Distiller: Jim Beam. ABV: 68.1%. Age: 13 years. Mashbill: 70%+ rye. Price: $300.
It got lots of attention when it dropped in summer 2016, and now that Jim Murray has named it his 2017 Best Whiskey in the World, the buzz about Booker’s Rye is only going to grow.
This 13-year-old, cask strength, non-chill filtered bottling is special in several ways. It’s the first-ever rye from Booker’s (Beam has a younger, lower-proof rye with a different mashbill), it’s one of the few older ryes on the U.S. market, especially cask-strength, and it was one of the last experiments that the legendary Booker Noe put in the barrel in 2003 before he passed on in 2004.
It’s truly limited, too, with 100 barrels laid down and much lost to evaporation. It comes at a serious premium–$300 a bottle–but it’s legitimately a piece of modern American whiskey history.
How is it? Wow. At 68.1% ABV, with a 70+% rye mashbill, the nose is BIG. Huge tobacco, cinnamon, clove. Saddle leather and varnish. Polished mahogany. Just gorgeous. This is the Bookers of rye, all right. Water brings out dark chocolate and chocolate mint notes. Pine sap, anise, some maple. Still more adds dry vanilla and butterscotch.
The palate similarly starts with big oak and a Beam-y roasted peanut note, then with water adds fiery chocolate mint, cedar and pumpkin pie spice. It’s a masterclass in spice. The finish is long as anything, with sweet dense wood notes–a liquified fir forest–and a spicy, peppery prickle.
It’ll be hard to get, and clearly it’s priced for a special occasion, but it’s the work of a master, and a worthy part of Booker’s great legacy. Special thanks to John of @thedramreport for the photo.
Forget finding a bottle–good luck finding a dram! Cheers, friends! – BO
A company representative kindly provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.