I was already late to the whiskey game by the time I decided to jump on board, but Booker’s is a brand that I’ve felt that poor timing hit the hardest. The first time I consciously noticed a bottle it was $80, right around the time Jim Beam announced that the price would gradually rise up to around $90-$100. When I finally purchased a bottle (for $100), 2019-02 “Shiny Barrel,” it was after having a superb non-pick of Knob Creek Single Barrel. I thought “if this is what Knob Creek is capable of, then what could Booker’s have?” Turns out, it can actually offer a worse experience, even before you factor in price. Not long after, I tried a pour of 2018-03 “Kentucky Chew” and Booker’s 30th Anniversary at a bar. Neither impressed me.
Now here I am looking at the first batch of Booker’s from last year, which will be followed by reviews for the other two. Why? I was offered to be sent samples from a fellow whiskey fan, and I still secretly hoped that at least one batch of Booker’s could strike the right notes with me. Will it happen and, if so, with which batch? Let’s see if Granny’s Batch can work some magic.
Nose: Roasted peanuts and some earthiness (fresh cut grass). Corn, mellow lemon citrus, and hints of dried vanilla and caramel. Swirling releases some tobacco and strong black tea with honey. After sipping there’s more of a honey roasted peanut aroma over some slightly burnt deli bread. Corn, vanilla, and (to a lesser extent) caramel soon rejoin the fray.
Palate: Dried fruits and vanilla. Has a quick sprinkling of lemon zest at the front. The mid and back palates bring a silky, liquid peanut butter character out. It’s chunky peanut butter in flavor, but creamy peanut butter in experience. Reminiscent of Payday.
Finish: Roasted peanut aftertaste with brown sugar, earthiness, and barrel char. Long, lingering, and warm.
If there’s one thing I recall being echoed in every chamber of the bourbon communities with Granny’s Batch, it’s that drinking the bourbon was like drinking peanut butter. Having tried this in long, blind flight against the other 2020 batches on Christmas Eve, my tasting notes can confirm: This is peanut butter heaven. And guess what? I like peanut butter, even if my digestive system doesn’t. Yet Granny’s Batch is so strongly defined by this similarity that I can’t help myself from longing for more. I’ll be honest and say this is me taking price into consideration. Setting that factor aside, Granny’s Batch is classic Jim Beam nuttiness on full, glorious display. So for those die-hard Booker’s fans who welcome the tried-and-true qualities with open arms, Granny’s Batch is likely a no-brainer.
For pickier drinkers such as myself, the first Booker’s batch of 2020 feels like comfort zone material. And as I implied, if the asking price crosses into triple digit territory, then it needs to be damn good. This is where I (once again) can’t endorse Booker’s; the drinking experience simply isn’t impressive enough to justify such a high price tag. Would I accept a pour if offered it free of charge? Without hesitation! Did I feel compelled to find and buy a bottle for the going rate here in Florida? Not when there are better, more available pours for around half the price.