Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by the party behind it. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link in this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
If you went to a craft cocktail bar of even middling ambition any time in the late aughts to early 2010s, there is a high probability that your bartender was pulling their bitters bottle or other garnish from out of a wooden box on the bar top with the word BOOKER’S boldly stamped in charcoal black along the side. Bartenders LOVED those boxes. Sturdy, quietly classy, and just the right size to be used for all manner of storage on the bar top, they were the perfect adornment to any whiskey-centric bar’s aesthetic. It was always a notable moment when someone ordered the last shot from a bottle of Booker’s because that meant a new box would be coming soon for us to utilize in some way.
It also served as a remarkably effective soft marketing tool for Booker’s Bourbon, as newbie whiskey enthusiasts inevitably wanted to know from whence that beautiful wooden adornment came. It would appear that the folks at Jim Beam have some understanding and appreciation of the power that box wielded in their branding because their first release in the “2023 Booker’s Batch” collection has been named in honor of Charlie Hutchens, the woodwork craftsman who designed and produced the now iconic vessels in which every bottle of Booker’s arrives. Indeed, the release notes for ‘Charlie’s Batch’ even goes so far as to declare that, “Charlie was one of the first people to help make Booker’s Bourbon a recognizable brand.”
Having begun his career actually working at the Booker Noe distillery, Hutchens left after several years to open a cabinet shop with his brother. Legend has it that he designed and crafted the first Booker’s Bourbon box in his garage and he and his brother have made every Booker’s box since. Their company continues to produce a wide variety of customized furniture for Booker’s and the Beam brand at large, and has also expanded into a producer/purveyor of bespoke whiskey-related and/or personalized wooden art and furniture pieces.
Dubbed ‘Charlie’s Batch’ in Hutchens’ honor, this Booker’s release, like all Booker’s releases, is bottled straight from the barrel and released uncut and unfiltered. Coming in at a robust 126.6 proof, it maintains all the prototypical elements of a Booker’s release, while still offering its own, elevated identity.
It is remarkably smooth for its high alcohol content (I found that four drops of water really brought it into balance and released some underlying tertiary flavors) and offers a remarkably restrained and well integrated oak element considering its seven plus years in the barrel. Hand selected by Booker’s Master Distiller Fred Noe, the juice in Charlie’s Batch is composed of bourbon taken from five different barrels in four separate rickhouses. They literally had to search high and low across their inventory to come upon the desired blend, a practice which may well be under threat to soon come to an end as technology advances.
Until then, however, the results here prove worthy of the effort. I found Charlie’s Batch to be a sipper best enjoyed slowly, over a period of several hours. A little bit of water really enhanced its vanilla notes, and a long time in the glass made all the flavors coalesce into an intoxicatingly focused experience of warm apple pie and cinnamon. Charlie’s Batch is an artisanal ode that lives up to the quality of the craftsmanship of the man it seeks to honor.
Cheers, Charlie! And thanks for all the boxes.
Tasting Notes: Booker’s Bourbon ‘Charlie’s Batch’ 2023-01
Vital Stats: Proof: 126.6 Age: 7yrs, 1 mo., & 8 days Price: 89.99 750ml
Appearance: Rich, dark amber, high, smooth viscosity.
Nose: Vanilla and roasted chestnut dance out at you, wrapped around a powerful ethanol heat, for an aroma that is both pleasant and cautionary about the high alcohol content. Like a ‘this is a robbery’ note delivered by a teddy bear. A couple of hours in the glass and the ethanol subsided substantially and all the aromas coalesced into an intoxicating bouquet redolent of fresh baked apple pie with a healthy dose of cinnamon.
Palate: Heavy but still silky mouthfeel that delivers a well balanced medley of oak, vanilla, and roasted nuts. The oak was prominent but without any tannic bitterness. Those cooked apple, malic undertones lingered softly on the elegantly long and smooth finish.