Booker’s Night (or “What Is a Led *bleeping* Zeppelin?”)

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 about).

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

In the beginning…

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty…

Genesis (the book of the Bible not the rock band)

In the beginning?  Well, there are numerous legends, tall tales and far-fetched fables about who (in the beginning) created bourbon. Regardless of who started it, my beginnings in bourbon can only be traced back to six or seven years ago.  Before then my bourbon cabinet was “formless and empty”.  It’s only been in the past three or four years that my bourbon stash has been fruitful and multiplied. 

A year ago in February I decided the best way to celebrate my birthday was to invite a few friends over and open a newly-acquired bottle of Elijah Craig 18.  I don’t know where an EC18 ranks in your collection, but it was pretty near the top of mine and I couldn’t think of a better time to open it than with the best of company. 

This Elijah Craig 18 was outstanding. The Reverend Craig would be proud.

As we talked of legends, tall tales and far-fetched fables about each other, we sipped away about half of the delicious whiskey in that bottle. Before calling it a night, we might have sampled a bit of Blanton’s and a splash of Booker’s, too.  The guys enjoyed and appreciated the bourbon, but everyone seemed to also enjoy just being together.  Even though we didn’t have Birthday Bourbon, this birthday bourbon tasting was a great way to celebrate.

For a group of guys, however, what else would you do? Have your buddies over for birthday cake?  Most normal people like cake, but are we drinking Capri Sun and playing pin-the-tail on the donkey, too?  Probably not.  Getting together to watch a ball game is always fun, but the focus is always on the game and not the fellowship.  You could go watch a movie, but unless it’s “Die Hard 8” or “Rocky 47” or the highly-anticipated “Die Hard vs. Rocky”, then going to the movies just seems a little too date night-ish. Now you could talk me into a steakhouse and a really nice, medium-rare rib eye but, other than that, getting together to share some bourbon with friends is tough to beat.  Of course, any rib eye would likely be paired with a double pour of Kentucky Spirit anyway.

After everyone left and I was putting away glasses and bottles, I thought about how well the evening went.  It wasn’t just drinking good bourbon.  It was a few hours of laughs and conversation with friends that I just haven’t seen as often as I should. 

So, the very obvious thought occurred to me: we should do this more often.  And so, we did.

The next blog post will be about the first meeting of The Bourbon Fellowship. Many of the future posts will be about our group which will, hopefully, give you some ideas on what to do in your own group.

Kevin