Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Jim Beam Gets Some Color: Brown Rice & Red Wheat
Last year, the Jim Beam released two bourbons as part of their Signature Craft series which used alternative mashbills, one with soft red wheat and one with brown rice. They are planning to release more using oats, triticale (a rye/wheat hybrid), six row barley and a high rye recipe. Of course, these are all bourbons so they all are at least 51% corn, but these alternate grains are used in the mashbill. The first two are both eleven years old, 90 proof and go for around $50 for a half bottle (375 ml).
Jim Beam Signature Craft Soft Red Wheat, 11 yo, 45% abv ($50)
A Jim Beam bourbon with soft red wheat instead of rye isn't very revolutionary since that's pretty much what Maker's Mark is. In fact, given that there is no requirement that the distillery be listed on a whiskey label, this could well be 11 year old Maker's Mark, which would be interesting since Maker's has never carried an age statement and is reputed to be much younger than 11 years old.
The nose has sweet caramel with, strawberries, raspberries and red licorice. The initial palate is intensely fruity with apple candy, then it picks up some spice, but it fades quickly, leaving a sweet, fruit candy finish on the nose and some pepper on the tongue. This definitely has some of the Maker's style candy sweetness, though more fruit comes out than in Maker's. It's a decent bourbon, candy sweet to be sure but not overwhelmingly so, and the spice adds some nice balance.
Jim Beam Signature Craft Brown Rice, 11 yo, 45% abv ($50)
The only other rice bourbon I'm familiar with is the 2012 Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection "Made with Rice." Let's see how Beam's version compares.
The nose on this one is pretty traditional bourbon with caramel notes, but it has a sweetness that's reminiscent of old, dusty bourbons. The palate is very unBeam. It's got strong mineral notes, almost like a Dickel (and tasting blind, I would definitely have guessed Dickel), which give it a lot more texture and depth than a typical Beam. Those mineral notes really blow up on the finish, which is quite long. It's quirky, but I like it.
These are well crafted bourbons, and it's nice to see Beam doing something truly innovative, but I wish they were about $20 cheaper. While I'd happily drink either of them, I don't think I'd plop down a US Grant for a half bottle of one of these.
Thanks to John Burlowski for the samples.