In honor of the Kentucky Derby, we have decided to kick off our “Gateway Series” with Jim Beam “White Label.” The gateway series is an attempt at preparing the neophyte for a trip to the average (or below average) bar. We will be reviewing the most common “well” whisk(e)ys and other easy to find drams.
Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (it’s the one with the white label), Aged 4 Years
40% ABV/80 Proof
Available just about everywhere
What the distillery says:
Constant. Guaranteed. Like gravity. Sunsets. Taxes. But a hell of a lot more satisfying. The same bourbon. Made pretty much the same way. By the same family . For 213 years. Sweet. Satisfying. Seductive. This is the world’s #1 bourbon. For a reason. Or several.
Seven generations of craftsmanship go into every bottle. Ingredients: Corn, rye, barley malt, water, time and pride.
What Richard says:
Nose: Honey and fresh cut wood. With water lighter vegetal notes start to creep out.
Palate: Spicy black pepper with the slightest, and I mean slightest hint of sweetness. It’s very harsh with a lot of alcohol sting.
Finish: This stuff goes down rough. All pepper, fire, and burn.
Comments: This is the bourbon most neophytes think of when they think of bourbon. It’s sweeter than scotch but harsh as hell. Not something I would reach for by choice.
Rating: Probably Pass
What Matt says:
Nose: Rubbing alcohol, vanilla, and something sour at the back (vaguely reminiscent of the excrement of an infant). With a little bit of water, it opens up to grape lollipops and the sweet smell of decay.
Palate: Big Red chewing gum and wood smoke. There’s also something hard to place that rolls around at the back of the tongue. It’s almost like drinking the beer from the sour mash straight. With water, the palate disappears.
Finish: Burns all the way down, comes back up and wraps around the edges of the tongue leaving traces of that sour smell. With water, the finish tastes like a three day old wet cigar butt.
Comments: I don’t want to sound like a snob by saying that I would rather drink just about anything than this. There is a reason it is primarily used as a mixer. If you want a Beam and cola, that is fine by me. I would not recommend this either neat or on the rocks. This Jim Beam expression desperately needs something to mask the taste. If you want a good sipping whiskey, this is not the one. There are other whiskeys in the Beam family that would be much more appropriate. Remember, Booker’s, Baker’s, Basil Hayden’s, and Knob Creek are all part of the Jim Beam line and more and more bars are carrying these in addition to regular old “white label.”
Rating: Probably Pass
Overall Rating: Probably Pass