Like many whiskey aficionados Booker’s Rye has been on my radar for awhile. I first learned about it when Sku tweeted out the label for it; no one knew what the price would be then but it shot to the top of my want list. I figured it would run about $100, but then later news rolled out that it would sell for $300 a bottle–which is steep. However, once the reviews and the hype started in I was pretty sure that if I was able to find one I’d probably buy it.
Luckily for me, the VA ABC has a pretty good system for selling limited release bottles through their website and via lottery. When the day of the sale came I was perched at my computer refreshing like a maniac until I was able to buy one. It came in last Friday and even as I was going to buy the bottle I was doubting whether it would be worth it and thinking maybe I should let someone else buy it. I quickly regained my sanity and bought it and then immediately started doubting my purchase and hoping it was worth it. Did I spend too much on a bottle of rye? I mean I love the Booker’s brand but how good can this really be?
So I let it sit on my table a few days in it’s beautiful box and let the expectation die down. Last night I had a dram whilst hanging out and chatting with my wife on the porch, and after I finished I couldn’t wait to drink another and write a review. Unfortunately, it was a late and I had to wake up early for my non-whiskey drinking job. After struggling through a Monday here’s my review…
Bottle 2994; 13 years, 1 month, 12 days; 68.1%
Color: The color was impressive and noticeable. In most whiskies the interior is darker and it is lighter around the edges. However, Booker’s was consistent throughout. It was a deep red amber.
Nose: Immediately out of the bottle I notice the lack of a strong smell of methanol; instead I am greeted by a sweet, earthy scent. Brown sugar, vanilla, oats, cinnamon, and oak. Beautiful.
Taste: Initially warm on the tongue like movie theater popcorn. The rye inundates the tongue with flavor and a slight tingly burn that begins at the tip of the tongue and eventually surrounds the tongue moving almost to the root. Red hot candy and pepper are the first wave to hit the palate. As the burn progresses and intensifies–although never becoming overwhelming–through the mouth the flavor profile changes to a more earthy and rich oak, mint, and leather.
Finish: Once the burn starts to fade slowly away from the tongue, it begins to dance on the roof of the mouth and part way down the throat leaving your mouth, throat, and belly with a nice warm tingly feeling. That’s when the plum/grape and cherry aftertaste kicks in. Three distinct flavor profiles that come in waves like the 3-course meal Violet Beauregarde gets from Willy Wonka–minus the nasty side effects–that are exceptionally well balanced.
The question is whether this is worth the MSRP of $300 and that is up to each individual buyer but the hype surrounding this release is well worth it. Aside from the price, it’s an exceptional whiskey that is, once again, amazingly well balanced. I was impressed with how drinkable this was even at 136.2 proof. The only other high proof whiskey that I’ve had that is as smooth–and possibly smoother–is the BTAC George T. Stagg, but good luck finding a bottle of that. Like GTS I didn’t even think about adding ice or water. There’s just no need for it.
Every time I thought that it would overwhelm my taste buds or that the burn would be too much it would change course. That’s where this whiskey excels: it takes you to the edge of flavor, burn, mouth feel, and stops just before it would become unbearable or the flavors muddled. This is what well crafted whiskies do. There are many good, affordable bourbons and ryes out there but when you pay more you expect more and Booker’s Rye delivers. The balance, the warmth, the burn, the complexity. It’s all there and it makes for an eminently drinkable rye.
It’s so good I could finish this bottle with a quickness. Instead I am going to restrain myself and share it with friends and family because that’s what it deserves.