Booker’s Bourbon “Charlie’s Batch” (2023-01) Review

Drink Reviews whiskey
Booker’s Bourbon “Charlie’s Batch” (2023-01) Review

Jim Beam’s Booker’s Bourbon brand is an occasional source of whiskey geek grumbling, primarily for the fact that its MSRP was one of the earlier risers reflecting the heightened demand for cask-strength bourbon in the U.S. For a few years, this arguably made the moderately aged Booker’s less of a value than it once was, as it saw its typical price point go from about $60 to something closer to $90.

Here’s the thing, though–as bourbon price gouging and the effects of inflation have rippled through the whiskey world, the rest of the industry has long since caught up to the trajectory of Booker’s, and in many cases surpassed it. As that has happened, the price point that seemed like a deterrent in say, 2021, may not read that way at all in 2023, when the rest of the whiskey on the shelf has also increased dramatically in cost. One might even say that at $90, Booker’s once again represents a pretty good value in 2023, and that’s far easier to say when it’s a batch as good as the newly released Charlie’s Batch. Folks, this might be one of the best overall Booker’s batches we’ve ever had, which makes for a fine way for Beam to start the series in 2023.

Of course, every Booker’s batch needs a theme and a name, and this time they’re turning to a longtime friend of the distillery for inspiration. Charlie Hutchens is a former Jim Beam employee who worked at the Booker Noe Distillery–during that time, he ended up designing and crafting the first wooden box to contain a bottle of Booker’s for former Master Distiller Booker Noe. Hutchens has subsequently crafted all the years of Booker’s boxes that followed, eventually leaving the company to open a cabinet shop with his brother. Charlie is still crafting Booker’s boxes, though, and has likewise supplied custom furniture for the new Fred B. Noe Distillery, which is where Booker’s Bourbon is now distilled. Charlie’s Batch is obviously named in his honor.

Like all batches of Booker’s, Charlie’s Batch is presented at cask strength, this time weighing in at about 63.3% ABV (126.6 proof). Like other recent batches of Booker’s, this one carries an age statement of more than 7 years, reflecting the slow creep forward of this brand’s average age, though it’s not quite as old as last year’s final batch Kentucky Tea. So with all that said, let’s get to tasting.

On the nose, Charlie’s Batch immediately stands out for just how “dark” it reads, with huge waves of deeply caramelized sugars, charred oak and roasted nuts. Rather than the more classical Beam peanut note, I’m getting more of a roasted, glazed, buttery pecan type of impression, with lots of brown sugar, almond extract and some herbal rye as well. There’s a slightly funky, older oak aspect to the wood profile, while the ethanol stands out for just how gentle and muted it is for this proof point. It makes for a very easy glass to nose deeply.

On the palate, Charlie’s Batch features that same deep, dark caramel, along with both vanilla and chocolate ribboned together, chased by savory herbal notes of rye, but also tobacco and a little leather. This feels weirdly mature for Booker’s, capturing some of the type of character one more typically expects to find in say, Knob Creek 12 Year, albeit at an advanced proof point. I’m also getting some black cherry and jammy fruitiness, and a cinnamon brown sugar explosion, supported by modest oak tannin keeping things from getting too sweet. The ethanol is notably mild here as well, disappearing into the flavor profile and making this one drink far lighter than its actual strength, despite the huge, assertive flavors.

All in all, this is very impressive. Charlie’s Batch is a Booker’s stand-out without a doubt, maybe my favorite batch of this brand that I’ve sampled in the last few years. It’s one of the most dynamic and unique expressions of Booker’s we’ve seen for a while, so if you only buy this brand occasionally, Charlie’s Batch may well be one you want to have on your list.

Distillery: Jim Beam
City: Clermont, KY
Style: Straight bourbon whiskey
ABV: 63.3% (126.6 proof)
Availability: Limited, 750 ml bottles, $90 MSRP

Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident brown liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.

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