Monday, July 30, 2012

Back to Basics with Beam

As a high fallutin' whiskey aficionado, I don't spend a lot of time drinking Jim Beam. I prefer me a single barrel, cask strength, limited edition non-filtered, get out your credit card type bourbon. In fact, if I'm drinking Beam, it most likely means I'm in an airport, on an airplane or staring down a six bottle bar at a wedding, convention, bar mitzvah, etc.

But my picky tastes aside, Jim Beam is the world's best selling bourbon (assuming you pretend that Jack Daniel's isn't a bourbon, as everyone seems happy enough to do). And what right do I have to call myself a whiskey blogger if I've never written up the standard Jim Beam line. Not much I tell you. Luckily, a Beam miniature bottle sampler is available for a mere $7.99 which includes Beam white, Beam Black, Beam Rye, and perhaps because misery loves company, Red Stag.

Jim Bean White Label, 40% abv ($15)

This has a light nose with candy, medicinal notes and some rye notes. The palate comes on sweet with some medicinal/rye type notes and ends with a bitterness that carries into the finish. It's not good, but it's certainly not horrible.

Jim Beam Black Label, 8 years old, 43% abv ($20)

The nose on this has some of the same candy notes as the White Label but with a dose of oak that gives it a bit more complexity. The palate is quite acidic without much flavor, then some chocolate malt notes, and then the bitterness kicks in. I actually think I like the White Label better than this. The main flavors in this are acid and bitterness and they don't play well together.

Jim Beam Rye ("Yellow Label"), 40% abv ($20)

The nose has rye but more medicinal than spicy. The palate is sweet with canned fruit and just a touch of spice. The spice is a bit more evident in the finish, but not by much. Tasting blind, I doubt I would have ever guessed this was a rye given out light it is on rye spice. This has been my general experience with Beam ryes, so I did a head to head with some Old Overholt, another Beam rye. The Yellow Label actually has a bit more rye spice than the Overholt, while the Overholt seems to have a bit more oak on it and lacks some of the rough edges that the Yellow Label has.

So there it is, the standard Jim Beam line. If I had to choose between these three Beams, I would definitely choose the rye, which has a bit more character. Honestly, these were not as bad as I expected, though I'll still reserve my Beam consumption to the wedding bar.

Later this week, I descend even further into the bottom shelf!


Macdeffe said...

SO how was the red stag, or do you drink stags with two g's ?


Josh Feldman said...

Perhaps my palate is not as refined, or perhaps I'm just so glad to be left in peace for a few minutes to drink bourbon, but those times in airports and parties I end up drinking Beam white and black I've always been surprised at how enjoyable I find it. It's not epicurean. It does have that musty Beam flavor at the back end. But I find over and over that bottom shelf bourbon beats the pants off bottom shelf Scotch or Irish or Canadian - let alone other spirits such ad cheap tequila or rum.

sku said...

Steffen, I reviewed Red Stag here. It's...sweet.

Aaron, absolutely. Beam, Jack Daniel's, Glenfiddich and Glenlivet and some of the blends are things I only drink in those contexts and they can be great there. Context matters, which is why I do all my tastings from the same exact place. These bourbons aren't meant for academic study, they are meant to be enjoyed in exactly the way you describe.

sam k said...

Hmmm. I always enjoyed Black a lot more than White, but it has been a while.

I appreciate your visising whiskeys that don't get a lot of review attention in the blogs. Maybe time to talk Turkey, too?

sku said...

Sam, I always thought I liked Black better as well, but this is the first time I did them head to head.

Oh, and if you think those don't get a lot of review attention in the blogs...stay tuned.