Jim Beam is one of the most popular bourbon whiskey brands in the world so it’s only a matter of time before you find yourself in front of a glass or bottle of one of their offerings. But what do they taste like? Well, that’s where I come in.
Jim Beam whiskeys taste sweet with flavors of caramel, vanilla, corn, oak, toffee, spices and peanuts. Their rye whiskey has more spicy rye flavors, the flavor of the specific liqueur dominates the flavored whiskey drinks and the whiskeys with a more complex aging process have more char and oak flavors.
Of course, each of the 13 current Jim Beam whiskeys taste different, so the rest of this article will go into more detail about the flavors in each of them. These are not just my own personal opinions, but a consensus obtained with the help of my friends.
And by friends, I mean anyone who would help me with this project.
(Note: The earlier a flavor appears in the coming lists, the more people detected it. All flavors were detected by at least two people.)
Jim Beam White Label
This is the standard (and original) Jim Beam expression. It’s made from corn (at least 51%), rye and malted barley and is aged for four years in new, charred, American white oak barrels.
What the brand says about the taste of Jim Beam White Label:
“Medium bodied, mellow with hints of caramel and vanilla”
Flavors we found in Jim Beam White Label:
Corn, oak, peanuts, vanilla, ethanol, brown sugar, caramel, cinnamon, nuttiness
As you can see, we found the caramel and vanilla flavors but also a peanut flavor that many Jim Beam bourbons seem to have. As for being ‘medium bodied’ we definitely did not find that to be the case. This is a very simple whiskey (although we found lots of flavors as a group, each of us individually only found four or five) that can be enjoyed neat but since most experienced whiskey drinkers will find it boring and one dimensional would probably be better in a mixed drink or cocktail.
For more information about the best ways to drink Jim Beam whiskeys, see this more detailed article I wrote here.
Jim Beam Rye
This is the Jim Beam rye expression and it’s made from corn, rye (at least 51%) and malted barley. It’s also aged for four years in new, charred, American white oak barrels.
What the brand says about the taste of Jim Beam Rye:
“… a warm, spicy kick and a bite of black pepper, all rounded out by hints of vanilla and oak”
Flavors we found in Jim Beam Rye:
Rye, caramel, vanilla, toffee, spices, fruit
As you can see, this time the brand is correct, and we found both rye flavor and the regular bourbon flavors (vanilla and caramel) in this whiskey. It is fairly tame for what’s meant to be a spicier whiskey so it would be great for those who want to get into rye whiskeys by starting with something more mild or those who want a less spicy spicier whiskey for their cocktails.
Jim Beam Apple
Jim Beam make several drinks that are not technically whiskeys (due to their lower than 40%ABV and the fact that they contain additives) but a mix of White Label with different flavored liqueurs – in this case apple.
What the brand says about the taste of Jim Beam Apple:
“… a crisp, fresh burst of green apple with a warm bourbon finish”
Flavors we found in Jim Beam Apple:
Apple, bourbon, honey
This tastes mostly of apple, but you do get some of the underlying bourbon flavors. The apple is quite sweet which was fine for some of us, but others needed to add ice to reduce its sweetness to a more palatable level.
Jim Beam Honey
Also, not technically a whiskey, this is a combination of Jim Beam White Label and honey liqueur.
What the brand says about the taste of Jim Beam Honey:
“Sweet but not too sweet … without losing the mellow smoothness of our original bourbon”
Flavors we found in Jim Beam Honey:
Honey, vanilla, oak
We strongly disagree with the brand on this. This is very very sweet, and the honey completely dominates this drink, so much so that the whiskey part of it is pretty much absent. That doesn’t make it a bad drink though. Ice and water will tone down the sweetness while the rich honey makes it great for mixed drinks and cocktails.
Jim Beam Fire
Jim Beam Fire is a combination of White Label and cinnamon liqueur for a more spicy, fiery drink.
What the brand says about the taste of Jim Beam Fire:
“… fiery, sweet kick backed by the mellow smokiness of bourbon”
Flavors we found in Jim Beam Fire:
Cinnamon, bourbon, vanilla
We did find this drink to be fiery, but not as much as other cinnamon flavored liqueurs so it’s good if you want a cinnamon spicy drink that’s somewhat toned down.
We also found that we could taste some of the whiskey too.
Jim Beam Red Stag
Jim Beam Red Stag is a combination of White Label and cherry liqueur.
What the brand says about the taste of Jim Beam Red Stag:
“Balance of vanilla, oak, caramel and black cherry notes”
Flavors we found in Jim Beam Red Stag:
No. This was not balanced at all. There were no bourbon whiskey flavors, (vanilla, oak, or caramel) – there was just cherry. Now that’s not so bad, after all cherries are sweet but some of us also wanted to taste some of the underlying whiskey, which we did when we added some more Jim Beam White Label to adjust the whiskey to cherry liqueur ratio.
Jim Beam Vanilla
This is a combination of Jim Beam White Label and vanilla liqueur.
What the brand says about the taste of Jim Beam Vanilla:
“… the perfect balance of rich, full-bodied vanilla with subtle hints of oak, all complemented by the deep, caramel notes of bourbon”
Flavors we found in Jim Beam Vanilla:
Not ‘the perfect balance’, regular balance or even somewhat unbalanced. This was totally vanilla with the underlying whiskey once again completely absent. By itself this will be too sweet for some but not for others. That will depend on how much vanilla sweetness you like and once again adding some White Label will allow you to balance it perfectly.
Jim Beam Peach
This is a mix of Jim Beam White Label and peach liqueur.
What the brand says about the taste of Jim Beam Peach:
“… flavors of fresh peach with woody bourbon undertones …”
Flavors we found in Jim Beam Peach:
Peach, bourbon, vanilla, oak
It seems that Jim Beam is a bit hit and miss with whether the flavors from the whiskey and the liqueur balance or whether the flavor of the liqueur completely dominates the flavors of the whiskey.
This time the peach flavor is not too prominent, and you can taste some of the underlying whiskey. It tastes nice if you like the flavor of peach.
Jim Beam Orange
The last of the technically-not-whiskeys is a combination of Jim Beam White Label and orange liqueur.
What the brand says about the taste of Jim Beam Orange:
“… the flavors of juicy citrus with oaky bourbon undertones”
Flavors we found in Jim Beam Orange:
Orange, vanilla, oak
And we’re back to just orange and sweetness that was fine for some but too sweet for others. Don’t get me wrong, if you like the taste of orange you’ll like this drink, you just may have to add ice or water to tone down the sweetness if it’s too much for you and White Label for more bourbon flavors.
Jim Beam Black Extra-Aged
Jim Beam Black Extra-Aged is Jim Beam White Label that has spent more time aging in the barrel to improve its flavors – although how much more time is unknown.
What the brand says about the taste of Jim Beam Black Extra-Aged:
“… full-bodied flavor with notes of smooth caramel and warm oak”
Flavors we found in Jim Beam Black Extra-Aged:
Oak, vanilla, caramel, spices, corn, alcohol, honey
We did find more character and flavor than in the White Label but not enough to call it ‘full-bodied’. It also wasn’t enough to call it the ‘medium bodied’ that White Label was supposed to be. Nevertheless, it’s a sweet, easy to drink whiskey for those who want something better yet still simple.
Jim Beam Devil’s Cut
This is a blend of extra-aged whiskey and whiskey that was trapped deep inside the barrel walls. You know how whiskey that evaporates from the barrel is called the angel’s share, well being the opposite Jim Beam are calling whiskey extracted from the barrel wall, Devil’s Cut.
What the brand says about the taste of Jim Beam Devil’s Cut:
“Full bodied with intense oak and vanilla notes”
Flavors we found in Jim Beam Devil’s Cut:
Vanilla, caramel, wood, tannic, corn, char, oak, cinnamon, nutmeg, leather
We found Devil’s Cut to be better than the White Label and the Extra-Aged. You can’t tell from our notes, but the flavors are indeed much more intense – as the brand said they would be, and the increased char and oak balance nicely with the regular Jim Beam sweetness.
It’s still not complex enough to be called ‘full bodied’, but it is complex enough for drinking neat (unless you want full bodied complexity in your neat drinks). It’s also good as a mixer or in a cocktail because the more intense, bolder flavors will stand out.
Jim Beam Double Oak
This whiskey is first aged in new, charred, American white oak barrels for four years as usual but it’s then transferred to a second freshly charred, white oak barrel for an unknown amount of time, to give it more intense flavors and a smoother taste.
What the brand says about the taste of Jim Beam Double Oak:
“Intense caramel and toffee flavors with a distinctive spiced oakiness”
Flavors we found in Jim Beam Double Oak:
Oak, vanilla, caramel, corn, peanuts, toffee, fruit, spices, maple
Again, you can’t see this from our flavor notes, but this whiskey is better than the White Label and the Devil’s Cut. It’s a sweet whiskey that’s the Jim Beam flavor profile with more oak depth from the double barreling, which seems to have been a success.
(And sorry for going on about it but I still wouldn’t call it ’full-bodied’.)
Jim Beam Single Barrel
The Single Barrel expressions come from barrels that due to various circumstantial factors such as placement in the rack house, intensity of the season and length of aging, produce Jim Beam’s most flavorful whiskeys.
What the brand says about the taste of Jim Beam Single Barrel:
“Well balanced attributes of oak, vanilla and caramel”
Flavors we found in Jim Beam Single Barrel:
Vanilla, nuttiness, oak, caramel, peanuts, corn, alcohol, citrus, toffee, fruit
This is certainly more flavorful than the other Jim Beam expressions. It’s sweeter, it’s smoother with a lot more fruit and spices, and it’s all very ‘well balanced’. It’s nice when the brand gets it right. Which reminds me:
Is it full-bodied? I don’t think so. Is it medium-bodied? Ok let’s call it that. Is it good? Oh yes. It was the best Jim Beam whiskey we tasted, so if you like their flavor profile you’ll definitely like the taste of this whiskey.
You can buy any of these whiskeys at drizly.com here.