November 1, 2016

Bookers 13-Year Rye Review

Is this where we are? Really??? Four hundred bucks for a thirteen year rye?!??

Ok, I mean it is really though to find well aged American rye these days. But Jeez Louise that just seems crazy. Anyway thanks to our buddy J-Whiskey for sharing a sample of this high priced beast for us to taste. Is it worth the hunt and the cash to own one of these priced limited edition beauties? Read on.

Booker's is one of those house favorites, a whiskey-drinker's whiskey. And with good reason. They've been doing it right since back before drinking cask strength bourbon was even a thing. And Booker's has a lot going for it. You can get it at any decent bar or liquor store, it's cask strength, it's age-stated (7 years), it's $70. How many bourbons measure up to that criteria these days?

So when they announced that they were putting out a rye, we were excited. Honestly we'd hoped for exactly the same concept - good reliable affordable cask strength age-stated rye. Why is that so hard to find these days? Honestly since Smooth Ambler discontinued their private barrel program I can't think of a single example!

Well needless to say our excitement waned a bit when we found out that this was going to be a super limited release bottling that was going to run over $300. We had the opportunity to buy one for $370 and we passed. Then when all the reviews started coming out we immediately regretted it. With such incredible demand, why wouldn't Booker's put out a rye as part of their standard release? you'd think they could charge a little more ($125 maybe??) and have a seven year rye, just as badass and delicious as Booker's Bourbon. Perhaps it's because they didn't actually distill this rye??  Reading the description on their site it's quite vague.

This is from their site:
"Dad saw the difficult, temperamental rye grain as a challenge – small, but tricky to work with – and he never backed down from a challenge. So, in 2003, he went big and laid down barrels of a rye whiskey in his favorite rack house – creating the first ever Booker’s Rye Whiskey."
What does "laid down barrels" mean? The wording could mean that they distilled them or sourced them from somewhere else.  The rest of the sentence "of a rye whiskey" seems to imply the latter. If they'd made it, they wouldn't refer to it as "a rye whiskey" they would just say "rye whiskey" right? Ok now we're going crazy with the second guessing and the linguistics. End of the day, there ain't gonna be much of this stuff and it's gonna be crazy pricey! So let's get to the tasting and see if our regrets were justified and we were stupid for not spending a whole month of our Cheetos budget on a bottle of this.

Tasting Notes

Nose: The nose is pretty hot. Getting a lot of alcohol. That's sort of to be expected at 136 proof, but at the same time we've definitely nosed whiskey at this proof that was more mellow. Giving it a few inches of respect and nosing from a distance, we get a heavy candied orange flavor here, wrapped in dark chocolate, lots of oak, and some herbal back notes like mint and tarragon and spicy pepper. It's spirit first, followed by sweets/fruits, then spice.

Palate: Wow we were expecting fire on the tongue but it's super smooth. Very sweet on the palate doubling down on the candied orange rinds, white sugar cubes, and then coming back with the wood and spice at the bottom of the mouth. It's not oily or very viscous, but clean and sweet with a backdrop of nice wood and spices.

Finish: The finish stays strong with a very balanced punch. The very sweet nature of the taste balances out the spirit heat and it all comes together with a short punchy finale. There's extremely little burn for something this high test. We're impressed.


Ok, damn it, this shit is good. Is it "Whiskey of the Year" good? Probably. Are we sad that we didn't plunk down $400 for a bottle? No. Come on folks that's cra-cra. It's one thing if it's a thirty year malt or it's a mothballed distillery that will never be available again. But this is not one of those things. Nonetheless if you love great rye, you have few options right now. Thomas Handy and Sazerac 18 are all but impossible to score. Most of the private barrel stuff is gone. Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye is going for $750 a bottle. So if you're lucky enough to even see one of these at retail and swoop it up without hesitation, we forgive you. But we still can't quite get there. It's delicious but we're going to have to stick with our little sample and cry ourselves to sleep.



  1. Beam made it, but it's not the regular JB rye mashbill, and it was a one-off batch. The wording does sound odd, but I'm guessing they didn't want to get into questions of how exactly the mashbill differs.
    Also, any plans on reviewing the new Laphroaig from The Whisky Exchange? 20 years in a first-fill PX cask.

  2. I am so pumped that someone is speaking up about these 'super-premium' bottlings. Thank you! At $125, yes would have happily bought and consumed it and called it whiskey of the year. This rye is excellent, but these new prices are just painful.