On Whiskey: Booker’s, Baker’s,+ Beef

WARREN BOBROW (this article was first published in October 2012)

On Whiskey is a monthly column on whiskey and whiskey drinks by Warren Bobrow. For more of this great column, click this logo.

On Whiskey is a monthly column on whiskey and whiskey drinks by Warren Bobrow. For more of this great column, click this logo.

Aged Prime beef is my choice for food to go along with a glass of bourbon.  There is a certain mineral element to Aged Prime beef that Choice grade beef can never duplicate.  The same holds true for drinking bourbon whiskey.  It’s just meant for food!  I’m sure there are certain pleasures for drinking bourbon alone, but I’ve found, as my palate grows more sophisticated (read: older), that food just tastes better with the appropriate intoxicating augmentation.

Now please don’t get me wrong, I still love a bottle of well-aged Bordeaux with a hand cut Prime Shell steak.  But on this certain evening, I’ve forgotten the pleasures of the grape with this Le-Creuset Cast Iron pan seared and cracked pepper crusted slab of 28-day dry-aged Prime beef from my local German butcher.

When I’m feeling a bit cold inside, something more intoxicating is always called upon to bring out the inner soul of my steak dinner – bourbon, of course.

Baker’s Bourbon started my evening.  I had initially thought of a Baker’s and Soda- the soda water in this case is as carefully chosen as the bourbon.  To all of you who scoff at the possibility that I might add Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water to my perfect glass of Bourbon, I say to you that this was a highly unscientific tasting.  I eat and drink what I want when doing a tasting.  And as I said, I believe that bourbon tastes better with food, especially seared meats.  Since I was planning to have more than one glass of bourbon, I wanted to do it while enjoying my steak.

Warren Bobrow’s feast of bourbon, dogs, and beer. Photo by Warren Bobrow.

Perrier has a very specific minerality in its flavor profile. I find that Perrier goes beautifully with the wet stone-like flavors of Baker’s Bourbon. This splash of perfectly bottled sparkling water releases the hidden flavors lurking in the background.

Baker’s Bourbon is a product from whiskey distiller Jim Beam. This 107 Proof spirit is 7 years old.  It’s very consistent in the glass and soft on the palate from a “jug” yeast that dates back over sixty years.  Pleasantly sour on the front of the palate, Baker’s also has a sweet side to it. This purity reveals itself on the long finish dabbed with fine brush strokes of sweet vanilla and hazelnut tinged brown butter. The spine tingling finish catches your attention immediately, deeply warming the attentive drinker from ribs to stomach, and then moving vertically into your memory.  Once you’ve tried Baker’s you’ll never forget the creamy opulence and almost Cognac like finish. Perhaps this is why Baker’s is so good with food?

It mimics the grape.

Booker’s is also a product of Jim Beam.  This is not a “beginners Bourbon.”  But in my opinion Booker’s is a fine way to bring your already educated palate to another level. My bottle of Booker’s reads 7 years 1 month in age.  It rolls in at 65% by volume or 130 Proof. This Bourbon is unique in that each batch is somewhat different. I’ve seen bottles north of 130 proof and years aged as few as six and as long as eight years. My bottle of Booker’s is much drier than the Baker’s, made by the same distillery. The higher alcohol content absolutely demands a splash of branch water to release the hidden, inner elements of each sip.

Sometimes branch water is sparkling when it bubbles up to the surface of the earth, so a small splash of Perrier Sparkling water is a welcome augmentation to high proof whiskey. Booker’s is certainly an acquired taste because of the 130 proof heat. I’ve experimented greatly with Booker’s in the summer when my Kentucky Colonel variety of spearmint is at the peak of flavor. I’ve found that Booker’s makes a commendable, yet highly intoxicating Mint Julep.  Again, some will scoff at the mere thought that I would mix Booker’s with ice, mint and hauntingly dark Moscovado sugar.  I will reply to these dissenters only to announce that drinking is a highly personal art. We drink what we like, damn the torpedoes!

USDA Choice beef. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Tasting notes for the Booker’s Bourbon when enjoyed with a splash of Perrier Sparkling water for lift.

  • Vanilla fire gives way to veritable pinpricks on your tongue of brown sugar rolled cinnamon red-hots. There is a bit of smoke and salt in every sip from the charred barrels, but not too much, Booker’s is never overpowering. It’s perfectly balanced.  Booker’s is certainly not salty as the smoky elements of an Islay Scotch whisky.
  • Immediately as fast as a nearly 300 mph- TGV train in France is the rush of intoxicating super-heated steam barreling hither thither down your throat.  Perhaps these are the 130 Proof spirits talking to me, but I’d rue the day that anyone would want to drink this spirit absolutely straight.  It needs a bit of diluting from either one single cube of pure ice, or at the very least a dripping of fizzy water over the top.  The nearly two-minute finish is tucked into a caldron of wet velvet.  The aroma of grilled stone fruits finally leaves you as the flavor of the Jim Beam family history melds into the background.
  • You’re left with the syrupy contents of a can of Grade B extra dark maple syrup into your memory and your mouth.
  • This is certainly a gorgeous intoxicant.

I may not eat 28 day aged Prime Beef every day, but should I happen upon another cast-iron seared steak, that red wine will rest in the cellar where it belongs!


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