Being given a set of 4 Jim Beam bourbon related whiskies set in motion this vertical tasting. American whiskies are growing in popularity without question, but is this because of their high quality, cheapness or the freedom they seemingly enjoy to experiment?
The initial foursome were the black cherry red stag, the white label, the infused honey offering and finally, the Devil’s Cut 90 proof. With this foundation I’ll look to purchase several more samples to give a more complete picture of the Jim Beam bourbon operation. Maybe I’ll like some black cherry or honey in my bourbon, who knows but lets see.
Jim Beam Devil’s Cut 90 Proof
45% vol, apparently extracting the spirit absorbed into the wood and blending into the final product
Colour: burnt orange
Nose: a really soggy fallen tree trunk hence vanilla and some fennel. Cinnamon with some kindling and a hint of orange.
Taste: more of the wood vanilla and a certain smoothness I must admit, plenty of honey and cinnamon as well.
Overall: a middle of the road bourbon, inoffensive but at the same time it doesn’t grab you by whatever would get your attention. At this price I’d be picking up a supermarket label Scotch. Water is a no no.
Jim Beam Honey
35% vol, a whisky honey liqueur
Colour: apple juice
Nose: surprisingly it’s not a huge honey nose, its more complex with vanilla marshmallows, cinnamon, a little rubber and golden syrup. A little orange and some wet cardboard at the end.
Taste: urrrgh yuck. Honey obviously and that’s the lasting legacy right through until the finish. A very creamy vanilla and almost a washing up liquid, soapy aspect to it.
Overall: the kindest thing I can say here is that it’s an experience. One that would drive me straight into gin, which is saying something.
Jim Beam Red Stag – Black Cherry
40% vol, a whisky liqueur infused with black cherries
Nose: vanilla with wet cardboard, oddly fennel of all things and a worn matchstick box. The sweetness of honey and in the background blackberries.
Taste: dominated by black cherry and beyond some maple syrup. Vanilla is in the mix but you’re left with a cherry sugar rush that washes over any suggestion of depth or progression.
Overall: a really odd experience as the nose is reasonable for a bourbon and gives no indication of the utter dominance of the black cherry. It’s sickly sweet on the palate. A cough syrup with added alcohol.
Jim Beam White Label
40% vol, aged for 4 years after being distilled at a lower temperature
Colour: apple juice
Nose: sunflower oil, wood vanilla, some nuttiness and a little honey but a surprisingly tame presence overall with white pepper and a bread dough rounding it off.
Taste: develops like a classic core bourbon with the vanilla and blunt wood influences but with added sweetness. It fails to go anywhere thereafter and honey comes through more so on the finish.
Overall: a very lacklustre bourbon, showing its youthfulness and lack of depth significantly. Not one I can recommend and there are better purchases at this price point.
A very disappointing voyage into flavoured bourbons which enjoyed a massive appeal when they first debuted, but now by all accounts the novelty has worn off and consumers are looking elsewhere. Even the bog standard bourbons here are nothing special. If you need an alcoholic drink they’ll do the trick but anything beyond that is fairly pointless.
With the parent company also owning Auchentoshan, Bowmore and Laphroaig it begins to make sense. These are a trio of underperforming distilleries relying on past reputations. Nowadays content to throw out No Age releases at premium prizes and wrapped in marketing flannel. In reality the whiskies are a poor standard and it’s about time that this approach was changed before the brands are damaged critically.