Classic bourbon flavors that are straightforward and easy to appreciate.
A bit thin, overly simple, and lacking much complexity or subtlety.
As we continue to explore more available and budget-minded bourbons, we land today on Jim Beam Black. A relatively detailed summary of Jim Beam’s history was given in the review of Jim Beam Distiller’s Cut, so I’ll avoid repeating myself. Go ahead and give that review a read. Go on, I’ll wait 🙂
*long, contemplative sip from the glencairn*
All finished? Now lets get to the topic of today’s whiskey review – Jim Beam Black. First, you should know that Jim Beam Black has had a few different names in the past. It was first called “Jim Beam Black Double Aged 8 Year” when it carried its age statement, as it was aged for twice the length of Jim Beam Original (the white label). When Black lost its age statement in 2015, it became XA (or XA Extra or XA Extra Aged, depending on where you were). Now, it is simply subtitled “Extra Aged” on the label, leading you to believe that it is aged some unspecified period of time beyond the 4 years of the white label.
If you ever watch cable television here in the U.S. you’ve probably heard Mila Kunis proclaiming how Jim Beam Black is “the highest awarded bourbon” or “highest rated bourbon in the world” or some other nonsense due to some medal it received at a spirits competition in 2016. No disrespect to any whiskey – including this one – but those competitions are essentially the equivalent of a Little League baseball tournament where everyone gets a participation trophy and in the end “everyone’s a winner”. This is just my opinion. Now on to the review!
- Distilled, aged, and bottled by Beam-Suntory at the Jim Beam Distillery in Clermont, KY
- Mash bill of 77% corn, 13% rye, 10% malted barley
- No age statement
- Bottled at 43% ABV (86 proof)
Nose: Oak, leather, vanilla, and a touch of caramel and cinnamon. Straight forward and about as classically “bourbon” as an aroma gets. That said, its fairly light and thin.
Palate: The mouthfeel is thin and a bit oily. The arrival is quite sweet with vanilla and caramel, before some cinnamon and oak notes provide a bit of balance.
Finish: Medium length. The oak verges towards bitter here, which is not a bad thing, as it melds nicely with the sweeter vanilla notes. A nice subtle smokiness underlines the finish.
A note on water: Adding a few drops of water causes more vanilla and caramel to express themselves on both the nose and palate. While water washes out whatever small amounts of complexity existed, I think it improves the dram overall by bringing out a greater concentration of flavor. The score above reflects my thoughts without water added. With water, this is closer to 68/100.
Buying Recommendation: Worth buying a pour. This is a straightforward bourbon with minimal amounts of subtlety or complexity. However, the flavors form a simple and classic bourbon profile that is easy to enjoy. This is an easy sipper with nothing off putting, and is a good value if you can find it closer to $20. At $25 or more, it is noticeably behind bourbons like Wild Turkey 101 or Buffalo Trace in regards to overall flavor and complexity. While I’m not ready to call this a “solid” bourbon, I’ll certainly call it “above average” as the score reflects.
At WBSE we use a true 100 point scale for scoring to allow whiskeys to further differentiate themselves (as opposed to a letter grade scale where 90% of whiskeys fall between 78-92). This allows you to more easily compare scores between different whiskeys. Here is how the scale breaks down:
1-49: Varying degrees of bad
60-69: Better than average
90+: Truly Exceptional
All thoughts and opinions expressed are original to the author of the review or article. We are in no way paid to express any specific opinion about any specific company or product.