It’s amazing what can happen overnight. I recorded our Jim Beam Single Barrel bourbon review on Sunday night, January 12th, and went to bed thinking about the long history of the Jim Beam brand and how they’ve worked hard over the years to bring American bourbon everyone around the world. I then woke up on Monday morning to the news that Suntory was purchasing Beam for an estimated $16 billion dollars. Holy crap!
There’s more than enough people putting forth their opinions on the deal so I won’t burden you with another long opinion piece. But let me say that the Japanese hold whiskey in very high regard. I lived in Japan for a few years (unfortunately before I fell in love with whiskey) and they really, really love drinking whiskey. I think it’s safe to say that Suntory will do a great job of leading Beam and building upon their long history and respected product line. And don’t forget, Four Roses is already owned by Kirin, a Japanese company. There’s nothing to fear in the deal as long as supply meets demand. And to that point, I believe Jim Beam’s first-ever single barrel bourbon is going to put that to the test in 2014 and beyond.
The new, and first-ever, Jim Beam Single Barrel bourbon is scheduled to hit the market in March of this year. We were honored to be sent a pre-release sample in late December to taste and share our thoughts with everyone. Before you watch the video here is some information directly from Beam about the new release.
Jim Beam® Single Barrel Bourbon is the brand new, first-ever single barrel offering from the world’s No. 1 bourbon brand. This hand-crafted Kentucky Straight Bourbon expression represents Jim Beam’s seven generations of history and offers some of the very best liquid Beam’s distillers have produced. Stringently hand-selected (less than 1% of all Beam barrels qualify for this bottling), each barrel is individually bottled and hand-numbered with care to ensure a unique profile and premium quality that make for a perfectly crafted bourbon. Starting in February 2014, fans can visit the American Stillhouse in Clermont, KY to actually hand-bottle their own Jim Beam Single Barrel and by late 2014, will be able to select their own full barrel.
Let’s take a look at how Jim Beam Single Barrel bourbon compares to the White and Black labels.
Age: 4-7 Years
Year: 2013 (received our sample in December 2013)
How I Drank It: Neat.
My Nose Noticed:* Caramel | Vanilla | Mild Oak | Hint of Corn, Orange & Pepper
First Sip: Vanilla | Corn | Dry Oak
The Burn:** This has by far the smoothest finish of the regular Jim Beam line (White & Black label.) Oak comes out in the finish with a bit of lingering spice with very little actual burn. Overall the finish is clean and dry which really left me wanting more. I like a good surge of warmth in the back of my throat and this one just didn’t deliver.
Neat, Splash or Rocks: I’d suggest drinking this one neat. Adding water and ice really dulled the sweet vanilla and caramel notes which resulted in a strong oak flavor coming forward. It was simply too oaky and one dimensional with water and ice.
Share With: You can’t go wrong sharing this one with a fan of Jim Beam. I really think longtime fans are gonna love this one. It’s different from what they’re used to but still has many of the familia traits associated with Jim Beam – most noticeably the strong corn flavor that I associated with Jim Beam.
Worth The Price: At a suggested retail price of $34.99 I think only time will tell if regular Jim Beam drinkers will purchase this repeatedly. It’s definitely a better Jim Beam but at $15 more than Black label, and $20 more than White label, I think it’s a stretch for most Beam regulars. And to be honest, if you’re a single barrel loverI think you’ll try it out once or twice but after that you’ll stick with other single barrels. This one just doesn’t have the complexity and depth of others currently on the the market.
Bottle, Bar or Bust: This is definitely a bar purchase for Jim Beam fans. If you’re a single barrel drinker I think one bottle isn’t a bad investment either. You can then decide after that if you want to keep one around to enjoy or share with friends. I imagine this one will be big for Father’s Day this year as folks get excited about buying their dad or grandfather something different than just White label.
*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?
In closing, I truly believe that Jim Beam fans are going to enjoy this new release and the only possible hurdle to its success could be the price. It’s a big jump from the White and Black label so I’ll be curious if it’s too much to get regular Jim Beam drinkers to switch on more than just a special occasion. That being said, I hope it succeeds so we’ll continue to see this type of innovation from Beam under their new ownership for years to come.