As I've mentioned before, my first exposure to bourbon was Jim Beam, courtesy of a fresher's pack at university. I didn't exactly give it my full attention back then, and to be honest my tastes were still more aligned to Hooch than spirits so it's fair to say I didn't fall in love with it at the time.
But quite a few years have passed since then – more than I care to remember – and it's only fair to give Mr. Beam another try.
This is the standard Jim Beam Bourbon, their flagship product and "essentially the same" as they've been making for 200 years – although the Jim Beam name only came in 1933, after the end of prohibition.
The nose is surprisingly light, with sweet honey, a hint of freshly cut wood and a surprisingly low alcohol heat. There's also a suggestion of marzipan once the whiskey has a chance to air. A splash of water doesn't substantially alter the aromas.
The initial taste is honey sweet with light, green apples and a touch of pepper – surprisingly delicate and refined. You're then knocked sideways by a deeply bitter assault on your tongue; boiled twigs and stewed tea with a harsh and abrasive rubbing alcohol that completely overwhelms the alluring start.
Water reduces the harshness a little, but you're still left with the alcoholic stewed tea and it erases that delightful start entirely.
There's some tantalising tastes and aromas and taken in tiny sips, the latter harshness can be largely avoided but it's not really winning me over. 1.5 stars, for that initial complexity.
Many thanks to Jim Beam for providing this sample!
This review was originally published 16th October, 2013. It was last updated 1st June, 2023.