Whiskey of the Week is a new review series on Spy. Each week, we’ll review a different bottle, from newly released small-batch bourbons to our favorite cheap well whiskies.
The Spirit: Booker’s Bourbon 2021-02 “Tagalong Batch”
The Distillery: Jim Beam
Proof: 127.9 proof / 63.95% ABV
Availability: Wide release
The question with every Booker’s release, no matter how quirky the new name might be, is how exactly does it differ from the previous batch? There are usually four batches released per year of this premium member of the Jim Beam Small Batch Collection. The core of Booker’s brand identity is that it’s a barrel-strength, uncut, unfiltered (except to remove some barrel char) bourbon that hovers in the six-year age range, and offers a hefty and pronounced version of the signature Beam flavor profile. The latest release, the second of 2021, is called Tagalong Batch, named in honor of how Fred Noe’s father, former master distiller Booker Noe, would “tag along” with his elders to learn the ropes of the whiskey industry in Kentucky.
The details of Tagalong are as follows, for the bourbon nerds out there who love to dive into the minutia. The whiskey was aged for six years and five months, and the makeup consists of barrels from the following warehouses: 4% from the 3rd floor of 7-story warehouse 5, 3% from the 4th floor of 7-story warehouse X, 13% from the 5th floor of 9-story warehouse D, 33% from the 6th floor of 9-story warehouse H, 40% from the 7th floor of 9-story warehouse H, and 7% from the 5th floor of 7-story warehouse Z. While all these locations may seem a bit cryptic and weirdly specific, precisely where the whiskey is matured does play a big part in its flavor profile because of the differences in temperature and humidity, so you can dive deep into this information while sipping if you are so inclined.
The proof is close to the average for Booker’s, a strong, hot, bold, but always sippable bourbon. Add a splash of water or some ice to lower the ABV if you prefer, or try mixing it in a cocktail like an Old Fashioned to amplify the familiar traits of this classic drink. The nose is really not as hot as you’d expect from a bourbon this strong, with vanilla extract and roasted almond starting things out. Things do heat up on the palate, as you’d expect, with pronounced notes of sweet summer corn, Nilla Wafers, dark chocolate, and orange zest. And it all ends with a spicy finish that lingers for a minute or two after you swallow.
This is indeed a good Booker’s release, but I’d be hard-pressed to tell you exactly how it differs from the last few without doing a side-by-side tasting. The good news is that Booker’s, one of the first widely available barrel-proof bourbons to hit the shelves when it launched in the late ’80s, remains a strong contender in a field that has many different options these days.