Booker’s True Barrel Bourbon (Batch 2017-01E)

As we continue to publish daily here at MALT there’s an inevitability that new brands and distilleries will appear. Whisky and whiskey are evolving. Things, especially whisky related matters do not stand still. A relentless momentum is building and we try our best to hang on tight.

Part of the appeal is discovering and experiencing these new producers and distilleries. I can chase unicorn whiskies and continuously evolve my knowledge, but on the flip side, the new order shouldn’t be ignored. Case in point is Booker’s bourbon. A name that I’ve seen around including a balance mentalist on Instagram and as a brand it seems to have a great deal of fanfare Stateside. Yet for my own experience, I’ve never gotten around to it until now.

Yes, we’re back on the vanilla trail. Case in point being we recently put a shout out on our Twitter channel as to what whiskies and distilleries you’d like to see here at MALT or more of? That’s audience participation and we received a healthy response. Picking out some of these I went off and purchased a bunch of samples from Master of Malt as an everyday customer. Possibly going forward this is something we can look to do monthly or bi-monthly and it shakes things up a bit.

A Booker’s wasn’t suggested during this drive. Maybe next month we’ll see? I only mention this as went I went to purchase several of the suggestions including Balblair, Balvenie and yes a bloody Jura. I ventured into the flash sale section and this Booker’s was available for £3. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to go discover something new and benchmark another touted brand noting how poorly WhistlePig fared recently.

Booker’s makes a point of not messing with their barrels. These are handpicked for release and are meant to represent bourbon in its most natural state. Meaning they are generally 6-8 years in age and are unfiltered and straight from the barrel. Qualities that resonate with whisky and whiskey drinkers across the globe regardless of your drinking preferences. Their literature focuses on the sweet spot in the warehouse where the marriage of temperate and humidity help create the most layered of bourbons. The general message is one of patience and letting nature do its thing.

Founded by Booker Noe towards the end of the 1980’s, before launching the first bottles in the early 1990’s. The range has a passionate following today and releases are snapped up in auction fever that we’re used to seeing in Europe. Booker himself has impressive credentials being a master distiller and grandson of none other than the legendary Jim Beam. Booker’s son, Fred Booker Noe III, today samples the batches as the family tradition continues and the range that bears the family name. You could say distilling is in their blood.

I reached out to my limited bourbon community about this Booker’s or Alexandra as she’s known. This isn’t a release or barrel they have in North America so that sparked some degree of interest and didn’t fit with the usual classifications. Eventually, they came to the conclusion that the E in the categorisation stands for Export and this was an exclusive either for the UK market or further afield. This did spark some we only send you our rubbish bourbons commentary, which is a fair comment I’m sure. You keep lapping up those Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Macallan’s over there and we’ll call it even?

This release has mostly sold out online but I did stumble across some bottles in random places if you’re interested in tracking it down. Generally, the bottle is priced circa £65-90, with Amazon charging £88 online. It is 6 years and a month old in age and was bottled at a rather robust 62.7%. Showtime then folks and something new yeeha!

Booker’s True Barrel Bourbon (Batch 2017-01E) – review

Colour: withered apple

On the nose: dried cork, some cinnamon bark that’s seen better days and a damp shoe. Some char, maybe charcoal if you want to be fancy. Thyme, basil leaf and rubbed brass. It feels very hostile and upfront in your face. The Alexandra of whiskies? Returning after a while there’s a barbeque element and beefy vibe. We’ve added water to see what happens next. This brings out more of the wood aromas, an almond nuttiness, floral and treacle. Better certainly but I’m still feeling unmoved.

In the mouth: lacking the forceful punch I was anticipating, yes cousin vanilla is present along with cinnamon chewing gum. Red liquorice, aniseed balls and cherry sweeties all drift by. Woody, but not harsh although it is a bit uncouth. Certainly, nothing to write home about and partially maybe why they shipped it abroad? Adding water brings about more balance between the wood and spirit. Burnt pastry, cinder toffee, a rum note, raspberries and dark chocolate.


Not too bad in all honesty. The more time I spent with this release the more I didn’t loathe or hate it. Yes, it does have a degree of limitation which comes with such an age. Bourbon isn’t Scotch. Nor does it pretend to be anything such like. Could I drink several drams of this? No, it has a heaviness on the core characteristics that I feel swamps the subtle aspects you can open up with water.

As always I refer you to our scoring guide as this is a solid mark.

Score: 5/10

Lead image kindly from the Whisky World. The Amazon is link commission based as well but this never influences our opinion.

  1. Welsh Toro says:

    I’ve had a fair dip into the bourbon world and I have a decent collection for a Brit. There are some bourbons that really are great value and better than whisky for the price. I can think of no whisky I think better than For Roses for less than £30. However, I do concede that bourbon is a bit of a one trick pony. Tasting notes are painfully restricted and familiar. Nevertheless, those qualities range from poor to excellent.

    I quite liked this particular bottle without getting crazy about it. It’s worth noting that bourbon aficionados thought this was not the best Booker’s release. It’s my only one so I defer to them. It is a decent quality bourbon though. I have a problem with bourbon becoming uber-trendy and expensive. It really is the classic working man’s drink. It’s becoming elite now and the prices are crazy outside the States. I don’t think this bottle should cost a penny over £50 but that’s the crazy world of whisk(e)y right now.

    1. Jason says:

      Hi Welsh Toro, yep it’s solid stuff but I was expecting more. Kinda reminded me of Alexandra saying they keep the best bourbon for themselves. What we do receive can be limited and you’ve got to put the effort in to find the worthwhile examples.

      Yes, crazy prices. These are insane times. Thanks, Jason.

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