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Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Review: Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey  78/100
a Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on January 15, 2011

Photo Courtesy of the Jim Beam website with Permission from J.L. Wheelock

Jim Beam is the flagship bourbon whiskey produced by the Jim Beam Distillery.  The distillery was founded in 1795, and has been operated as a family run business for seven generations.

Currently Jim Beam is produced at the Clermont Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky, and (according to the Jim Beam Website) is the best-selling bourbon in the world.  The spirit is aged for 4 years in white American oak barrels and bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume.

The bottle I am reviewing (pictured a few paragraphs below and to the left) is a 375 ml glass flask style bottle from my own private collection.

In the Bottle  4/5

Although the bottle I am reviewing is the smaller flask style bottle, Jim Beam also arrives in the typical 750 ml flagon style bottle pictured to the right. This picture is from the Jim Beam Website and I was given permission to use it from the Beam Global team here in Alberta. The bottle is designed to be easy to store behind a bar, and just as important, easy to pour.  The overall presentation is fine. I would prefer something with a little more flair perhaps, but the bottle serves its function well. I would also prefer to see the abandonment of metal screw caps which expand and contract at a different rate than the bottle they are trying to seal, but I seem to be a lone voice in the wilderness railing against these terrible metal caps.  Time will tell if my voice is finally heard.

In the Glass  8/10

In the glass Jim Beam displays itself as a mahogany coloured bourbon whiskey with a rich hue and orange flashes. The whisky imparts a light sheen on the sides of the glass when swirled and displays swift running legs down the sides of the glass after wards.

The aroma from the glass is one of rough timbers freshly cut. A waft of vanilla rises with the timbers, and deeper down we have some dank corn, hints of clove and cinnamon, and oodles of raw honeycomb.  Waiting for a minute or so, I also catch some caramel/toffee aroma building in the glass as well.

This is a very typical bourbon aroma. Everything plays together nicely, although I occasionally sense a mild medicinal aspect which creeps in as the glass decants.

In the Mouth  47/60

The initial entry into the mouth is a little rough and tumble.  Cedar and Oak planks freshly cut have imparted a little bitter sap into the bourbon, and the sweeter notes of corn and honeycomb do not quite compensate for this dollop of bitterness. There is an earthy vegetal dankness deeper down consistent with sour corn mash. However, without the sweetness of honeycomb forming to complement the flavour, it seems to be stifled and muted. A welcome touch of rye enters the fray at mid palate giving the whisky a little more depth and complexity than one first imagines.

In all, we seem to have a bourbon which displays the harsher aspects of American white oak which have been captured before time has mellowed them. In my opinion the whisky needs more sweetness to combat the ribbon of bitterness that lies within the woody tannins and the dank corn mash. To that end, I added a touch of cola to my glass and the change was remarkable.  As a sipper the whisky is strained, but when mixed the added sweetness is just what the bourbon whiskey needs to find its legs.

In the Throat 11/15

Tasted neat, the finish contains a bitter woodiness that swatted my tonsils like a two-by-four. I did not need much coaxing to add a little ice. With the ice things are somewhat better, but I found I had to mix the bourbon before it became fully enjoyable. When mixed with a little sweet cola this goes down smoothly.

The Afterburn  8/10

Sometimes a spirit which is difficult to consume neat can find its life in another form. I noticed that Jim Beam Distillers also sells cans of Bourbon and Cola. A hint perhaps at the true destiny of the world’s best-selling Bourbon.  And that’s okay, as I am the first to admit that mixing with cola can be a wonderful thing!

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Recipe:

Although I have strongly recommended bourbon and cola as my recipe of choice for Jim Beam, I also had another recipe in mind which, when I tried it, was quite delightful. Its called the Kentucky Margarita, and I found it on the Jim Beam Website.  My version is a little different from the one found on the website; but, the overall idea of the margarita style is the same.

Kentucky Margarita

1 1/2 oz Jim Beam
3/4 oz  triple sec
1/2 oz Lime Juice (fresh)
1 to 3 teaspoons of Sugar Syrup to taste
lime wedge

Shake all of the ingredients with ice.
Pour into a chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with a lime and serve over ice.


As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74   Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79   You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84   We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89   Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94   Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+        I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

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