It took almost the full first half of 2022, but bourbon drinkers can finally get their hands on Jim Beam’s latest in the Booker’s line. This release — 2022-01 — is named for Ronnie Land, a 40-year Beam employee who worked at the company’s Clermont and Boston, Kentucky facilities. Land rose to Warehouse Manager and worked closely with Booker Noe.
According to a Beam release, Land knew “exactly where Booker preferred to store his namesake barrels and was trusted to prepare the samples for batch evaluation.” For someone so tied to the Booker’s legacy, it seems fitting Ronnie gets his own release.
This 124.3 proof batch was aged 6 years, 11 months, and 22 days. That’s a few months older than we’ve seen for the past few releases, but the proof is right in line with recent iterations (just 0.05% abv less than 2021-04). Let’s dive in.
The nose hits long before tasting begins, initial sweetness and vanilla wafting across the table while it’s resting in the glass. On closer inspection, it hits classic Booker’s notes: big, leathery, smoky. That’s followed by mesquite and applewood smoke, a tempting pair that drags the senses into summer barbecue territory. There’s something subtly vegetal here but tough to identify — maybe stewed tomatoes? In any case, the savory nose gets the mouth watering quickly and unrelentingly.
The palate hits much sweeter than nose itself suggests. There’s a rich caramel that covers the tongue without coating it. I don’t get the heavy oiliness common in Booker’s, but something more akin to sweet tea. This transitions quickly to honey and vanilla, a combo that threatens to overpower on sweetness but shows enough restraint to keep drinkers coming back. (A couple drops of water help the flavors stay in harmony.) Noticeably, this lacks some of the fruit notes we might expect from the expression; a little apple is there, but it takes some digging. Later sips finally bring on classic Beam peanut and chocolate, each with a backseat to that big hit of honey.
The finish is long and brings on more honey, along with baking spice and cinnamon sugar. It’s flavor-forward but not fiery on the way down; this batch actually seems to drink a bit below proof, making it an easier sipper than some of the others in the lineage.
This release boasts an interesting — and ultimately successful — interplay between savory and sweet. More fruit could have rounded out things, but overall, Ronnie’s Batch fits well in a lineup that’s produced a good hit rate of recent winners.
A- / $90 / bookersbourbon.com