Reviewed By: @MCRBourbon
Whiskey Name: Booker's Rye
Distillery: Beam Suntory
Whiskey Type: Straight Rye
Release Date: June 2016
Age: 13 Years
Mashbill: No definitive information but around 70-80% rye
Introduction / Background:
Welcome to the first in a new series of whiskey reviews here on the British Bourbon Society website. It's a series that we'll be looking to make regular additions to with reviews being undertaken by several BBS members, including @thebourbonator, @londonliquor, @whiskybunker & @edkinguk. For our first review we have perhaps the most hyped whiskey of the year, Booker's Rye "Big Time Batch".
There was considerable enthusiasm in the bourbon community last year when news leaked of a Booker's rye whiskey release. The fact that it would also be a 'one-off' that was put into barrels by Booker Noe himself only increased the fervour.
With Jim Murray's latest release of his annual Whisky Bible came the crown of 'World Whisky of the Year' along with all the associated secondary market price increases that tend to follow such accolades. For reference, a bottle of Booker's Rye sold on a UK auction site for around £350 earlier this year but since Murray's award it has jumped up to £850.
I managed to score a bottle from America pretty soon after it was released and so far I haven't seen it hit the UK on general sale. If it does make it to UK retailers, I'd expect it to be pricey and extremely limited.
I'm a big fan of Booker's, their bourbon was my introduction into barrel proof whiskey which meant that I was also pretty excited to try this and delighted when I managed to score a bottle. Now on with the review.
Appearance: Amber with ruby edges
There's no mistaking the high proof of this whiskey when I dip into the glencairn but I find it (just about) bearable, whereas some others of this proof have made my eyes water. Immediately, I get vanilla, cinnamon, white pepper and oak. There's a great deal of sweetness beneath though, which arrives with banana. Further down is butterscotch and a faint touch of milk chocolate. It's great how many layers there are to explore here.
Nose Score: 4.5
Plenty of cinnamon and brown sugar, this is a sweet whiskey that tingles the roof of my mouth with cloves. Full bodied, oily and also quite dense on the tongue. Some earthy oak is present along with the chocolate. I don't find it incredibly complex, especially considering the nose but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The flavours are bold and memorable.
Mouth Score: 4
The finish is long and punchy. This is a sipping whiskey and taking a big gulp will leave you wincing. There is a minty-freshness that lingers and then turns to ever-so-slightly musty oak which is just on the verge of being unpleasant, but not quite. My glass is left with a fair amount of light grey residue and I'm thinking about pouring myself another.
Finish Score: 4.5
Value For Money:
I'm basing this on the RRP of $300 (which will be an unlikely find now). For that price, I find it hard to see value. Don't get me wrong, this is a great whiskey and I was raving about it when I first tried it but this is amongst the highest retail price of any whiskey this year, limited release or not. For that reason, I'm giving it a low score here.
Value for Money Score: 2
Overall Score: 15/20
This is a fantastic rye whiskey with great provenance that perfectly transposes what I love about Booker's bourbon over to a rye. Booker's being the pioneering brand of barrel proof whiskey, it's good (but not surprising) to see them turn their hand to a rye that's as solid as this.
Unfortunately, the price pulls the overall score down significantly. Some may feel that it's worth every penny but I don't really want to see a world where this is an acceptable price for a thirteen year old whiskey, no matter how unique. Of course it's now very unlikely that it will be found at retail price again but I would very much like to see Fred Noe release some more barrel-proof rye whiskey under the Booker's label in the future.