Review: Booker’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

IMG_2011 This whiskey was introduced in 1992, and was originally released because Booker Noe (the master distiller of Jim Beam at the time) used to bottle his favorite bourbons straight from the barrel and gift them to his friends. After so much hype about these gifts, he started to bottle bourbon straight from the barrel – uncut (no water added – so at the alcohol percentage in the barrel) and unfiltered (most whiskies have oily compounds stripped from them to increase clarity). This is a bit of a landmark bourbon – when it was released, the category of unfiltered, cask strength bourbons essentially did not exist, and this bourbon did a lot to establish the category which is now the ultimate for bourbon enthusiasts.

This reviewed whiskey is from batch C04-J-19, which came out a few years ago. Each batch is slightly different, and will vary both in aging time (7 years and 11 in this batch) and alcohol percentage (63.65% in this batch). Though there is some variation, the batches are generally quite excellent.

Nose: Some floral rye comes out right off the bat, but this progresses to deeper and heavier notes as it sits. The nose is oily, creamy, and vibrant especially with a bit of water added. Banana custard, dried apricot, corn husks, butterscotch, nutmeg, almond milk, green bell pepper, oak, and black tea – and a bit of shy bitterness. There is a lot in there and you may well take the entire bottle to unpack it all. The nose, itself, is a bit shy, and you need to take your time with it. 26.5/30 (88%)

Taste: Sour and tannic at first, before heavy corn, hay, tobacco, vanilla, black tea, almond and some cherries come in. It’s quite hot at its natural strength, and I prefer it with a bit of water added to bring it down to around 50%. Overall, it’s a bit nutty and oily too – with nice mouthfeel. There is so much going on with all of its brute force that it can be a bit hard to keep up at times. Really, this is quite fabulous – at full strength or with a bit of water added. 28/30 (93%)

Finish: A bit tannic and somewhat empty, though oak, dried fruits, and vanilla make their presence known. It’s spicy, rather than juicy and fruity – and the oak is suprisingly subdued. However, at this proof, the finish is quite deep and lingers for a good long while. 17.5/20 (88%)

IMG_2012Conclusion: This is good, but this batch doesn’t quite come together for me. If you’re adding water to this, a bottle can go quite a far way – and this is a bourbon that every whiskey lover needs to try – it is very highly regarded across the board and is reasonably priced and available. 17/20 (85%)

Overall: 89/100


Review: Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve Aged 9 Years Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

IMG_2004If you ever get to visit Jim Beam (a distillery well worth a visit), one option that is offered to you is to bottle your own bottle of Knob Creek Single Barrel. When I first went, I opted to do this, and while it sounds exciting – really there isn’t much involved: you get to clean a new bottle before putting it on the assembly line to get a label put on it and to fill it by the machines. There are different ways that bottles are cleaned before they are filled – some use compressed air, some use vodka, some use distilled water -but at Jim Beam they just wash the bottles with bourbon. This whiskey, like the small batch, is soon losing its age statement – sad for a bourbon which already has some good age on it. As a single barrel, this bourbon will vary from barrel to barrel – but the general characteristics should hold. The whiskey comes in at a hefty 60%, which will be quite close to barrel proof.

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Review: Knob Creek Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (Aged 9 Years)

IMG_2023 This whiskey is a core bourbon of the Jim Beam small batch collection, which includes Knob Creek, Booker’s, Basil Hayden’s, and Baker’s – and this whiskey is the oldest of the lot at 9 years (though it is soon losing its age statement which means younger whiskies can make their way in). A small batch whisky means that the whiskey is composed of batches which have a smaller number of barrels (typically of higher grade whiskey) produced in a smaller quantity than the typical higher volume products, though I’m sure a “small” batch at Jim Beam is not that small. The whiskey is named after Knob Creek, which was the home of Abraham Lincoln when he was growing up.

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Review: Knob Creek Rye Whiskey

IMG_2029This whisky is “patiently” aged, as opposed to the (for now) age statements of 9 years across the Knob Creek bourbons. This is the latest addition to the Jim Beam small batch collection, and much of the best of the Jim Beam rye whiskey goes into this. It bothers me that it’s not labeled as a “straight” rye…are they adding colouring?

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Review: Baker’s Aged 7 Years Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

IMG_2016For whatever reason, this bourbon is the one which I seem to hear about the least of the bourbons in the Jim Beam small batch collection. It’s odd, perhaps, because it is a solid bourbon, and the price is good. It comes in at 53.5%, is aged 7 years, and is fairly available. Each bottle has a batch number on it – this reviewed batch is B-90-001.

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Review: Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey

IMG_2019This whiskey was introduced in 1992 as part of the Jim Beam Small Batch Collection – it was modelled after the whiskey and recipe made by Basil Hayden, a distiller in the late 1700s. The whiskey used to carry an age statement of 8 years, but is now “artfully aged”, i.e. not as old. Likewise, it used to be a “straight” bourbon – but now no longer carries that description. This whiskey has the lowest alcohol content (40%) of any of the Jim Cream Small Batch Collection (which includes the Knob Creek line, Booker’s, and Baker’s), and is crafted to be a lighter bourbon. This bourbon is unique in that it has a higher rye content (the recipe uses about 30%), which is nearly double that of the other Jim Beam products.

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Review: Jim Beam Devil’s Cut Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

JB Devil's Cut

Once bourbon is emptied out of a barrel, quite a large amount remains soaked into the wood of the barrels. Jim Beam created a proprietary process to extract this whisky out of the barrel staves, using heat, water, and agitation on the barrels from 6 year old bourbons. It is called the “devil’s cut” because it is typically product lost to the barrel, contrasted to the “angel’s share” which is whiskey lost to the atmosphere through evaporation out of the barrel.

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