I was passing through Kentucky when Jim Beam released the Booker’s 25th Anniversary bourbon. Unfortunately it was a Sunday in February and nothing was open. Not even the distillery. I knew that if I wanted to taste this, I would have very few chances.
That night at the hotel bar in Louisville (Louisville being one of the few places I travel to that the hotel bar is worth stopping at) I saw a bottle of the 25th on the shelf. I ordered it, paid my $35 and decided that, while it was tasty, it wasn’t that much better than the Booker’s I had on my shelf. I counted myself lucky and mentally moved on for the night.
I had plenty of time to think about that bourbon on the drive home the next day. It started snowing in Champaign, Illinois and ended about Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. White-out, white-knuckle conditions. We didn’t go over 25 miles per hour the entire time and even that may have been too fast at times. By the time we got back to Minneapolis, it was late. The normal 13 hour drive had ballooned into a 17 hour one. And all I wanted was a bourbon. I grabbed the Booker’s I had at home and tried to unwind from the trip.
It was good. Was it better than the 25th Anniversary? I tried to tell myself it was. I tried really hard to convince myself. And it was easy since it had seemed I’d missed my shot at getting the 25th.
After a couple days though, I decided that I couldn’t let this pass without at least trying to get it. I sent an email to a guy I know who works at a local liquor store chain. In the past, he’d gotten me a lot of bottles that I had requested, including a bottle of the Four Roses Limited Small Batch 2012 (though he wasn’t able to get the 2013 for me). I figured the worst that could happen was he wouldn’t be able to.
He placed the order with the distributor. The distributor didn’t have any, but placed the order and got his hands on a case. But then, the order was intercepted by management. It seems that the chain has a standing rule that anything that might be even a little special go to their main store to be included in a “lottery” event. My guy called, stated his case (and my case), and got one bottle reluctantly released to me.
I felt pretty happy to get my hands on a bottle of the Booker’s 25th Anniversary bourbon. It was a bit expensive at $100 but I remembered it being worth it. And finally I’d get a chance to see if I was fooling myself when I thought I liked the regular release better.
Purchase Info: $47, Burnsville, MN
Details: Batch# 2013-6, 62.95% ABV, aged 7 years, 6 months
Nose: Starts sweet with a strong alcohol burn. After it settles down a bit, it transitions into something very much akin to green spinach leaves. Then oak. Lots of it. And under it all was a maple sweetness that made my mouth water in anticipation.
Mouth: Thick, almost syrupy mouthfeel. Rich vanilla, sweet brown sugar, ginger spice, fresh-cut oak and maple syrup.
Finish: Mouth drying. Sweet fading to bitterness with much less warmth than I would have expected at almost 126 proof. Very drinkable. Dangerously so.
Booker’s 25th Anniversary Bourbon
Purchase Info: $104, Richfield, MN
Details: Batch# 2014-1, 65.4% ABV, aged 10 years, 3 months
Nose: Maple and brown sugar. There is an underlying waxiness. Just a hint of citrus.
Mouth: Not as thick as the previous, but warm and still sweet. Cinnamon and cloves. Vanilla. This is a nicely balanced bourbon.
Finish: Warm finish. Sweet fading to bitterness. Warmth lasts a long time.
Thoughts: These are both excellent bourbons. The 2013-6 is wonderfully sweet. The 25th Anniversary has a lovely warmth and amazing balance. Both of these bourbons hit all the notes I look for in a bourbon. Sweet, spicy with a nice hit of oak, but not too much of any of them. If you can get your hands on a taste of the 25th Anniversary, do it. If you can't, don’t feel too bad. Every bottle I've had of the regular release was worth the price I paid for it. I highly recommend both of these.