As I don’t really follow bourbon news I didn’t know anything about this oddly named release of Booker’s, not even that it existed, until Florin (a man who owns many red sweaters) sent me a sample. It turns out that this is one of several batches of Booker’s released last year to commemorate the career of Booker Noe (the man who created Booker’s back in 1992 and whose name is on every bottle). I had a terrible suspicion that “Noe Secret” was a pun on “no secret” and I am sorry to have to inform you that this is in fact true: apparently the man had no secrets. Well, I guess that’s better than a story claiming that this was a batch made from one of his secret recipes. Anyway, it’s at as high a strength as most other Booker’s releases (a very specific 64.05%) and is apparently six years, eight months and seven days old—which is a long way of saying that it is six years old. Let’s see if it’s as good as the regular batch of Booker’s I reviewed last week.
Booker’s Noe Secret (64.05%; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Much woodier than the regular to start and it’s rawer wood (sawdust, new lumber), almost pungent in its woodiness; concentrated caramel corn as well. There’s some red fruit lurking below but between the wood and the high strength it’s hard to get much of a handle on this. Well, the wood gets a little sweeter with time (and there’s some talcum powder and a bit of pepper too) but it’s still the dominant note by far. With a lot more time the wood recedes a little bit and more of the fruit peeps out (cherry, a bit of plum). With water it moves much further in that direction and becomes a lot more balanced; some peanut too now.
Palate: Thankfully, it’s not as overbearingly woody on the palate but it’s pretty hot and closed. The regulation corn etc. are there but all damped down by the alcohol. I’ll give it a little more time and a few more small sips and then it’s on to the water! With time it gets spicier and despite the mashbill I seem to taste notes I usually associate with rye (black tea, a bit of pine). Calms down a bit with time and air but, as on the nose, it takes water (and a fair bit of it) to push the wood back and bring out some fruit and some of that peanut note too.
Finish: Medium. Nothing new here to start—just alcohol burn. A bit longer and more balanced here too with water.
Comments: Well, the uncut-bourbon crowd will disagree but I think the high strength does this no favours. I really didn’t care for the nose neat and while the palate was not as woody as I’d feared it would be neat, it took quite a bit of water to make this approachable. It still didn’t add up to very much more than an average bourbon in my book though.
Rating: 83 points ( no more than 80 if I had been scoring it neat).
Thanks to Florin for the sample!