Jim Beam Signature Craft 12 Year Bourbon Photo

Jim Beam Signature Craft Bourbon Review

In Bourbon Whiskey Reviews by Patrick "Pops" Garrett2 Comments

Earlier this summer Jim Beam was kind enough to send us samples of Jim Beam’s Signature Craft series featuring a 12 Year and a Rare Spanish Brandy bourbon. Scheduled to be released in August they asked if we would mind sampling them and sharing our thoughts with our readers. Never ones to turn down a request to enjoy bourbon we initially thought we’d do our standard review of each bourbon. However, after some internal discussion (and sampling of the product) we decided it would be more fun to invite local bourbon drinkers together for a blind tasting and video review of the bourbons. After a month of planning we finally made it happen this past weekend. Our tasting panel consisted of four St. Louis-based bourbon drinkers – all with varying levels of bourbon experience.  Some have been drinking bourbon recreationally for over 30 years while others have just gotten into bourbon the last few years and are admittedly at the beginning of their personal bourbon journey. In short, it was a diverse group that resulted in some enjoyable banter about featured bourbons.

Having only produced one other video for Bourbon & Banter we knew that pulling a blind tasting off while taping was going to be a challenge.  We were lucky in that everyone rose to the occasion and was very patient with our efforts to capture enough useful content to share with everyone here on the blog. Let us know what you think of the finished product in the post comments.

In regards to our blind tasting format each attendee was provided with 3 bourbons to sample along with a bourbon flavor wheel to assist them in identifying flavors and aromas. Two of the bourbons were from the Jim Beam Signature Craft line while the other was not. We added the non-Jim Beam bourbon into the line up to make sure people were not able to figure out what they were tasting. As we tasted each bourbon notes were written down and our observations were discussed openly. After all the bourbons had been sampled I revealed each one in order and followed with open discussion. Once we were finished with the tasting portion of our event we then asked each attendee to give us their feedback on video. From there we edited our footage and produced the video below.


What I love most about bourbon tastings is that everyone gets something different out of a bourbon when they drink it. People new to tastings are often challenged to identify even the most basic flavors while experienced drinkers not only identify hidden flavors but also comment on things like mouthfeel and flavor depth. Our video illustrates this perfectly and will hopefully encourage many of you to attend more tastings and be more vocal in expressing your thoughts on what’s in your glass. There’s no right answer. What you taste doesn’t have to align with what the distillery lists in their tasting notes.

I want to give special thanks to the folks that attended our tasting and allowed us to share their feedback via video. It’s a brave thing to do and we hope you found the experience as rewarding as we did.

Now that you’ve seen what others think, let’s dig into my Jim Beam Signature Craft Bourbon Review and don’t forget to chime in with your feedback in the comments after the post.

Jim Beam Signature Craft 12 Year Bourbon Photo
Bourbon Name:
  Jim Beam Signature 12 Year

Proof: 86

Age: 12 years

Year:  2013

How I Drank It:  Neat.

My Nose Noticed:*  Cinnamon | Oak | Vanilla

First Sip:  Sweet Vanilla | Oak | Peppery Spice

The Burn:**  Jim Beam has been in the bourbon business a long time and their experience really shines through with the balance on this one. Despite 12 years in the barrel the oak notes don’t get too far ahead of the other flavors keepings things in good order. The burn is decent but could have used a bit more intensity in my opinion. While there’s good balance with this one I wish the flavors were more pronounced. At 12 years old I was expecting more intense flavors and complexity. Knowing that I tend to prefer more intense flavors, this might just be a new favorite for many bourbon drinkers that traditionally find older bourbons unapproachable.

Neat, Splash or Rocks:  While drinking this one neat is perfectly acceptable I found that adding an ice cube helped to bring out more sweet vanilla notes. It didn’t result in the complexity I would have liked it did help to make it more interesting.

Share With:  I think it’s a great choice to share with a white label Jim Beam fan who is looking to try something older and doesn’t want to stray from their beloved brand. Would also make a nice gift for Jim Beam fans when you’re looking to show them how much you appreciate their friendship.

Worth The Price:  At a suggested retail price of $39.99 I’m going to pass on making this a part of my bourbon collection. It’s a solid and enjoyable bourbon but it doesn’t really fit my palette and I don’t think it measures up to other offerings in the $40 price range or 12 year age range.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  At $40 a bottle you might want to give this one a try at your local bar once it becomes available. Another option would be to get a few Jim Beam fans together to split the cost of the bottle. If you’re already a fan of Jim Beam I think it’s a safe investment for when you want to enjoy something a little more refined from Jim Beam. But then again, you’d probably be better off exploring their Small Batch Collection.

*I like to let my bourbon sit in the glass for at least 5 minutes before I start to smell it or have a drink. I personally find that it’s better to let some of the alcohol waft off before diving in. If I’m drinking bourbon on the rocks I skip the waiting and dive in both feet first.
**Some of you refer to this as the “finish” but let’s be honest. Don’t we all just want to know if it burns good?

Explore our complete library of bourbon reviews to help you choose your next perfect bottle.

Jim Beam Signature Craft Rare Spanish Brandy Bourbon Photo
Bourbon Name:
  Jim Beam Signature Rare Spanish Brandy

Proof: 86

Age: No Age Statement

Year:  2013

How I Drank It:  Neat.

My Nose Noticed:*  Fruit | Cedar | Vanilla

First Sip:  Raisins | Honey | Vanilla

The Burn:**  The addition of brandy definitely adds some flavor dimension. As a result, the burn is more noticeable than on the 12 Year and lasts a bit longer – all good things in my book. The trade-off, however, is that the balance isn’t nearly as good. The brandy flavors are enticing but hover somewhere between too much and not nearly enough. With every sip I wanted more and more brandy flavor to help balance things out. Since the brandy was added into the bourbon, and not the result of finishing the bourbon in brandy casks, it would be nice to see Jim Beam balance it out a bit more. Clearly that’s my personal preference and something I’ll need to come to terms with on this one.

Neat, Splash or Rocks:  I recommend drinking this one neat as I found that water, even a small amount, muted the brandy flavors that made this one interesting.

Share With: I’m torn on this one. Part of me liked the addition of the brandy and the flavor it imparted on the bourbon, but another part of me thought that it was trying too hard to be something it wasn’t. It was like the brandy flavor was just waiting to take over but could never quite muster the strength to do so. I came away wanting more of the brandy flavor while having to settle for just a tease. One of the attendees summed it up well when he said that he didn’t like “bourbons that tried to hard to be something else.”

Worth The Price:  Like the 12 year, this one comes in at a suggested retail price of $39.99. I think it’s a bit overpriced for the bourbon that’s in the bottle but I’m willing to cut it some slack since I find the addition of Spanish brandy intriguing. If you’re not into the idea of bourbons being finished I would definitely skip this one. Everyone else might just find this interesting enough to want to grab a bottle before it’s gone. Remember, Jim Beam Signature Rare Spanish Brandy is the first of a limited release series of bourbons to be released annually.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  If you’ve got the money I’d grab a bottle for your home bar so you can have others try it with you when they visit. It’s interesting enough for experience bourbon lovers to explore while novice drinkers will enjoy its sweetness and easy drinking.

*I like to let my bourbon sit in the glass for at least 5 minutes before I start to smell it or have a drink. I personally find that it’s better to let some of the alcohol wafts off before diving in. If I’m drinking bourbon on the rocks I skip the waiting and dive in both feet first.
**Some of you refer to this as the “finish” but let’s be honest. Don’t we all just want to know if it burns good?

To help reduce the overall length of this review I decided to omit some of my traditional background information on the bourbons being reviewed. If you’re inclined to read some additional information or see what other folks thought of both releases you can explore the following links.

The Oldest Jim Beam Ever

Review: Jim Beam Signature Craft 12 Year & Rare Spanish Brandy





About the Author

Patrick "Pops" Garrett

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Patrick Garrett, "Pops" as he's known to his friends, is the founder of Bourbon & Banter, LLC and claims the title of Chief Drinking Officer (CDO). A long-time marketing professional and photographer, Pops hopes to use his professional experience and love of Bourbon to spread the Bourbon Gospel and help everyone realize the therapeutic power of having a good drink with friends. Read Patrick's full profile.


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