I’ve enjoyed every release of the limited edition Booker’s Bourbon batches over the past few years, especially since each one tells a personal story about the Noe family through the whiskey. However, I’ve also had a major issue with them: Each batch is selected with Fred Noe, son of the late Jim Beam Master Distiller Booker Noe (hence the name), along with a team of whiskey experts. There have been no women on these panels at all. When Fred and his son Freddy were in town late last year to debut Little Book, I decided to approach Fred with this issue. I straight up asked him, “So how come you never have any women on your bourbon roundtables?” His reply, “Well, it wasn’t intentional. Let’s change that, darlin’!”
I am proud to say that for the first limited edition batch of 2018, I was among a group of panelists (and not the only lady, either – Karla Alindahao of Forbes and Susannah Skiver Barton of Whisky Advocate also lent their expertise) to help select the final blend for this batch, which is named for Kathleen DiBenedetto, Booker Noe’s long time collaborator who learned every aspect of the distillery business and bourbon production from him. She was instrumental in the creation and launching of The Small Batch Bourbon Collection – Booker’s, Baker’s, Basil Hayden’s and Knob Creek – in the 1990s (many of these whiskeys have gone on to win gold medals in NY International Spirits Competitions). In 2015 she was inducted into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame, one of only a handful of women to receive this honor. She is now the Beam Suntory Director of Global Brand Education.
Who better to name a Booker’s batch after and toast to on International Women’s Day?
The final blend was selected among three samples, all of which, in keeping with Booker’s Bourbon tradition, were uncut, unfiltered and at full cask strength. It was a nearly unanimous decision among the panelists that Sample B was The One – hearty, daring, slightly herbaceous, spicy, and a little nutty.
The whiskey is a blend of 10 different barrels which matured throughout different Beam warehouse locations – aged 6 years, 3 months and 14 days. It’s bottled at 127.4 proof and retails for $75. DiBenedetto shared with us that Booker preferred to drink his cask strength whiskey with a little ice. Some people have suggested adding it to iced tea. He would say, “Why would I flavor my water with tea leaves when I can flavor it with bourbon?”
Amanda Schuster is the Senior Editor in Chief of Alcohol Professor and the author of NEW YORK COCKTAILs available from Cider Mill Press. Certified sommelier, former retail spirits and wine buyer - she likes to think of herself as "bi-spiritual." Please don't ever offer her a Pickleback. Complete bio here.