Here’s a fun activity to do with your buddies: organize a quick tasting of Jim Beam White, Black, and Knob Creek. They’re all the same stuff, but aged a different amount of time, and bottled at different proofs – White at 80, Black at 86, and KC at 100. For best results, water down the KC to around 80 so things are standard across the board, and you’ll get a great idea of what aging does to a whiskey. Beam White is 4 years and Knob Creek is 9 years old. Note that the age statement isn’t how old all the bourbon is, just the minimum age of the barrels included (so they could put older bourbon in the mix
There are actually three different versions of Jim Beam Black (henceforth called J.B. Black) I’ve drank since moving to Toronto. The J.B. Black you can get in the states (and, IIRC, the Duty Free) is an 8 year old whiskey. It’s marketed as being twice the required age, which it is – Straight Bourbon must be at least 4 years old. When I first moved here, Beam transitioned their J.B. Black sold in Canada to a no-age-statement bourbon (so we don’t know how old it is, but minimum 4 years). Then, a few months later, they introduced the 6-year-old Jim Beam Black now on the shelves of the LCBO. (You might be able to still find some No Age Statement bottles if you go looking, but I wouldn’t worry about it.) Funnily enough, they advertise the 6-year old as being TRIPLE AGED, since the minimum for regular bourbon is 2 years. We get an an extra age multiplier despite our version of Beam Black being two years younger!
The whiskey I’m tasting tonight is one of the no-age-statement bottles. I don’t have a 6-year on hand, but I’ll try and do a side-by-side if I end up with one anytime soon. The nose is already a bit smoother than the Jim Beam White. The bourbon itself still has the nutty/yeasty Beam taste, but is sweeter, and the finish has more burn and char, but the burn is more the pleasurable, wood-driven kind I like in my bourbon, with a little bit of spice (probably from the rye) peeking through. There’s still a tiny bit of that yeast-driven Beam aftertaste there that I’m not entirely fond of, but it’s pretty drinkable.
As long as you're doing more than just ordering a bourbon and Coke at a bar, it’s definitely worth the three dollars more a bottle than Jim Beam White, and goes toe to toe with Four Roses at the same price point. It doesn’t blow my mind or anything – I’ve had some really decent pours of 8-year J.B. Black, but even then it’s only a 86 proof whiskey with the standard Jim Beam flavor. I’m actually surprised – I thought it was a few dollars more than Four Roses Yellow Label, but at $28.50 it’s a pretty decent deal! It’s also one of the few bourbons where I’m only paying $10 more than what I paid for it in the states, but I guess technically what we’re getting isn’t the same as what they are, and not as valuable.
Jim Beam Black is good option to convert your buddy who drinks only Jack Daniels and thinks he’s a tough guy for it, since it’s got a bit more heat but still has that “smoothness” that people seem so crazy about. Just don’t pay a premium for it if you’re out at a bar (especially since it doesn't cost a premium price).
Jim Beam Black is average or above-average on most of its ratings, but value is a solid 2/2.
It's better tasting than most bottom-shelf bourbons and a few premium ones, and a great value. It lost points on the nose and finish, since I'm not a fan of the yeasty funk, but if you love plain old Jim Beam (and you're not a rich dude who drinks Bakers or Booker's every day) then Black should probably be your everyday pour. If not, but you don't hate Jim Beam completely, check out my next review: Knob Creek.