Booker’s Small Batch Bourbon Review

Bookers Bourbon Review

Booker’s is my favorite bourbon product that Jim Beam puts out. A small batch cask strength bourbon that comes from barrels that were originally selected by the late Master Distiller Booker Noe (hence the name) it delivers on every level. Before Booker’s was available to the public these bottles were only given out as gifts to friends and family by Noe. It became available to the public in 1992 and bourbon drinkers all over instantly fell in love with this big burly bourbon that is chock full of flavor and kick.

Booker’s is one of the 4 small batch bourbon projects (along with Baker’s, Knob Creek and Basil Hayden) that Beam is involved in and shows just how good the bourbon there at Beam can be. In my opinion this is the most intensely flavorful of the bunch and clocking in between 121 and 130 proof it also packs the biggest punch. With an alcohol content that high it’s definitely one that can use a splash of water to help tame the ethanol and bring out more of the flavors inside.

Overall Booker’s is absolutely wonderful and I go through a bottle about every 1-2 years and each time I pick up a new bottle it’s a familiar yet brand new flavor experience. Just like with the Four Roses Single Barrel it’s the nuances that are exciting to discover with each and every new bottling. Being such an ethanol monster it can be a little rough to drink it neat if you’re not used to cask strength whiskey. However that same aspect means you can add a splash of water, put it on the rocks or even in a cocktail and it doesn’t easily get watered down; continuing to deliver a balanced and bold flavor.

If you’ve had Booker’s Bourbon share your thoughts and notes in the comments below and please include your batch #.

Booker’s Small Batch Bourbon Review

ABV: 65.05%
Price: $50
Distiller: Jim Beam
Batch: C02-A-18

EYE
Deep amber with orange accents

NOSE
This is a great classic bourbon nose. Caramel, vanilla, oak and that wonderful bourbon spice. The rye comes through in a big way along with notes of pepper, cinnamon, mint and cloves. Adding water enhances the vanilla and caramel while bringing out some great dark fruit notes.

TASTE
Caramel and vanilla with the oak coming in quite muted on the palate. Salty butterscotch, bruleed pastry, rye , pepper, leather, a cooling mint and dark fruit leather round out this complex and amazing flavor profile. A splash of water here tames the alcohol and some fantastic buttery notes emerge along with a bit more of the oak.

FEEL
Very hot with a lot of burn from the high proof but it still manages to be rounded and balanced making it able to be drank neat.

FINISH
Caramel, oak and corn that slowly fades to a dusty oak in a very long finish.

SCORE: 92/100

Josh Peters
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Josh Peters

I read about, think about, write about, and drink whisk(e)y. In short, it's my passion.
Josh Peters
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46 Responses to Booker’s Small Batch Bourbon Review

  1. Booker’s is definitely epic stuff……..what i love best about it is that you (i.e. anyone) can actually BUY it (what a concept)…….I’m sure Stagg and Pappy are outstanding stuff (or at least i’ll take everyone’s word that it is) but what good is it when one must get on a waiting list to MAYBE get a bottle if you’re lucky?!?!?!? Some national places won’t even add you to their list(s) as they’re already overfilled…………….screw that. I’m happy with the reasonable price and availability of the powerfully flavorful punch to the face that is Booker’s.

    • Pappy, Stagg and the rest of the BTAC is indeed very good stuff, but yeah the actual process of getting some is ridiculous and you’re right. Booker’s is available and really delicious.

      • not to mention the fact that once the Pappy & the BTAC stuff is sold out, you CAN then find them on Craigslist, etc………..for $500/$1000/$2000 a bottle. no way will i EVER pay that kind of $$$$ for one bottle of whiskey. just sayin………

        • I’m with you. I’ll buy Pappy & BTAC at retail, or even very slightly above retail, but there’s no way in hell I’ll pay that much for that stuff. It’s good, but not that good.

          • You’re absolutely right. I used to be able to find Pappy. During my years in grad school, I was able to buy 2 bottles of Lot B, one bottle of Pappy 15, and one bottle of Family Reserve Rye. Every once in a while, you’d see one just sitting on the shelf. It’s all very good and definitely worth buying at retail if you come across it (the rye was my favorite), but under no circumstances would I pay stupid prices for it, especially when there are so many fantastic bourbons sitting on shelves in the sub-$50 price range.

  2. I have a bottle of bookers I think I got it back in 1993 or 1994
    it has a label on it 7 years old 124.9 proof batch no. C-J-06-86
    signed booker noe master distiller # 04205
    could anyone give me any info on this bottle

    Thanks Louie

    • Hi Louie,

      You have all the info you need about it right there. It’s a good bourbon, but if you’re wondering if it’s worth anything it’s worth about $75. I recommend drinking it.

      Cheers!

  3. Like swallowing oak splinters! It is flavorful, but I can’t get past the overwhelming, harsh, bitter burning sensation, all the way down. Yes, I watered it to my preferred proof, and even further. And you know what I get? A watery burn instead of a rich and flavorful burn. I even tried it with ice–which I rarely do–but it still burns. I gave it several tries. I let it sit for quite a while between tries (to oxidize). I even aerated it. It’s still harsh, bitter and painful to swallow. There are so many great bourbons out there, like Four Roses Single Barrel, Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel, Angel’s Envy, Stagg Jr, E.H. Taylor, Rock Hill Farms, Wild Turkey Rare Breed. Each and every one of those blows Booker’s right out of the water! Don’t waste your time or money with this. Beam, Inc. obviously do NOT know how (or are unwilling to) to cut out the nasty heads and tails from the distillation run. Same with Heaven Hill distillates. I’ve tried many, many bourbons; but if you don’t believe me, taste Bookers side-by-side with ANYTHING from Four Roses, Wild Turkey or Buffalo Trace. Life’s too short to choke down nasty bourbon like this.

    • Wow. I can’t believe anyone could say that Wild Turkey Rare Breed is not only better than Booker’s, but that it “blows Booker’s right out of the water”. I’m sorry you can’t get past the high proof because you are missing out on a fantastic bourbon!

  4. What makes this such a special bourbon is not that it’s big or that’s complex underneath the burn- other bourbon’s do that as well and even surpass Bookers on those notes, what pushes it to its place is its availability– that a person can get it virtually anywhere in the US – even places that laugh at carrying established brands like Four roses or Buffalo Trace- when you consider how good it is that’s kind of amazing.

  5. […] Booker’s is a cask strength bourbon from Jim Beam that is available year-round. Being a mix of different single casks, with no water added, different batches of Booker’s will taste differently since they’re not mixing barrels and water in the same way they do something like Jim Beam Black to try and keep a consistent flavor all the time. In addition to the normal batch releases there are also “special editions” of this that comes out called the Booker’s Roundtable. […]

  6. This is the best bourbon Jim Beam produces. I like my bourbon neat and this is by far the smoothest cask strength I have had. Don’t let the high proof scare you away. It is smooth and full of flavor.

  7. Booker’s is definitely heady stuff. I have batch number C05-A-12 at 128 proof Its smooth and delicious and packs a sweet punch. Booker’s warms the cockles and causes intense whiskey shivers.

  8. Bookers is awesome hands down my favorite I make the barrels and Jim beam is really picky about the oak so I know that it’s a quality product and I also make wild turkey and four roses and even makers and honestly jim beam has way more quality in the barrels than any other competitors.

  9. Mmmm. This just hit my favorite’s list.
    (Batch no 2014-07) Booker’s Bourbon may just be the ‘poster child’ bourbon. This is what bourbon should taste, feel, and smell like.
    The nose is so nice, I almost want to dab a little on my neck, like a lovely parfum (but do I really want to smell like a bar?). Vanilla, corn and well, a bit more vanilla and some subtle spice.
    Then tasting this… woa, it’s hot. But the heat is so complex, it’s rather enticing. And perhaps, surprisingly, it doesn’t detract from the flavor profile. There is so much buttery sweetness, I just want one more sip…talk about iconic southern America: butter and bourbon. Booker’s hit the mark.
    Now, as always, I love a whiskey mostly for its finish. Booker’s has a great, clean finish of vanilla and suptle suede. Mouthwatering.
    I’d love another pour…
    Thanks, Josh. You have my vote for Roundtable.

  10. Bookers 2014 batches are THE most under rated cask strength bourbons on the market. I won’t bore you with all the flavors that come out for me, you will taste a multitude of flavors from start to finish, with a drop of water or a cube. Simply amazing. Trust me, Bookers is deep, complex and wonderful so let your own taste buds come up with their own.

    Forget all that Pappy chasing, sit back and relax with Noe Booker. He won’t steer you wrong.

    That being said, 2015 is still a great bourbon for the money, but lacks that complexity that makes 2014 and earlier so special. Stock up on the old stuff while you can still find it on the shelves.

  11. Booker’s is absolutely fantastic stuff. The day my wife bought me a bottle of Booker’s is the day I stopped putting any effort into chasing down any limited release bourbons (with the exception of Four Roses LESmB). This and Maker’s Cask Strength are easily my two favorite bourbons on the market.

    • No joke. Between 4 Roses SiB, Booker’s, MMCS, Russell’s SiB (or even WT 101) and Henry McKenna I don’t really need to go much further to always have great bourbon in the house. Of course I will, but so long as I have one of those in my house I’ve always got something good to drink.

      Cheers!

  12. Finally got around to picking up a bottle of this. Am a big fan of most all Beam’s higher quality stuff (Baker’s, Knob Creek, even Black Label I think is good if a bit low proof). For drinking neat I love Baker’s. This stuff though with just a splash of water really is something. I tried it neat for the first few pours, and it was great, but it didn’t wow me till I added water.

    • Sometimes a touch of water really helps these Cask Strength whiskeys open up, sometimes it doesn’t. But when it does it’s almost like magic what happens to it. Cheers!

  13. Josh,
    I tried this at a bar recently, and OMG it blew me away! I have been drinking bourbon for about a year now, but this is the best bourbon I have had to date. The barrel strength is not a problem with this. It went down really smooth. I couldn’t do a decent tasting, as my wife gets irritated at me if I pay more attention to the whiskey than her…go figure
    I absolutely love this bourbon!

  14. Finally got a chance to try this bourbon and while it is quite the experience I’ll stick to my EW Single Barrel, Buffalo Trace, and Wild Turkey. Booker’s does have a very deep and rich flavor that is unlike any other but it’s only 7-9 years old and kind of pricey. Still, glad I was able to try a cask strength bourbon in my lifetime.

    • Hey Kraig, I’m also glad you got to try it and thanks for sharing your experience. Sounds like you’ve found the whiskeys you like and there’s nothing wrong with that. Drink what you like to drink. Cheers!

  15. batch 2016-1 6 yrs. 11 months no days

    There is bourbon in the bottle. I did not find it particularly tasty – but lacking in nose and flavor. A bit of water improved the nose somewhat – added vanilla and the wood became distinctly oak. On the palate nothing sensational and a modest sweetness in the finish.

    I did not like the cheap wine bottle, nor the faux-cork with a cap smaller in circumference than the mouth of the bottle, and too short to grip easily. The wax is a merchandising joke as is the dinky polyester ribbon dangling from it. The box is also not needed and stupid. So, I transferred the Booker’s to an conveniently empty OGD 114 bottle, short and squat with a large genuine cork boasting a cap that is large and handily useful. Resembles one of the better rum bottle designs.

    I admit the Booker’s is bourbon. However, two Henry McKenna 10yr Bond are cheaper than the Booker’s. Two OGD 114 are priced even with one Booker’s. Booker’s was $1.87 more per ounce than Old Forester Signature 100. I mention that since those two are but 4 points apart on TWJ rating.

    Obviously, I wouldn’t interfere with those who like Booker’s. But, the 2016-1 batch I got was not worth $60 for taste or nose.

    Obviously, the reviews need ignore cost since there is no fair way to factor in price. Also, this is a different batch than reviewed above.

    If offered Booker’s and also a choice of Henry McKenna 10yr, OGD 114 or WT101, my choice would not be the Booker’s. The Four Roses offerings are more flavorful, have more nose and also are cheaper. Russell’s Single Barrel is also better, in my estimation, albeit only a bit cheaper.

    I just say I appreciate the high-rye Beam offerings more than Booker’s.

    Tastes vary obviously. As always, a good review and perhaps even a better bottle was reviewed than the latest batch I tried.

    • Cheers Al, thanks for the added info. Always like reading your opinions. Thinking I should find a way to let community members like you add your own ratings to the mix… hmmm… I’m going to look into this.

  16. Started my affair with bourbon when I went on my first “Bourbon Trail” in KY a few years ago. It called me back for the small distiller’s trail the next year. Bookers is an acquired taste, at least for me. I liked it when I had it at the Beam distillery, but it wasn’t my favorite. I have drunk it more and more and now it is definitely my preferred brand with just a drop of H20. All the others seem weak and watered down now…but I’ll keep trying new ones just to be sure. Since I’m in Ohio, the land of State run liquor stores and no variety, on my next run to KY I’ll look for other cask strengths. Recommendations welcome.

    • Hey Rick, thanks for sharing. Look out for Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, Maker’s Mark Cask Strength and Wild Turkey Rare Breed and any Four Roses Single Barrel store picks. All great cask strength bourbons.

      Cheers!

  17. I have a bottle of Noe’s Hard Times(my first bottle of Booker’s) and it is glorious. This is definitely my favorite high proof bourbon if not my favorite in general. It has a mouthfeel that reminds me of Balvenie 17yr but has so much more complexity than that fine Scotch. I truly enjoy drinking it neat. I found that adding water, while adding a more brown sugary flavor, cuts out a lot of the complexity I love. The first sip after a healthy pour is amazing. You definitely have to give it the old Kentucky chew to bring out all of the amazing flavors but I go one step further and give it a hard swish around my mouth. The best part for me is that my bourbon liquor store has at least 10 bottles still on the shelf (also has weller special and antique on a consistent basis).

    I did find a store with a bottle from 2015. I forgot which release it was so my question is how much of a difference is there between the releases? I would imagine they drink fairly the same. Thanks for the site. I really enjoy it.

    • Cheers Brian. I’ve noticed they do a really good job of having a consistently high-quality product and while sometimes it has more caramel, or vanilla, or spice or oak, etc. it’s always good.

  18. BTW, I have a bottle of McKenna 10 and it doesn’t even come close to touching Booker’s. For that matter KC SiB beats Mckenna. I like McKenna but there is no way you can tell me it’s as complex and flavorful as Booker’s. Al S. seems like a bitter dude with bitter taste buds. Haha. Old Grandad 114 better than Booker’s? That’s nuts but to each his own I guess. I happen to enjoy the way the botttle is marketed with it’s own wooden case. It’s sets it apart from standard bourbons and let’s you know you’re pirchasing something special. Yea, marketing works. He must hate Blantons because of the box it comes in. 😉 I will say I most likely won’t be buying Booker’s once the price gets hiked up to $75 in a few weeks. 52.99 is a good price. $75 not so much.

  19. The Marriott Hotel bar that I was staying at this weekend presented itself to me a bottle of Booker’s 2016-01 batch “Booker’s Bluegrass.” I saw it on the shelf, all by itself. Being that I had never experienced Booker’s before, I was stoked that the bar stocked something that I recognized as being some pretty good juice. The barkeep poured a double, with an iceball, and boy, let me tell you, THAT was an experience I will never forget. 6 yrs, 11 months, 0 days. A complex aroma, with such a beautiful taste and fantastic finish, I was eager to continue sipping to see what flavor I would taste next! It was 127.9 proof, and yet was not overpowering in the least. I was glad to experience such a great cask-strength bourbon, and will hopefully add a batch to my cabinet for sharing with some very special people in the future.
    I must say, that I never would have taken a chance on it, and probably would have stuck to standard Beam at the bar in the past if I had not been reading your reviews since Day 1. Your reviews have helped guide me to some pretty cool experiences so far, and you have yet to disappoint. Thanks for your knowledge. Look forward to sharing more.
    Happy 4th of July!
    Cheers!

  20. Love your reviews. You should do some reviews on YouTube. I have channel called “The Malted Man Cave”. You have tried so many whiskies, have great tasting notes, and have a wealth of knowledge. Keep the great reviews coming my brother…Slainte:)

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