Everything I wrote the last time I reviewed a batch of Jim Beam’s Booker’s Bourbon still holds true, so allow me to simply restate the following:
Jim Beam’s Booker’s Bourbon brand has been a semi-frequent target of whiskey geek grumbling for a few years now, owing to the fact that its price point has provided a real time reflection of the ever-increasing demand for American whiskey and the inflation of MSRPs that has accompanied it. As recently as 2017, Booker’s was still being found in the wild for $60, but that price tag has steadily crept upward in the last few years, to the point that its starting MSRP is now $90. That’s a significant jump, and one that reflects not only bourbon mania but also the normalization of close to three-digit pricing for cask-strength bourbon brands, regardless of whether they can boast an impressive age statement along with the high proof. After all, Jim Beam also sells the likes of Knob Creek 12 Year for $60, at 100 proof, a product roughly twice as old as most Booker’s batches. There’s a clear argument being made: Cask strength bourbon represents a facet of the whiskey game that is impossible to replicate elsewhere, and the consumer is willing to pay extra for it.
This is the reality of the Booker’s brand as it exists today—a lot of people complain about it, but those same people still run out the door to grab a batch when the reviews of that batch are good. And when it comes to the newest release, The Lumberyard Batch, I have a feeling that those reviews are going to prompt some pretty frenzied collecting. For a few reasons, this might be the most sought-after batch of Booker’s since the particularly well-regarded “Country Ham” batch of 2019.
For one, this Booker’s stands out for the fact that it’s a little older than the series has typically been in recent years—the official age statement on Lumberyard Batch is 7 years, 1 month and 7 days, which isn’t hugely older than the 6-6.5 years that has been common more recently, but a nice little upgrade nonetheless. Strength weighs in at a pretty typical 124.8 proof.
As an aside, I will say the following: The promotional materials that Beam includes with each Booker’s batch could certainly put a bit more effort into things like tasting notes, in order for those notes to be genuinely useful to the average consumer. The batch notes for Lumberyard Batch are extremely vague, referring to “a beautiful amber color and deep aroma with a hint of vanilla and oak that opens its depth. It has a balanced taste with a bit of sweetness that leads to a pleasant finish.” I’m sorry, but those are very generic terms—what Beam release wouldn’t be described as having “a hint of vanilla and oak”? It would be really interesting to hear in more depth on each batch what Fred Noe genuinely believes it tastes like, or how he would describe it if you were sitting down to a tasting with the Beam Master Distiller. Just saying, there’s a lot of room here to provide more useful information to the average consumer.
With that said, let’s get to tasting what turns out to be a standout batch of Booker’s.
On the nose, the Lumberyard Batch is sweet and a little bit fruity, suggestive of apricot tea with lots of honey. I’m also getting the requisite caramel and vanilla, along with toasted graham cracker and a bit of licorice. Notably, the ethanol on the nose is really quite subdued for the burly 124.8 proof point.
On the palate, this turns out to be quite a sweet and unctuous batch of Booker’s—I suspect it might actually be too sweet for some, but also that lovers of Booker’s as a brand probably prefer the batches with amplified sweetness, which this one definitely has. Notes of honey, caramel, vanilla, dried apricot and pear contribute to the syrupy sweet profile, which is picked up by sturdy heat (still very easy to drink neat), pepper, peanut shells, and sweet nut toffee. There are suggestions there of darker dried fruit as well, but the thing that may stand out most in this batch is just how full and viscous its texture is. This is a very decadent batch of Booker’s in general, and that’s not a bad thing. Lovers of big, rich Booker’s batches will probably have no complaints about shelling out $90 when it comes to the Lumberyard Batch.
It seems like every year tends to have one standout Booker’s batch, and this one might well be that batch for 2022.
Distillery: Jim Beam
City: Clermont, KY
Style: Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey
ABV: 62.4% (124.8 proof)
Availability: 750 ml bottles, $90 MSRP
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.