As of this morning, whiskey hunters have a new prize to hunt down. Jim Murray has crowned the 2017 World Whisky of the year, and it’s a high-octane American Rye that’s nearly impossible to find.
Booker’s Rye is a special release of rye whiskey from some of the last barrels laid down by the late Booker Noe — the sixth master distiller at Jim Beam. Fred Noe, the seventh generation and Booker’s son, said this about the whiskey in a release earlier this year:
"When Dad helped pioneer the small-batch movement nearly 30 years ago, he introduced a whole new way of thinking about how whiskey could be made — introducing small-batch, high-quality whiskies like Booker's Bourbon and Knob Creek Bourbon with flavor like nobody had tasted before. Now, all of these years later, we're excited to keep this tradition alive by giving our fans something really special with these two limited releases made from some of the last barrels Dad laid down. Dad knew exactly what he wanted when it came to making whiskey, and I know these releases would make him proud."
Aged 13 years, one month, and 12 days, Booker’s Rye is the first rye for the Booker’s brand. It’s a sweltering 136.2 proof and a beautifully dark, menacing shade of amber.
Whisky Bible author and authority Jim Murray, in the upcoming 2017 edition, called this whiskey a “staggering example of a magnificent rye, showing exactly what genius actually means. A very big, unforgettable whiskey from a very big, unforgettable man.” He went on to describe it as having a “brain-draining, mind-blowing” nose and finish of “amazing depth.”
Let’s take a moment, also, to reflect on the fact that rye has won two of these awards in a row, further proving that the rye craze isn’t going to die down anytime soon.
Booker’s Rye may have the spotlight now, but it didn’t even get its own press release when it was announced in May. It shared one announcement with the vintage 2001 Knob Creek release (also delicious but far less rare).
Speaking of rare, now is a bad time to be looking for Booker’s Rye — especially in a store. Cue the laughter from your local liquor store owner. Booker’s Rye has been sold out for months, and since it’s a small batch, there’s no telling whether the next one (if it comes) will taste the same.
All of this is because there are (we think) less than 10,000 bottles on the market — a number similar to what you’d see for annual Pappy releases or Old Forester Birthday Bourbon. Never mind the fact that after last year’s winner, Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye was announced, there was a massive shortage so globally bad that most Canadians couldn’t even get their hands on it.
Buying aftermarket is possible, but Booker’s Rye retailed for $300 a bottle when it was first released, and has been holding steady around $450.
Expect that to go up by the time you finish reading this story. I’m already seeing it newly listed for $700 from aftermarket retailers… and climbing.