Face Off: Booker's vs Booker's 25th Anniversary

Fredrick Booker Noe II was Jim Beam’s grandson and the master distiller at Jim Beam from 1965 -1992.  He’s also the namesake of Booker’s Bourbon. Booker's Bourbon got its start when Booker decided to hand select barrels to give as holiday gifts to friends. Eventually, the popularity of the bottles caught on and Beam started to bottle in mass. Booker’s was launched in 1988 as the first mass produced bourbon bottled straight from the barrel, uncut and unfiltered.

Booker’s 25th Anniversary is a limited release celebrating 25 years of the commercial release of Booker’s. For the 25th Anniversary release, the bourbon was barreled in January of 2003 and was extra aged, pulled after aging 10+ yrs. Around 1,000 cases of edition were produced for this limited edition run.

About this Face Off

Booker’s is an easy to find bourbon that is stocked year round at most liquor stores. Booker’s 25th Anniversary is an extra aged Booker’s that was a one-off release in 2014 and sold at a premium. Once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. For this face off, I’ll directly compare and contrast the nose, palate and finish of each offering.  I’ll discover and highlight each edition’s distinctions and declare a winner in each category.

Nose

Booker's

 

On first whiff, I got a strong upfront alcohol burn, which is common for barrel proof bourbons. Behind it lingers the smell of oak, light floral notes, and a solid nutty scent. The smell alone tells you to sit down and buckle up!  This isn’t a bourbon to be taken lightly.

Booker's 25th Anniversary

 

Lots of alcohol upfront. Followed by toasted wood, light traces of nuts and coffee. While pleasant, I wasn’t blown away by the initial nose on this.

Conclusions

This should come as no surprise here, but both Bourbons pack a wallop of alcohol upfront in the nose. The everyday Bookers had a nicely balanced nose, and while it didn’t wow me, it didn’t leave me disappointed either. The Booker’s 25th Anniversary on the other hand wasn’t anything to write home about. A tad disappointing since you’d expect that the extra aging would impart a more complex profile.

 

Winner:

Booker's

Nose Ratings: To Sum It Up:

Booker's:

 

25th Anniversary:

The nose on both of these sets the stage from the start and says it all: “Warning: these bourbons aren’t for the faint of heart.” That being said, the normal version of Bookers offered a more defined smell of oak and nuts vs the lighter scent that Bookers 25th Anniversary offered.

Palate

Booker's

 

Wow - is this a sweet tasting bourbon…both literally and figuratively! For such a high proof, I was very surprised at how nice the mouthfeel was on this. You get a quick upfront hit of the sugars from the wood, along with hints of vanilla and raisin. Right after that initial taste, my mouth was instantly warmed.  I could feel the heat of the bourbon quickly encompassing every corner of my mouth. This then morphed into the taste of aged wood and light leather.

Booker's 25th Anniversary

 

This bourbon was a big cup of sweet for me. A strong blast of the sugars from the wood hits you the moment you take a sip. Caramel and vanilla pop right out of this bourbon, along with a light woody taste. In addition to the sugar and wood, I also tasted a trace of citrus along the line of orange rinds. The palate quickly morphs into a nice long finish. For bourbon this high in proof, it’s a really easy to sip neat.

 

Conclusions

Booker’s 25th Anniversary is really a treat to drink. While the normal version of Booker’s is really good, the extra time aging in the wood really brings out the flavor profile on this bourbon. I wish Jim Beam would continuously release an extra aged version of Booker’s because the 25th Anniversary edition nails the palate big time.

 

Winner:

25th Anniversary

Palate Ratings: To Sum It Up:

Booker's:

 

25th Anniversary:

Booker’s 25th Anniversary gets the slight edge, but either offers up a delicious taste for a high proof bourbon. If you like your bourbon to be high proof you can’t go wrong with either Booker’s or Booker’s 25th Anniversary.

 

Finish

Booker's

 

Booker's delivered a long light lingering finish. The flavor burst you get from the palate all but disappears and instead you’re left with a light vanilla and fresh new wood finish. I was surprised I wasn’t blown away with a bold finish considering this bourbon had so much bite up front in the initial palate. Instead, I found myself going back for more and more sips just to capture some additional flavor.

Booker's 25th Anniversary

 

The flavors found in the finish hit quickly and stay consistent throughout. It’s comprised of a mellow nutty flavor along the lines of walnuts, with light traces of toasted marshmallow.

 

Conclusions

While both versions of Booker’s had great palates, the Booker’s 25th Anniversary has the clear edge when it comes to the finish. Long and lingering, the finish stays with you for awhile vs the regular Booker’s that dissipates quickly.

Winner:

25th Anniversary

Finish Ratings: To Sum It Up:

Booker's:

 

25th Anniversary:

The price premium for Booker’s 25th Anniversary finally shines through in the finish and reminds you why it was worth paying the additional price over a normal bottle of Booker’s.

Face Off Conclusion:

Father time gets the edge in this face off, as Booker’s 25th Anniversary slightly edges out the regular version. Both are a great examples of barrel proof bourbons.  With the regular Booker’s, you have to hand it to Jim Beam for being able to consistently produce this bourbon as a year-round release.  That being said, with the 25th Anniversary edition, the extra time in the barrel really makes it pop – the palate and finish give it the edge over the regular edition. If you have a chance to try Booker’s 25th Anniversary edition, I’d highly recommend it!   -JM   8/2014

 

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