(Editor’s note: Our whiskey reviewer Richard Thomas explains his love of this year’s Whisky Bible "World Whisky of the Year" award.)
When I learned Jim Murray had named Booker’s Rye his pick for best whiskey in the world in the new Whisky Bible, I wasn’t surprised.
When some of that lovely juice passed my lips back in June, the year was only half over ... and I already knew I had my pick for best whiskey of the year, too.
The fan favorite Booker’s brand is known for its uncut, unfiltered bourbon, and Booker’s Rye comes in at a whopping 136.2 proof (68.1% ABV). The whiskey was made 13 years ago by its legendary namesake, Jim Beam Master Distiller Booker Noe, using an unusual mash bill with the rye count up in the 70s or 80s percentile. The typical Kentucky Rye is only 51% rye, and the typical Booker’s Bourbon less than seven years old, so on paper alone Booker’s Rye was already in its own category.
The result is a whiskey bursting with out-sized character, an oaky vanilla bomb balanced against a surge of rye spiciness and supporting fruity notes. For liquor pushing 70% alcohol (much more and it could power your car), it’s surprisingly mild—another point in keeping with the Booker’s Bourbon style. This is a whiskey with the kind of personality that comes into a room and owns the place without saying a word.
When Booker’s Rye was released four months ago, the recommended retail price was $299.99. Many bottles were snapped up fast; while 2016’s best new whiskey is still out there to be had, one should expect to pay $500 to $600 for it. That’s actually cheap compared to some past Whisky Bible winners, such as Yamazaki Sherry Cask, which commands prices in the middle four figures.
Some other notes on the Whisky Bible: Author Jim Murray tested 1,241 new samples for his book (tough gig). Glen Grant Aged 18 Years Rare Edition was the first Scotch on the Whisky Bible winner’s list since 2014, coming in second. And the regional winners included Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye (Canadian Whiskey of the Year), Redbreast Aged 21 Years (Irish), English Whisky Co. Chapter 14 England (European) and Yamazaki Sherry Cask (Japanese).