Booker's Rye "Big Time Batch" Review
Booker's Rye "Big Time Batch" is the second limited edition in the brands history since the release of Booker's 25th in February of 2014. There was a great deal of buzz surrounding this rye when it was announced earlier in the year, even after rumors began to surface that the retail price was going to be around $300. We are already seeing retail prices north of $300 and can speculate that secondary market prices will likely be double. The obvious question - Is $300 too much for a 750 ml bottle of rye from Jim Beam? Before we can answer that question we need to jump in the way back machine.
In 2003 Booker Noe laid down a limited number of barrels using a higher percentage rye mashbill. Booker passed away the following year after fighting with an extended illness. Jim Beam is not disclosing the exact mashbill but some are speculating the rye component to be somewhere around 70% - 80%. Beam is reporting that this release will have about 1/2 the bottling run of the 25th - around 6000 bottles. Combine the low production run, new rye mashbill, and the simple fact that this was one of the last batches of rye that Booker Noe laid down and you have something very unique.
Cost: Suggested Retail is $300 - Sample provided by Bookers (Beam Suntory).
Distillery: Jim Beam Distillery - Clermont, Kentucky.
Age: 13 Years, 1 Month, 12 Days
Mashbill: Unconfirmed but rumors favor 70% - 80% Rye.
Batch: 2016-LE "Big Time Batch"
Filtration: Non-chill filtered
Pour: 1 oz neat in a Canadian Glencairn.
Nose: Graham crackers, brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, eucalyptus, sweet mint, spearmint, rich wood spice, floral like honeysuckle. Dried anise. Root beer. Oak. Warm and deep.
Palate: Dense. Wood spice, black licorice, cola, molasses, eucalyptus, oak
Finish: Long. cinnamon, cola, anise, molasses and a lingering oak astringency. Warmth that goes for miles w/o being too dry.
This has got to be one of the most unique and delicious ryes I have tasted to date. The root beer and cola notes are reminiscent of a high rye bourbon. However the mint notes in my opinion are firmly rooted in high rye mashbills upwards of 51%. I think its safe to say the rye content in this juice is north of the minimum 51% required to be labeled as a straight rye whiskey. The oak speaks to the age of this whiskey and blends well with the rest of the flavors without being too tannic or distracting. The black licorice was a huge surprise but seems to tie all the major flavors together including the oak.
The first pour was turned up to 11 and needed an extended amount of time to breathe in the glass before the flavors and aromas opened up. There was no hiding the proof - this rye absolutely drinks like a 136 proof uncut and unfiltered whiskey. I decided to add about 6-7 drops of water halfway through the second tasting which tamed the heat and allowed me to focus a bit more on the palate and finish. My gut tells me this rye will open up more after some oxidation. Adding water to whiskey is not a typical practice for me but I felt this required some experimentation in order to be thorough.
So the real question - is this rye really $300 good? It's damn good but $300 is a tough pill to swallow. Regardless of the SRP this is a fantastic and unique rye that may or may not be seen again from Beam. I think Beam could make a killing with a semi annual release of Booker's Rye using this same mashbill aged in the same prime rickhouse locations as the Booker's Bourbon at a similar age. Why? There has been a huge vacuum since the departure of Smooth Ambler Old Scout Cask Strength Rye from shelves. At the moment few distilleries are offering affordable barrel proof ryes and most are either LE, discontinued, or quite expensive..... A 6-8 year old Bookers Rye could fill this niche easily if they followed the same SRP and release schedule of the Booker's Bourbon. What are you waiting for Beam?
Recommended: Bookers Bourbon, Smooth Ambler Old Scout 8 Year Cask Strength Straight Rye Whiskey, High West Rendezvous Rye, Michter's Barrel Proof Rye