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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Bourbon

Jim Beam White

Based on bourbon's meteoric rise in popularity, it would appear that few are cutting back on their favorite bourbon in these inflationary times. If inflation is hitting your wallet as hard as it's hitting mine, you might find yourself looking to trim wherever you can. Can Jim Beam White fill a void in your budget?

More than Two Centuries in the Making

Founded in 1795, and passed down through the Beam family for seven generations, Jim Beam is the world's #1 best-selling bourbon. Each day, more than 800 barrels are filled that carry the Jim Beam name. Last year, more than 6 million cases of Jim Beam White were sold across the globe.

The Beam story begins with Johannes “Jacob” Beam who began producing corn whiskey in the new state of Kentucky in 1795. By the late 1880’s, the brand was selling nationally as “Old Tub” - a name that’s affectionately been brought back to life with its own brand in the Jim Beam franchise. Stopping production only during Prohibition, the brand name was changed in 1943 to Jim Beam.

Once owned by American Brands, Jim Beam purchased the Old Crow and Old Grand-Dad names in 1987. As American Brands split off some of its holdings, Beam transferred to Fortune Brands until it was subsequently purchased by Suntory Holdings - a Japan-based group of brewers and distillers - in 2014. Today, the consolidated company is known as Beam Suntory. Fred Noe continues the Beam family tradition as Master Distiller.

The Tasting

The mash bill for Jim Beam White - that is also shared with Old Crow and Knob Creek - is 77% corn, 13% rye, and 10% malted barley. Readily available in a variety of bottlings, each bottle carries the signature of James Beauregard Beam and the statement “None Genuine Without My Signature”. The finished product is bottled at a low 80 proof, compared to the 86 proof extra aged Jim Beam Black.

The bottle is listed as straight bourbon - indicating an age of at least two years. By statute, if the bourbon is less than four-years-old, and labeled as straight bourbon, the age must be disclosed. Since Jim Beam White doesn’t carry that designation, it’s safe to say that it is at least a four-year bourbon.

Eye: Sun-drenched straw with some short, medium thin legs draining down the sides of the glass.

Nose: Vanilla, roasted peanuts, apricot, and a hint of mint.

Palate: A burst of vanilla, lightly toasted oak, and spice. Very tame.

Finish: Short, with oak and spice. Very smooth and mellow, but that’s what it's supposed to be.

Overall: Jim Beam is one of those brands - like several in the industry - where consumers either love or hate the finished product. Baseball legend Reggie Jackson coined the phrase, “Fans don’t boo nobodies”. While many may downplay Jim Beam White’s simplistic, approachable, and unsophisticated profile, that’s part of what accounts for its global sales presence. Jim Beam White can often be found in my kitchen as the perfect bourbon for baking, marinating, or sauces.

So, are you trading down to Jim Beam White? 750ml bottles can often be found for $14, and handles on sale for $19. With prices like that, it is hard to beat. Some recent stories in the press are sharing that some consumers are doing just that and buying bourbon at lower price points.

I will go on record for saying that the seasons and temperatures influence my palate. In colder months, heartier, higher-proof bourbons just seem to taste better; similarly, lighter bourbons seem to hit my palate during the hottest summer days.

If you’re doing a whiskey-and-coke, this is probably your bourbon, as the bourbon flavor plays second fiddle. For the money, it’s not a horrible pour. Though, for just a dollar or two more, Evan Williams Black, at a slightly higher proof, or Jim Beam Black (with a little higher proof and age) have a little more flavor profile to offer.

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