It’s a great feeling to like something, then liking it even more as time goes by, till, eventually, it’s love. Over the last two to three years, but especially 2015 and 2016, my interest in, and appreciation for, Booker’s has done just that: turned into love. Named for the previous Master Distiller at Jim Beam, Booker Noe, Booker’s can easily be recognized from afar in part thanks to the wooden box the bottle comes in. The box may be a sales gimmick, but the contents are anything but. Like the Big Man himself, there’s nothing small about Booker’s: packed with flavor, packing a punch, and always a hit at parties. As Fred Noe, Booker’s son and current Master Distiller, told us one cold February day, “if you’re drinking Booker’s, you better have your pajamas on.”
Those of you familiar with Fred Noe know he’s quite the raconteur, and a genuinely friendly well-loved guy. He apparently got a lot of it from his father. In order to preserve and spread the story of Booker, author Jim Kokoris penned the book “The Big Man of Jim Beam,” the story of Booker Noe and the Number One Bourbon in the World.
Jim Beam and their associated marketing team reached out to us recently and provided us with a gift box containing nothing less than pure gold. Well, it may as well have been: it contained a bottle of Booker’s 2016-05 Off Your Rocker and a copy of the aforementioned book, as well as a nice leather bookmark stating “Tasting Booker’s is like tasting the past.” – Booker Noe.
Like a six year old on Christmas, that box was torn into and the bottled opened in a flash! Off Your Rocker comes in at a blazing 129.7 proof at 6 years 7 months and 23 days in the barrel.
Color: Deep amber.
Nose: Darren: (with splash of water) Caramel and vanilla dominate. Chris: Ethanol, Beam yeast, sweet corn, graham cracker
Palate: Darren: Full bodied, oak, mint, subtler caramel and vanilla than the nose suggests, but still very accessible, orange rind. Very well balanced. It tastes like it should be the official bourbon of camping. Just a small splash of water is all that’s needed to fight the burn of the high proof.
Chris: Graham cracker, not much vanilla, real maple syrup, thinner than most Booker’s. Very characteristic Beam. Not the depth and character I’m used to in Booker’s.
Guest taster Jason V: Cherries, caramel, mild oak, toffee notes, easy drinker.
Rating: Darren: Strong 3.5 barrels, pushing 4. Chris: 2.5 barrels.
Note: This is likely the most disparate review we’ve ever had. While Darren fell in love, Chris was put off the strong Beam yeast/grain profile that is usually far more subtle in Booker’s. Chris had been drinking mostly Big Man, Small Batch, and a bottle from the mid 2000’s recently, which may have skewed his results. Either way, Booker’s is always a solid bet and makes one hell of a Manhattan (we call it The Widowmaker). We just sincerely hope that the younger age and somewhat uncharacteristic notes of this bottle aren’t a harbinger of things to come as the bourbon boom continues.
The book itself is next in line on my stack. I can only read so many books at once! I’ve flipped through the pictures, though, as any American would. They give a nice glimpse into the personal life of Booker Noe, and really remind me of being back home in Kentucky with family and friends.
Let us know what you think of this batch of Booker’s!
Darren and Chris