Comparison: Booker’s 2019-04 “Beaten Biscuits” / Booker’s 30th Anniversary Limited Edition

Batch 2019-04 “Beaten Biscuits”

MASH BILL – 77% corn, 13% rye, 10% barley

PROOF – 126.1

AGE – 6 years 6 months 19 days

DISTILLERY – Jim Beam Distillery

PRICE – $50 from a friend (normally ~$70)

BUY AGAIN? – No, only because there are four new Booker’s each year! Plus the $$ has gone $$$.

30th Anniversary Limited Edition (2018)

MASH BILL – 77% corn, 13% rye, 10% barley

PROOF – 125.8

AGE – small batch blend made up of 70% 9-year and 30% 16-year

DISTILLERY – Jim Beam Distillery

PRICE – $200 at msrp

BUY AGAIN? – Buy? No, simply because life is $hort. But for a reasonable bottle trade? In a hot second!

In light of far weightier matters, I took a break from posting here last week. My birthday came and went during that time, and this post was intended for then. Our nation’s situation is no less weighty this week than last, and the hard and necessary work to be done is the kind that never reaches that point called “finished.” In the midst of it, I’m ready for a strong drink. Booker’s would seem to fit the bill.

If you follow this blog you likely already know that Booker’s was the bourbon that made me love bourbon—specifically the 2015-05 “Maw Maw’s Batch,” which took me on a rollercoaster ride around the Beam/Booker’s flavor profile over the course of the month I sipped away at it. Other favorites include the 2015-02 “Dot’s Batch” and the recent 30th Anniversary Limited Edition, which I’ve posted notes about already.

But a list of Booker’s faves could go on for some time! I’ll cut to the notes for tonight’s newbie, the 2019-04 batch. Tasted in a simple brandy glass about two weeks after uncorking and halfway into the bottle, here are some impressions:

COLOR – deep rich copper orange like a shiny antique penny

NOSE – rich cinnamons, dense refined oak, distant ripe orchard fruits like nectarines and peaches, caramel, finely ground black pepper, fresh ground coffee

TASTE – tangy dark caramel, tart baked nectarine compote, organic peanut butter, peppery tingle from the proof, just a bit of the ground black pepper and coffee

FINISH – the fruit compote lingers nicely with the sweet, bright caramel drizzled all over it, the peppery tingle leaving a warmth, everything lasting… for… eh… ver…

OVERALL – Now THAT’S a good Booker’s!

My first thought when I uncorked this, and I’m thinking the same thing now: This 2019-04 is giving the Booker’s 30th Anniversary Limited Edition a run for its money!

Now that’s based on memory. I’m responding to not just the range of flavors but also their superb integration with one another. The blend is so perfectly pitched, with the subtle ground coffee and black pepper notes adding a savory aspect to the exquisite orchard fruit compote.

But why leave it to memory? Luckily I’ve been nursing my bottle of the 30th Anniversary since uncorking it on the dot of midnight this past New Year’s eve. So I poured a sample to compare. Here first are the notes on the 30th itself, taken a third of the way into the bottle and these handful of months after uncorking:

COLOR – that antique orange-copper penny at dusk

NOSE – Oh my… thick rich caramel first, then an oak cabinet of dark chocolates, fresh cinnamon roll dough ready for baking, some vanilla taffy

TASTE – rich refined oak slathered in dark chocolate and caramel

FINISH – the oak, caramel, and chocolate continuing on a slow, slow fade…

OVERALL – That’s a serious bourbon, with some serious finesse…

Okay. The 30th Anniversary is an oak-caramel-chocolate masterpiece, whereas the 2019-04 is a masterful blend of the orchard fruit aspects with the best caramel and baking spices Booker’s has to offer. Nosing them side by side now, I appreciate the contrast between the 2019-04’s coffee mocha and the 30th Anniversary’s dark, dark chocolate.

Then the tastes contrast most notably by their brightness, with the 2019-04 leaning brighter and the 30th heading headlong into the dark. The 30th is the drier of the two for sure, trading out the fruit aspects for extra emphasis on the oak. Makes sense, given the 30th’s blend of 70% 9-year and 30% 16-year bourbons.

And on the finish, both bourbons stick around for the party. They’re the last guest to leave, with the most brilliant things to say, so you don’t mind them stretching the party on into the night.

Of course there’s that capitalist temptation to decide which to declare “best.” But I’ve never been much of a capitalist. I’m fully in favor of both these bourbons. They both offer excellent tasting experiences, the kind that slow you down and leave you silent for a moment.

The 2019-04 is more within reach in terms of both cost and availability. Whereas the insta-unicorn 30th Anniversary Limited Edition climbs another $10 or so on the secondary market with every month that ticks by. I was lucky to pick up this bottle in a trade—three Weller 12 Year bottles to the one 30th Anniversary. What I paid for the Wellers meant I was getting the Booker’s for its msrp price of $200. I’d do that deal again in a second! In the meantime, I’ll enjoy what’s left in my current bottle on special occasions. It made a great start to 2020. Who knows, perhaps it will make a great end to 2020.

This comparison reaffirms my love for the Booker’s line. The annual price hike—about $10 per year heading toward Beam’s $100 goal—has really been bumming me out. Paying $70 for this 2019-04 feels fair, and I was lucky to get it for $50. But there have been other Booker’s batches I’ve not been as keen on, for which $70 would make me wince—the 2018-02 “Backyard BBQ,” for example, which was a fine but uneventful bottle, a bit paint-by-numbers. Booker’s is a wild card, and the annual price climb raises the stakes.

But I’m still in the game.


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