I recently did a review of Blanton’s Original Single Barrel for a friend of mine, in which I concluded that Blanton’s was a good bourbon, but it wasn’t quite worth $50 a bottle. A few people have asked me a valid question, “Is there any bourbon worth $50 a bottle?” Of course, the answer is up to you. However, to aid your journey, I’ve decided to do a comparison review of two bourbons that I believe are both worth $50 a bottle, Booker’s and Noah’s Mill.
Both Booker’s and Noah’s Mill are usually priced at about $50 a bottle or so. They are also both high proof bourbons, with Noah’s Mill weighing in at 114.3 proof and Booker’s weighing in between 123 and 129 proof, depending on the batching. They are also both small batch bourbons, meaning they are created from combining different barrels together before they are put in the bottle.
Booker’s is a bourbon from Jim Beam’s Small Batch Collection (Knob Creek, Basil Hayden’s), named after Booker Noe, James Beam’s grandson. As I mentioned earlier, this bourbon is uncut, and bottled at the same proof it is in the barrel. Booker’s is comprised of whiskeys aged between six and eight years, specifically from barrels placed in the center of the James Beam Distillery Warehouse. Although it is not the most popular bourbon from the Small Batch Collection, it is definitely the best in my opinion. Booker’s is done in very small batches, and it does vary from batch to batch. The particular bottle I am reviewing is batch C05-A-12, aged 7 years, 5 months, bottled at 128.5 proof (64.25% abv).
On the nose, Booker’s reminds me of freshly baked cinnamon rolls. The nose is sweet, complex, and powerful. There are notes of brown sugar, apple pie, sweet oak, vanilla, toasted peanut butter, and light smoke. On the palate, Booker’s is full-bodied, yet surprisingly drinkable. Green apples, caramel, vanilla, charred oak, and some smoked fruits all blend together to form a brilliant mouth feel. The finish is long and very warming, but it is also full of flavor, achieving great balance between the oak and the sweet sugars of caramel and vanilla. In my opinion, Booker’s is one of the best whiskeys on the American market today. It is full, complex, and powerful in both proof and flavor profile. My grade: A-. Price: $45-50/750ml. This is brilliant bourbon, plain and simple.
Right next to Booker’s on the top shelf is Noah’s Mill, a 114.3 proof, small batch bourbon produced by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers. Noah’s Mill is made from a variety of whiskeys at different ages from different mash bills and from different distilleries. Then, the whiskeys are blended and bottled to perfection by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers to create Noah’s Mill.
On the nose, Noah’s Mill can be a little shy, but give it a minute. After sitting for a few, it will open up with a rich nose, displaying notes of toffee, caramel, and some roasted vanilla. The palate is sweet and drying, with the sweetness of vanillas and caramels being bolstered by dried raisins and cranberries. The finish is long and warming, just like Booker’s. There is a good amount of rye spice balanced with sweet, warming toffee and caramel flavors. In my opinion, Noah’s Mill is certainly deserving of its place on the top shelf. My grade: B+. Price: $45-50/750ml. This is a wonderful, big, robust bourbon, it just doesn’t quite have the life that Booker’s has.
The one complaint that I have heard about both of these bourbons is that they vary significantly from batch to batch. Unfortunately, that is just one of the perils of small batch bourbon. Nevertheless, I have always found both of these bourbons to be fantastic whiskeys through and through. In the end, I definitely give the edge to Booker’s, although Noah’s Mill is still one of my favorite whiskeys. If I had $50 to spend on one bottle of bourbon, I would spend it on Booker’s with no hesitation. But, the best way to find out is to drink these whiskeys and see which one works best for you. Let it ride!