty Fine Batch,” an exemplary chapter in the Noe family history and a mighty fine bourbon.

Score: 95

  • 100: Worth trading your first born for

  • 95 – 99 In the Pantheon: A trophy for the cabinet

  • 90 – 94 Great: An excited nod from friends when you pour them a dram

  • 85 – 89 Very Good: Delicious enough to buy, but not quite special enough to chase on the secondary market

  • 80 – 84 Good: More of your everyday drinker, solid and reliable

  • Below 80 It’s alright: Honestly, we probably won’t waste your time and ours with this

Every week Jonah Flicker tastes the most buzzworthy and interesting whiskeys in the world. Check back each Friday for his latest review.

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