Jim Beam is an American Bourbon whiskey brand, and the largest selling Bourbon whiskey brand worldwide. Historically engaged in a tussle for superiority with Jack Daniel’s for the title of the bestselling American whiskey, only to have their product outsold by the makers of ‘Tennessee whiskey’.
Anyway, the Beam family moved to American soil from Germany centuries ago. They made their home Kentucky, and Jacob Beam began producing whiskey at his farm. The family made whiskey their business by selling barrels of Corn whiskey, which Jacob would go on to call, Old Jake Beam Sour Mash.
The Jim Beam brand name wasn’t adopted until 1943, and the name was chosen to honour James Beam, the man responsible for reviving the fortunes of the company after Prohibition. He rebuilt the Clermont Distillery in 120 days claims Jim Beam, and has been perhaps one of the most important people in the history of a brand that claims to be the number one Bourbon whiskey maker worldwide.
Nearly seven generations of the Beam family have been involved with the business since its inception. In fact, the current Master Distiller, Fred Noe, is a direct descendant of Jacob Beam. Although the Beam Corporation was merged with Japanese alcoholic beverage manufacturer Suntory to create Beam-Suntory, the family still shares a strong bond with Jim Beam.
The Jim Beam White Label is the flagship Jim Beam, and it has been the company’s bestselling expression for many years. Jim Beam claim they continue to make the White Label using the same formula they have been using since the inception of the brand in 1795. Although the formula remains a secret, Jim Beam does have to meet the standards to qualify as a straight Bourbon whiskey. This requires it to be distilled from a mash bill that contains at least 51% Corn, and to be matured in new American Oak barrels. Jim Beam opts to mature their spirit in charred new Oak barrels for up to four years.
There is also Rye and malted Barley that go into the mash bill, the proportions of which haven’t been divulged for obvious reasons. This is a reliable budget Bourbon whiskey, and a bottle that most people wouldn’t mind having around for a daily dram. There is an acetone profile all over, yet it isn’t too harsh since the sweetness from Corn is present, and so is the smoky caramelized Oak. This is accompanied by flavours of creamy vanilla and spicy white pepper, and a faintly sweet finish. Not the bottle that could knock your socks off, but it is just good enough.
Another reliable release from Jim Beam, which according to the company, has been distilled in a pre-Prohibition style. As most Rye whiskeys, this one isn’t afraid to make its presence known on your taste buds. Rye whiskeys have notoriously been considered as a whiskey thatis ‘not for everyone’, and the Jim Beam Rye falls comfortably under that description. For the ones who love it, there could be nothing better but for the ones that don’t like it, they might never really develop an affinity for it.
So is the Jim Beam Rye any good? Definitely. It brings to the fore everything that people love about Rye whiskey, and has been known to really elevate a whiskey cocktail. Quite spicy, as one might expect, and there is that caramelized Oak, some hints of vanilla and leather. It’s not the smoothest Rye whiskeys out there, but it is definitely not one of the bad ones. Famously scored an impressive 92 points at the Ultimate Spirits Challenge in 2015.
This was an eight year old Jim Beam straight Bourbon, and available as a six year old in some regions but Jim Beam decided to drop the age-statement completely in 2015. The bottle also uses the term ‘Triple Aged’ which surprisingly does not mean the spirit has been aged in three different barrels. Instead, Jim Beam have chosen a complicated way to communicate that the whiskey has been aged three times as much as the requirements for straight Bourbons. Could they have said it better? Probably, but the lack of specified guidelines in America, unlike Scotland could be to blame for that one.
Now about the whiskey itself – this is a smooth, more refined Jim Beam straight Bourbon, and has gone down quite well with long-time Beam lovers. Even the slightly higher ABV at 43% works because of how mellow this expression really is. There is spice and vanilla on the nose right off the bat, and you get caramel sweetness on the palate with a soft citrus influence. Very smooth, and an excellent sipping whiskey for people that truly love Jim Beam. For others, this isn’t too bad to mix into a cocktail, or be enjoyed with a splash of water.
This is an interesting expression from Jim Beam, and although it did have the appearances of a fancy gimmick when it first came out, the result was surprisingly not as bad as presumed. The Jim Beam Devil’s Cut is a blend of the company’s six year old whiskey, married with spirit extracted from the Oak barrels that have absorbed spirit over the years. The influence of the Oak in this whiskey is truly admirable.
Jim Beam refer to the Devil’s Cut as a premium Bourbon, perhaps they mean from the Jim Beam stable itself. The whiskey is quite complex by comparison, and the flavours have definitely been honed by the contact with wood for years. Devil’s Cut is an amusing play on the Angel’s Share legend, wherein the evaporated spirit during maturation is referred to as the angel’s taking what they are owed. The Jim Beam Devil’s Cut has a lot going for it, with sweet vanilla, Oak and spice playing pivotal roles. There is caramel, charred smoke and cinnamon to play the supporting roles. Good stuff, and should not be avoided if you have the chance to try it.
Jim Beam Bonded is another trip to the vaults of history by the Kentucky based distillery, and this time they are ‘following the letter of the law’ stated in the Bottled in Bond Act of 1897. This Act stated that a whiskey must be aged for four years, bottled at a 100 Proof (50% ABV), and distilled at a single distillery within a single distillation season. Jim Beam adhere to all the stipulated rules from the Act to pay an homage to the old ways and the old days.
This expression carries no-age-statement, even though the company states they have lived up to the Bottled in Bond Act of 1897. The Jim Beam Bonded has been matured in new American Oak barrels, charred to a crisp. It has a characteristic sweet and spicy balance, and not to forget a wonderful full-bodied personality. There is vanilla, salted caramel and lots of Oak to complete an overall pleasant drinking experience. Jim Beam have placed Bonded on a slightly more premium segment, above most of their regular brands.