Jim Beam is the best selling bourbon on the planet. I figure it's about time I addressed it on these pages. I've been watching the FX show Justified for the past month or so, and the main character, Raylan, drinks Jim Beam in almost every episode. It's funny, when he's drinking with his boss they go with Blanton's, but in his dive hotel room he sticks with good old Jim Beam. Or "Jim Bean," as he seems to pronounce it with his drawl. I had already been craving some cheap bourbon, so I picked up a handle of Jim Beam for 30 bucks to pair with an evening (hopefully several evenings) of Justified. The white label Jim Beam is their basic entry, 4 years old and 80 proof. Let's give it a go.
Taste-A lot of young corn. Very very smooth. The classic bourbon flavors (vanilla, wood spice, caramel, burn) are there but faintly. It makes you go for another sip to try to get some more flavor, which I guess is their whole strategy. It's like the Miller Lite of bourbon. Jason Pyle says the palate is "flat as a pancake." It's just a bit young for my liking.
Finish-I actually quite enjoyed the finish. It fills the mouth in a surprsingly pleasant way for such cheap stuff. I felt validated in my tasting abilities when I read Jim Murray's review after writing my own, and he said the finish is complex after a sluggish start, describing it as "playful brown sugar stirring things up."
Value-I'd say this is well priced for what it is. I'd rather save a few bucks and grab Evan Williams Black Label, though. I think that one tastes just a bit better, too. Or maybe spend 2-3 more bucks for Four Roses yellow label.
Intangible-For me, what's in the bottle is what counts, but I have to admit I would never want my favorite bourbon to be the best selling one. I feel like I need some individuality. Ditto with Jack Daniels and Tennessee whisky. The white label is just too boring for me, especially after tasting it.
Overall/Final Comments-The thing about Jim Beam is almost all their products are the same recipe. Jim Beam, Jim Beam Choice, Jim Beam 7 year, Black 8 year, Knob, Baker's, Booker's. There are pros and cons to this. The pro is that their flavor is so distinctive and provides a brand identitiy. The con is, well, it all tastes similar. That said, obviously the Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve 9 year will have a ton more interest in terms of flavor than white label. I think my favorite Beam product would be Old Grand Dad BIB. It's the Basil Hayden recipe. But I do enjoy Booker's, as well. But I digress. Jim Beam white is okay in a pinch, and at least you know every bar will have it. I'm not sure that's a compliment but it's not a criticism, either. As far as Raylan from the show, it suits him just fine. He is a simple kind of character who wants a simple kind of drink.