Sunday, 15 January 2012

Jim Beam White

So, Jim Beam. 

The White Label’s the best selling Kentucky Straight Bourbon in the world. It’s probably the first bourbon most people try, and it’s pretty much the standard bourbon’n’Coke ingredient. Most rail bourbons in the states are usually this, Old Crow (one of Beam’s sub-Beam whiskeys), Kentucky Tavern, or Elijah Craig. 
It’s not technically the best-selling bourbon in the world – that goes to Jack Daniels. Before you go all flippin’ out, saying “hey hey Mr. Bourbon website guy, Jack Daniels isn’t a bourbon!” hold on one second. Bourbons, as I said before, must be whiskeys made of 51% corn, made in the USA, distilled beneath 160 proof, enter the barrel at less than 125 proof, bottled at more than 80 proof, and made in new charred oak barrels. Jack Daniels is all of those things. However, it calls itself Tennessee whiskey, and was given an official designation of that at one point – but it’s still technically a bourbon. The main difference between Tennessee Whiskey and standard bourbon is the Lincoln County process, where they filter the raw whiskey through a big ol column of charcoal before barreling it. (Most bourbons are filtered at least once through charcoal, but after their time in the barrel.)

ANYWAY, back to the review. Jim Beam is perfectly drinkable, and the white version gives you a straight-up example of the flavor profile for much of the distillery. Beam has no age statement, but it’s a straight bourbon, which means at least 4 years old. It’s 80 proof (40%), which is the minimum allowed. It’s a rye bourbon, but not particularly rye-y, if that makes sense. 
The nose has a strong alcohol bite, and a nice milky caramel hidden under it. There’s also a hit of yeast. There’s a lot of yeast in the taste too; this is pretty common amongst the standard Beam bourbons. It has a nutty taste, too, like almonds or pecans, almost tart alongside the sweetness. I’m not an enormous fan. There’s a bite, too, but not like high-alcohol heat – it’s like Diet Heat, burn without the real strength. It leaves an aftertaste, reminiscent of how Coke Zero leaves one – it doesn’t actually taste like aspartame, but gives me the same rounded “ugh” to it.

I give Jim Beam a POOR rating (1.5 out of 5). However, it works extremely well as a cheap mixer, particularly in soda (or pop or whatever you guys call it here, you heathens).

On the bright side, Jim Beam is pretty cheap. In the states, it was my go-to for a while when I was 21 and had $4 to spend on a half-pint (Kentucky Tavern was the super cheap). My bottom shelf later on was Heaven Hill or WL Weller, though I drank plenty of Beam as it was a common gift.

Here in Toronto, it holds the distinction of being the standard cheap  bourbon on the shelf. Wild Turkey is equally cheap, but it has a distinct high-rye flavor. However, with Four Roses only costing a few bucks more, FR is typically a better option.

Jim Beam gets a GREAT value rating, on account of it being the cheapest bourbon available and not tremendously off (~$10) its US price. Keep an eye out for it at the duty free if you aren't already bringing across good stuff; you can sometimes get 3 bottles for $30, which is awesome for mixing.

Tomorrow: Jim Beam Black!

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