Thursday, September 11, 2014

Dusty Thursday: Jim Beam Distiller's Masterpiece 18 yo Cognac Finished

It's been a while since I did a Dusty Thursday, so I thought I'd crack open one of the earliest really high end bourbons.

Back at the dawn of the bourbon craze, Jim Beam was a leading innovator in American whiskey. They helped kick start the craze with their small batch collection. Then, in 1999, they became one of the first distilleries to try to move bourbon into the super premium direction.

That year, they released the Distiller's Masterpiece collection, an 18 year old bourbon finished in Cognac cask.  This was the first cask finished bourbon that I know of.  It went for the then startling price of $250. They followed up with a 20 year old bourbon finished in port casks.

Reviews of the series were mixed at best and the collection faded. Recently, now that finishing has caught on, Beam has brought back the Distiller's Masterpiece label for some new bourbons.

Today, I'm going back to the early days to try a slice of bourbon history: the original 18 year old, Cognac finished Distiller's Masterpiece.

Jim Beam Distiller's Masterpiece, 18 year old, 49.5% abv

I need to start this one out with a disclaimer.  I am not a fan of Beam bourbon, and I'm generally not a fan of finished bourbon.  Based on this, I definitely did not have high expectations for this bottle.

The nose on this has some rye spice and then sweet, almost sherry like notes.  The palate has brown sugar and vanilla with lots of candy notes.  The finish is minty.  This stuff is just delicious.  It's sweet without being cloying, and the wine finish really comes through.

Given my dislike of Beam and finished bourbons, this one really surprised me. It just goes to show that you should always keep an open mind.  Now I'm interested in trying the port finished version.


Eric said...

If I recall, Heaven Hill got their cognac casks from the same maker for the Parker's Heritage bottling. How does that one compare to the Beam?

Josh said...

Great write up, I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this one and I'm with you. I'm very interested in trying the port finished version.

sku said...

Eric, the Beam used Fussigny Cognac casks while the Parker's used Frapin. I thought the Beam was quite a bit better than the Parker's Heritage release. The Cognac notes in the Beam release were more integrated into the whole; the PHC tasted much more like a combination of bourbon and Cognac. Note that while their proofs were similar, the Beam release is 8 years older than the PHC.

Eric said...

Interesting, I thought Beam and Heaven Hill had the same cognac source but I'm wrong on that point.

On the matter of the ages, I wonder how long both were finished in the cognac casks?

sku said...

The Parker's was finished for just six months. I have no idea about the Beam.

Justin said...

I thought the PHC cognac finish was one of the best releases for the series. I'd love to try the beam cognac finish, but presently I cannot fathom the number of stars that would have to align to open the door to that possibility.

tanstaafl2 said...

Have never seen a bottle of the cognac finish but have had my eye on a bottle of the port finish for a while. Just not sure I could pay retail for it, much less the severe mark up the store owner wants for it now. But would love to at least try them both! Probably not going to happen though.

JCR said...

ever get around to trying the port finished version? recently stumbled across a bottle and am trying to decide whether it's worth the leap of faith on the cost.