Several times a year, a new batch of Booker’s bourbon is released, and each release honors a person, place or thing that was important to the late Jim Beam Master Distiller Booker Noe.
The first batch of 2019 recently hit store shelves, and it’s named in honor Teresa Wittemer, a longtime Beam employee.
More than 30 years ago, Booker first met Wittemer when she came to the distillery in Clermont to interview for a job. After only 15 minutes, Booker knew the former medical technician would be perfect in the quality control department, and the rest, they say, is history.
“My dad always trusted his gut when it came to good bourbon — and good people,” writes the current master distiller and Booker’s son, Fred Noe, on the label of “Teresa’s Batch.” “(Teresa) has been a part of the Beam distillery family … working directly on Booker’s bourbon to help me ensure every release is up to Dad’s standards and nothing short of the damn good bourbon people know and love.”
Noe consulted with Wittemer when selecting the bourbon, and its tasting notes include a spirit that is sweet up front but spicy in the back — perhaps like a bourbon mullet?
During Wittemer’s time at Beam, she has worked in all areas of plant quality, the Kentucky native tells Insider, a job she takes seriously. She recalls the first meeting with Booker, and remembers him being quite entertaining and so full of life. Her favorite memory of Booker was getting to watch him taste bourbon from the barrels and smacking his lips — also known as “the Kentucky chew.”
Wittemer believes Booker’s bourbon has done so well in the market because of her boss’ passion for the product.
“It has done so and will continue to because of the values he distilled in his bourbon and reinforced with his employees,” she says. “To continue his legacy, we hold each other to Booker’s high standards and are committed to ensuring each bottle we produce tastes as good as Booker would have made it.”
When not working at the distillery, Wittemer likes to sip on Basil Hayden’s and Jim Beam Black, and, of course, she always has a bottle of Booker’s on hand for special occasions. Asked whether high-end bourbon should be opened or collected, she quickly answers, “Drink it!”
“Good bourbon is meant to be enjoyed,” she adds. “Nothing tastes better than bourbon distilled by the greats and after a hard day’s work.”
“Teresa’s Batch” is bottled at 125.6 proof and should be available at liquor stores now for around $70.
During a quick break on the job, we asked Wittemer some very important questions …
What was your first concert?
Elton John back in the day! I won’t say what year!
What could you give a 40-minute presentation on with absolutely no preparation?
The attributes and tasting of bourbon. Booker took me under his wing and taught me how to make great bourbon. Without giving away family secrets, I could talk about bourbon and its significance for much longer than 40 minutes.
What job would you be terrible at?
What is your favorite restaurant or bar?
A restaurant or bar overlooking an ocean.
What is something you think everyone should do at least once?
Taste Teresa’s Batch! Each year, Booker’s Batch selects one person, place or thing to name its new batch after. This year’s is especially good, and aged six years, three months and one day, which means it’s been a long time in the making.
Where would you direct a newcomer of Louisville to get a feel for the city?
Since Louisville and Kentucky are world-renowned for bourbon, I tell newcomers to take a distillery tour at Jim Beam’s Urban Stillhouse, learn about Kentucky’s rich history with bourbon, and taste one of the best-made bourbons in the world.
What keeps you here (in Kentucky)?
My job and the people here. There is no one like a Kentuckian, and it shows in the products we produce at Beam Suntory. We take so much pride in our history and what makes us unique.