Jim Beam Rye Whiskey: 40% abv
Background: Jim Beam is obviously a big player in the world of bourbon, and if you are taking Jack Daniels out of the equation, they are the biggest. Rye Whiskey, as we may or may not have stated in the past, is in the stages of resurgence after its staggering loss of popularity post prohibition. Bourbon gained more traction because of its sweeter, more pleasant flavor, whereas the intense, spicy nature of rye quickly fell out of favor from the general public. It looks like the public has grown a pair again, and since the big guys have caught wind of it, they are jumping on the bandwagon. It isn’t as if Jim Beam Rye has been put on the shelves yesterday, so it probably seems like it has always been there, but on the cosmological scale of whiskey, this is a coming back in the Rye world. The question becomes, does Jim Beam do this well, or should we keep walking past the now-iconic bottle to something less recognizable.
Nose: Right off the bat, you get a burning intensity from rye whiskey that could arguably be much less pleasant than bourbon, but don’t let that deter you on. Smell on. Once you get past the initial intensity, you will find a little more rye grain coming through to add. You will get some vanilla and anise coming into the nose after the whiskey starts to open up. There is a modest hint of caramel that layers over the aromas. There is an interesting sense of creamy, fruity notes coming through, akin to bananas and light yellow apples and other tropical notes. There is a sense of spiciness coming through, but it is pretty ambiguous and light.
Arrival: The arrival to this Rye whiskey, is surprisingly creamy, with some banana from the nose coming into the arrival. This is complimented by a sweet corn smoothness. There is some rye and malt grain coming through, with big vanilla flavor. There is also a slight oakiness. The flavor is surprisingly mild in the arrival, and does not to elude to a very dynamic body or finish.
Body: There is a buttery, vanilla, and oak flavor coming through in the body. It is actually rather sweet, and non-obtrusive. The rye character is pretty light, and doesn’t really present the full intensity of what a rye whiskey can be. Surprisingly, there is more of a corn-flavor dominance coming through in the body, than the rye character.
Finish: The finish is probably the most intense part of the whiskey, imparting a peppery, rye, character to the whiskey, with a light brininess counterbalancing the peppery nature. There is a corn flavor that comes through. There is a minty character that works into the end as well. The finish is still not very dynamic, and although the whiskey has flavor that is enjoyable, it is pretty non-complex. There is some sweet fruitiness coming through later in the finish, but it fades down rather quickly. Fruit flavors might include berries and golden apples, but it was hard to pick out. The finish isn’t terribly long, nor is it terribly short.
Nose: Well, as per last time, the grainy intensity comes to the forefront. The nose is pretty similar after adding water. The creaminess is still there, if not amplified from before. With that being said, there is no major transformation to the aromas coming out of here.
Arrival: Well, the arrival is certainly a mellow experience here, with almost nothing happening without swishing the rye around in your mouth. A blanket taste of vanilla starts off, but as you let the whiskey sit, an intense spiciness creeps into the picture. This lives through the body and finish as well.
Body: The body translates some of that spiciness into gingerbread and cinnamon flavors, but carries over the general feel from before. Some of that banana and cream type flavor that was seen before is now just as lively as before water was added.
Finish: The finish, disappointing, becomes much duller after some water is added to the equation. Unfortunately, due to the fact that this whiskey sits at 40% abv, there isn’t a whole lot of room for growth. That does detract, and it should come as no surprise that the results of adding water can be a little bit deterrent from the already meek flavor.
Final Comments: This is, in fact, a whiskey worth buying. Now, that does not mean it is terribly complex, nor does it mean it bears semblance to the classic rye whiskey. This takes on a contemporary approach to the rye flavor, with a little modesty. This sits comfortably close to the Jim Beam bourbon, probably by design. I think we would see this rye come to life if only they didn’t cut it down nearly as much. At 46%, this would be a great buy, albeit the rye content is probably awfully close to 51%. We would venture a guess that much sweeter grains were used in this mash, and it takes away some of the influence of the whiskey. We’d also conjecture that this would do better with another two years in the barrel. At the end of the day, you won’t go home crying if you buy this whiskey, but you might consider some others before pulling the trigger. Hopefully, we will be helping with that in the future.
Why you’d buy it: You want a soft introduction into rye whiskeys on a budget.
Why you wouldn’t: You really already know about the world of rye out there, and know there are better gems to be found.