Booker’s (2020-03, “Pigskin Batch”) Scoresheet & Review

Few whiskey brands frustrate me the way Booker’s does. What I like about this premium offering from Jim Beam is that availability is usually sound–even in a booming market, the design and packaging are both archaic and endearing, and the whiskey itself is solid from batch to batch. However, such an attractive combination comes at a price, even more so if you live in a state like Florida where retail on a single bottle seldom dips below $100. This makes Booker’s a tough sell with other, similar (or superior) quality bottles being more available for around half the going rate.

The last Booker’s I tried, 2020-02 “Boston Batch,” fared better than others, leaving a positive enough impression for me to nudge it up a bit grade-wise. A great, borderline excellent pour that helped me understand why Booker’s is so loved. Now we’re looking at the third and final Booker’s of 2020: Pigskin Batch. As with the previous Booker’s reviews, this one was achievable thanks to a fellow whiskey enthusiast.

Nose: Vanilla, cherry, and brown sugar. Comes across as surprisingly juicy (fruit-wise), deep, and dark for a Booker’s. A bit of orange citrus to go with the brown sugar and cherry. Swirling only further solidifies the vanilla and fruit notes, along with traces of oak. After sipping the classic Beam/Booker’s nuttiness begins to creep up in tandem with the brown sugar and toffee. Less of the usual almonds and peanuts, more like pecans or walnuts drizzled with maple syrup.

Palate: Fruity pancake syrup. Mellow cherry and orange notes, honey, and hints of caramel. Has a slightly floral quality to it, like rose pet­als in simple syrup and a mildly vanilla-flavored black tea. Get a bit of effervescence, but it’s not overbearing. 

Finish: Vanilla, brown sugar, and warm oak that only builds with time on the front of the throat. Traces of the honey, fruit syrup, and caramel. The floral and effervescent qualities seem to stick around the most on the back of the throat.

Huh. That was surprisingly different. Every Booker’s I’ve tried up until this point provided much of the same: warm oak, roasted nuts, and the occasional dried fruit. Pigskin Batch, by comparison, is juicy fruits, flavorful syrups, and bright teas. Where other batches feel like Knob Creek Small Batch or Old Tub on crack, this feels more like Knob Creek Single Barrel or Jim Beam Distiller’s Cut on steroids. What’s the difference? The latter expressions tend to be sharper, deeper, and fruitier, leaning away from the standard Jim Beam dry nuttiness. I’ll be interested to see how fellow drinkers continue to respond to Pigskin Batch as more people take their time with it.

In many ways, this is the most interesting, deep, and complex Booker’s batch I’ve had to date. Those aren’t words I’ve used to describe the brand, but they spring to mind with Pigskin Batch. I will admit the odd, floral-like notes I get on the back throw the experience off a bit; it’s almost like someone mixed Knob Creek Single Barrel with a Four Roses pick. At the same time, this made the pour that much more intriguing, which has only driven a surprising reaction: I almost want to buy a bottle…”almost” being the operative word. Pigskin Batch was absolutely a surprise, but even with my relative enthusiasm, I still can’t bring myself to part with a hundred dollars to relive it. The experience it bestowed is about on par with (or slightly below) Old Forester 1920, which typically cost $50-$60. Once again the whiskey proves to be sound and enjoyable, held back by nothing other than its confusing price point.

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