By Father John Rayls
Have you ever heard of a “marketing faux pas?” Beam Suntory recently experienced this when they under estimated the “blow back” from very loyal
and passionate bourbon lovers concerning the doubling in price of Booker’s Bourbon beginning in 2017. The tidal wave of criticism and threatened product rejection gave the company pause. After reconsideration, a more palatable price increase was introduced. However at 66%, it was still a very stiff increase. The battle is still raging, but the market will determine through supply and demand whether it was a good decision.
Beam Suntory officials claim a bourbon stock shortage and have reduced the Booker’s Bourbon yearly releases from six to four. Tommy’s Batch is the most recent being bottled in January of 2017 at 128.50 proof. It was named after a personal friend and long time co-worker of Booker and Fred Noe’s, Tommy Crume, who recently retired from the distillery after 30 years. See our report at http://whiskeyreviewer.com/2017/01/beam-slides-bookers-price-hike-downward-010316/.
Tommy helped pick this batch along with the Booker Roundtable. (There’s a meeting I would gladly attend!) It’s a blending of batches from January 2009 and July 2010 with:
41% coming from the 6th floor of the 9 story warehouse E
13% coming from the 6th floor of the 9 story warehouse H
46% coming from the 7th floor of the 9 story warehouse D”.
The youngest part of this bourbon is 6 years, 4 months and 6 days. Booker Noe often told the story of how he would choose the barrels from which to make his Booker’s Bourbon. He generally favored bourbon aged between 6 and 8 years. His story always involved sending a young apprentice distiller into the warehouses to discover where the most rubber hoses used for sneaking sips from the barrels were hidden. The hoses with shiny (cleaned) tips indicated the presence of the very best barrels. This simplified his choices.
The Booker’s Bourbon bottle is a typical Booker’s bottle; although, some slight changes have been made to the label and some very attractive changes have been added to its wooden box. It is still easily recognizable with its black wax sealing. The bourbon is slightly darker in the bottle with dark orange coloring in the glass. The legs are legendary. They are thick, slow (even reticent) and long. It is an experience simply to observe it in the glass. The nose is readily apparent and filled with vanilla, molasses and old oak. It’s not aggressive, but is quickly available.
Booker’s Bourbon has always been known as big, bold and aggressive. However, it always presents a very flavorful taste profile as well. Tommy’s Batch is no exception to the rule. The mouthfeel is of light syrup and immediately coats the mouth. At 128.5 proof, you can expect this version of Booker’s to drink a little hot. Most of the mouth action happens at the back of the mouth roof and down into the throat. It’s filled with a taste that takes me back to my childhood with flavors of sweet roasted/grilled corn on the cob from the Howard County Fair. The additional flavors of brown sugar, nuttiness and caramel flood the taste buds. This is a bourbon you can enjoy neat, but take your time with it. However, there’s plenty of room to add ice or just a small amount of water. Please don’t use it as a mixer. It’s simply too good for that destiny. The finish is very long and is very peppery. You don’t want the experience to end.
Regardless of where you are on the price of great bourbon, this is one to seriously consider for a splurge. The expected retail for Booker’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (Tommy’s Batch) is between $64.95 and $70.00. All of us want inexpensive great tasting bourbon. This one is still financially within reach for most of us (occasionally) and is a truly great tasting bourbon. You won’t regret it.