Booker’s Country Ham 2019-03

Brown sugar, vanilla and a whole lot of baking spice - something that would’ve paired perfectly with Booker’s cured hams.

Booker’s Country Ham 2019-03

Brown sugar, vanilla and a whole lot of baking spice - something that would’ve paired perfectly with Booker’s cured hams.
124.7 Proof (62.35% ABV) 6 years, 4 months

Mashbill: Undisclosed

Want to skip the fluff? Jump to the review summary.


The story

Ah, Booker’s. Unfiltered, barrel proof and sourced from the center of the warehouse. It’s gotta be a winner, right?

Well before we diver further into the specs, let’s talk a little bit about what Booker’s is and what Fred Noe intends for it to be (or to remain, for that matter).

Booker’s is a line created by Booker Noe–the sixth-generation master distiller at Jim Beam and the grandson of Jim Beam himself. Booker was Fred Noe’s father and predecessor as master distiller at the Jim Beam Distillery. If you’ve visited the distillery, you’ve probably noticed he’s been immortalized in a statue near the visitor center. Once inside, you will be greeted by a list of the master distillers and the Beam/Noe family tree:

Jim Beam Master Distiller List at the Jim Beam Distillery.

You’ll see Booker Noe second from the bottom here, right above his son Fred. Wish we’d gotten a better image of this.

Fred, make sure they don’t mess with my Booker’s.

Booker was a bit of a tinkerer, and took a great deal of care and attention to create these small batch bottles. Initially he created his small batch for himself and close friends, but in the early 90’s, Jim Beam decided to create a premium line of products; this is the Booker’s we have come to see on the shelves today.

When Booker retired as master distiller in 1992, he told his son, “Fred, make sure they don’t mess with my Booker’s”. Thankfully for us, it seems that Fred has honored his request and has kept each Booker’s release high-quality and deserving of his father’s praise.

Though previous years have seen up to 6 Booker’s batches released, the past few years it has been 4 releases per year (and perhaps what we might expect moving forward). This particular bottle is 2019-03 – Booker’s Country Ham. Fred had this to say about it:

“This batch has an elegant color that is beautiful in the glass. The aroma is sweet with a subtle hint of vanilla that is mingled with brown sugar notes.  The flavor is sweet at first with a long, smooth finish that warms your palate.  I know this batch would be one Dad would enjoy while he sampled the country hams Freddie and I cure today in the same smokehouse he and his grandfather Jim Beam cured hams in many years ago.”

Fred Noe, Master Distiller

A batch that pairs harmoniously with ham sounds…well, delicious. Essentially you could expect the saltiness and savoriness of the ham to complement a decadently sweet and pleasantly spicy Bourbon.

With that in mind, let’s get to the tasting details!


This one displays an array of scents. Despite having a heavy proof and with Beam’s usual mid-high rye profile, this is a bit sweeter on the nose: Dark fruit, brown sugar and a touch of toffee with a healthy aroma of oak. It’s toasty for sure and just has a wonderful depth of sweetness.


As soon as it hits your palate you get a wonderful sweet flavor that is quickly transitioned to peanut and baking spice. An oily mouthfeel makes the sip feel very substantial. Once the heat subsides, it segues into very decadent sweet flavors: brown sugar, vanilla and molasses flanked by ever-present oak. There’s an interesting light, salty note as well which just adds to the character.


The sweet notes stay present throughout the finish, which is a long and warm Kentucky Hug. This is when baking spice makes a big appearance–clove and cinnamon. And don’t expect it to leave anytime soon. This is a long finish and the spice stays with you for a long time afterwards (we’re not complaining).


Wow. Truly, this bottle hits all the notes Fred had mentioned. Which is surprising because we’ve heard a bit about how bottles can taste different from a time and place where they were sampled in the warehouse, the process of bottling can oxidize the bottles and cause them to lose proof, etc etc. However, this stands up almost exactly like Fred described; it’s decadently sweet and has an exciting and somewhat unexpected finish of powerful baking spice. These flavors would absolutely pair well with a cured ham – sweet and salty, savory and spicy.

This is a Bourbon that we would overwhelmingly recommend, especially those who enjoy the Booker’s line and the Jim Beam profile. But more than that, it’s just a solid, barrel-proof expression that has a great depth of flavor and features both sweet and spicy at different times on the palate. Plenty of character – just like Booker himself.

This is a decadent brown sugar and baking spice bomb that you won’t want to miss.

Full-bodied, decadently sweet, oaky and spicy. This is an excellent bottle in the very enjoyable line of Booker's releases.

8.7out of 10
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Meet the author
Homebar staff member
Kevin is the founder of Homebar.io. His enduring love for trying out different cocktail recipes and home bartending for friends is what led him to create Homebar. In addition to being a (very) amateur mixologist, he’s also a huge whiskey enthusiast and bottle collector. When he’s not voraciously learning about spirits and cocktail-making techniques, you can find him spending time with his family and his Golden Retriever, Molson.


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