If you drink Bourbon then you’re familiar with
Booker’s. If you aren’t familiar with
Booker’s then you’re doing Bourbon wrong.
Booker’s was the first of the Jim Beam small batch series developed by
long-time master distiller, Booker Noe. Currently,
there are four Booker’s batches released each year. Since 2015 each batch has been named for people
and places important to Booker and the Noe family. Booker’s is an unfiltered, uncut
barrel-strength Bourbon. According to
Booker, himself: “it is the way Bourbon used to be and the way Bourbon is
supposed to be”. Who am I to argue?
An Aggressive Bourbon
The lineup started as being every Booker’s release from 2017
and 2018, both releases of Little Book and the Booker’s 30th
anniversary Bourbon. As if that weren’t
beautiful enough, we added in a few releases from previous years such as Off
Your Rocker, Noe Hard Times and Center Cut.
I’ve always commented that Booker’s is “an aggressive bourbon”. So the
problem is: with so many great high proof whiskies to sample, how do you
organize a tasting and everybody’s BAC not end up resembling a Booker’s ABV?
From very early on, Booker’s has been the unofficial Bourbon of The Bourbon Fellowship. Regardless of the theme for each night, a bottle of Booker’s seems to always find its way on the table. So a special night to honor Booker and his namesake Bourbon was a no-brainer (Fun fact: if you drink too much Booker’s at one time you may also be a “no-brainer”).
We started Booker’s Night with a pour of Booker’s 30th and then raising a glass to good friends, good Bourbon and the contributions to both made by Booker and Fred. I really enjoyed this Bourbon. It certainly fits in the profile of the best of the regular Booker’s releases, but the additional age gives this one more flair and complexity. What a treat!
After sharing the 30th, the guys in the Fellowship mostly went one of two routes with their other tastings. We had printouts available of the stories of each batch with some tasting notes. I had also created a Booker’s lineup handout so everybody could keep track of what they tried that night and make some notes. To be sure, the notes at the first of the night were more detailed and more legible than the notes at the end of the night.
A few guys sampled a couple of batches that they had not
tried before. A few others did blind
tastings of three or four batches. There
weren’t enough blind tastings to draw definitive conclusions, however, a couple
of batches were consistently rated higher than others. Those batches were
Kathleen’s Batch (2018-01) and Sip Awhile (2017-04) from the 2017 and 2018
batches. From the prior years’ batches,
Center Cut (2015-03) was also a favorite.
In addition to great drink, we enjoyed some great food,
too. Tom brought Booker’s Bourbon Balls
and Mark brought a homemade Booker’s Bread Pudding. I also grilled some Booker’s Pork Chop
Flambe! I think Booker would have enjoyed himself.
If you’ve drank much Booker’s in your day, you probably have a Booker’s story or two. Laughing over a few Tales of Booker’s Past rounded out the evening. I’ve got one story worth sharing with you, but I’ll save for a future blog post.
What Is a Led F*****g Zeppelin?
When I plan these Bourbon Fellowship gatherings with a
brand-related theme, I’ll write the master distiller a few months in
advance. In my letter, I’ll explain who
we are and what we do. I’ll also invite
them to attend (so far…no takers).
Finally, I’ll ask them to share some thoughts about the connection
between bourbon and friendship (which is what Bourbon Fellowship is really all
Fred Noe wrote me a wonderful letter. But, also, a few weeks before our Booker’s Night I got to speak to Fred at Westport Whiskey & Wine. Since we have a “soundtrack” for each Fellowship, I took the opportunity to ask Fred what kind of music his dad liked. “Dad liked old country music”, Fred said. “We had a cassette player in the truck back in that day. So, when I’d play ‘Bad To the Bone’, he’d asked me to rewind the tape and play it again”.
“Dad didn’t care for a lot of hard rock music”, Fred shared. “He always asked ‘What is a Led F*****g Zeppelin anyway?!’”. So, the soundtrack for Booker’s Night was a playlist of old school country music, several plays of “Bad to the Bone” and a little Led Zeppelin tossed in for Fred.
Stay on the Beam!
In Fred’s letter he referenced several things that tie back
to the connection between bourbon and relationships. Here are a few cuts from that letter:
“I really appreciate the fact you are honoring my father and
my son with the Bookers and Little Book releases you are going to enjoy. The batches from the last two years all have
great stories behind them and go back to the people, places and things that
were important to my dad”.
“Tommy’s Batch, Kathleen’s Batch and the Blue Knights Batch
were people that touched my dad either through work or socially”.
“The other batches were named for places or things that were important to dad. We are naming all the batches so there is a tie back to the brand and my father. I have enjoyed telling the stories that meant a lot to me growing up with my father creating Booker’s bourbon”.
“Drink one for me since you guys will have a hell of a good
time. Thanks for the invite. Stay on the Beam!”
Booker’s Night really was a lot of fun to plan and fun to share with the guys. Fred was extremely gracious in his letter and in our conversation. It is times like these that create the best memories and that is at the core of why we enjoy Bourbon.Kevin Rose