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

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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: 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: Barterhouse Kentucky Bourbon Aged 20 Years (Orphan Barrel)

IMG_2056 This bourbon is part of Diageo’s “orphan barrel” series, where a number of “orphan” barrels have been put together for a number of bourbon releases ranging in age from 15-26 years old from different distilleries. Of course, barrels aren’t just “lost” but the range has released a number of decent whiskies. This whisky, despite remarks trying to claim some link to Stitzel Weller (where the famous Pappy Van Winkle bourbons were distilled), was produced at the Bernheim distillery. This whisky is aged for 20 years, which is a very long time for a bourbon, which is typically in the range of 5 years – these whiskies are both very hard to find and very expensive.

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Review: Rittenhouse Bottled in Bond Straight Rye Whiskey

IMG_1911 Rittenhouse is a brand produced by Heaven Hill, the largest family-owned beverage alcohol producer in the USA and the second largest bourbon producer after Jim Beam. This rye whiskey has been around for some time, as one of the best deals (perhaps the best) in terms of price and quality for a straight rye. This whiskey is bottled in bond, a labeling measure which was put in place in 1897 in order to protect the quality of good whiskey. To put “bottled in bond” on the label, the whiskey has to be the product of one distillation season, produced by a single distillery, aged in a federally bonded warehouse under US Government supervision for at least 4 years, and bottled at 50% ABV (or 100 American proof). These restrictions are stricter than those for Bourbon (produced in US, use new oak barrels, distilled to no more than 80% ABV, and put in the cask at 62.5%, bottled at at least 40%, with the age written on the label if it is less than 4 years old) and Straight Bourbon (minimum age 2 years without colouring or flavouring added). Thus, to an extent, it is a bit stricter of a labelling regulation.

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Review: 1792 Ridgemont Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

IMG_1917 This whisky 8 years old – older than the average bourbon, and very much done more in the style of a “modern” bourbon – a bit more of a silky and soft sort of bourbon. The distillery is owned by Sazerac, who also own Buffalo Trace Distillery, and they give quite a nice and different distilery tour which I quite recommend – it’s a bit more industrial than the others if you’re in the area and it’s not even on the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail. The 1792 on the bottle refers to the year that Kentucky became a state Recently the bottled was changed and, to me, the new bottle looks much more like a cognac bottle than a bourbon bottle. Too bad, really – I quite like the look of the old bottle (as pictured above).

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Review: Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch 2013 Release (125th Anniversary)

Four Roses LE 1 This product is a blend of three different bourbons – an 18 year old “OBSV” recipe (high rye mashbill, with a yeast with “delicate fruitiness”), a 13 year old “OBSK” (high rye, with a full body and spiciness), and a 13 year old “OESK” (low rye mashbill, with a spicy yeast). It is also bottled at barrel strength, non chill-filtered (none of the fatty compounds are filtered out, as typical with whisky), and came out at a very reasonable price. Four Roses could have charged twice what they did and they would have had no difficulty at all selling every bottle…whisky is that popular right now. I am very glad to both have gotten a bottle and not had to pay an absurd amount to get it.

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