Jim Beam started to honor individuals by naming batches of Booker’s for particular people. These people get to help pick the flavor profile for “their batch” and it can be quite different from the normal flavor profile of Booker’s, making it more than just a vanity bottle. This year the person the batch is named for is Kathleen DiBenedetto, a longtime employee of Jim Beam. Kathleen earned this honor by being the first Brand Manager for the Small Batch Collection when it was first created in the early 1990s. In the early days Kathleen went to bars and liquor stores that did not know much about the brands and were more interested in Vodkas than Bourbons. She helped grow the Jim Beam Small Batch brands to be the icons of Bourbon they are today. To aid her, Booker, put her to work in the distillery to learn how the whiskey was made. This was not just observation, as he expected her to get her hands dirty when needed and more importantly, to keep vigilant when making the cuts and realize the skills needed at all stages of production. This made her a more convincing salesperson because she really does know her Bourbon from grain to bottle.

Booker’s Kathleen’s Batch

Proof: 127.4

Age: 6 years, 3 months, 14 days

Nose: Caramel and vanilla with a little dark fruit – plums and dates. Baking spice and oak hide behind the initial burst of alcohol. As it breathes more chocolate notes come out and an empty glass that has sat for a while smells like a chocolate bar.

Taste: Caramel and vanilla with all of that sweet fruit and pepper spice. Just a little burn in the throat but not overly so for such a high proof Bourbon. Oak and leather are in the taste and hint of the finish. Tasted with a cranberry and the sweetness becomes butterscotch and the spice less pepper and more baking spices. Tasted with a pecan the fruit comes forward with cherries, dates and maybe a bit of apricot.

Finish: Long and dry with a nice oak flavor, but not overly tannic. Very well balanced with some earthy notes that I think is fine leather or dark tobacco. The cranberry lessens the earthy notes and enhances the oak. The pecan adds a sweetness of dark chocolate to the finish.

I like this Bourbon; it changes as it breathes and a dash of water also brings about some changes in the heat but I think it is better at bottle proof. Today I am smoking an Arturo Fuente Don Carlos Presidente with the Bourbon. The smoke brings out a honey sweetness in the Bourbon while the Bourbon smooths the smoke by taking some of the cedar spice away, but just in the right amount.

Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller