The Jim Beam Signature Craft review
Company: Jim Beam
Age: 12 years
Classification: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Breakdown: 77% corn, 13% rye, 10% malted barley
Price: c. £35
This is getting very difficult. The Signature Craft will be the 11th Jim Beam product we have reviewed on the site, and there is only so much history we can keep rehashing. So for this review, we are going to look at the distinguishing feature of the bourbon and run with that.
12 years old, that's a long time for a bourbon. In fact in bourbon years (think of it like dog years but less likely to shed on your carpet and chew your favourite trainers to bits) this is probably the equivalent of a 48-year-old man. Now here is the key question... does the fact this bourbon is aged longer make it better? Is there any correlation between a bourbons age and how good it is? Our answer would be - no. However, ask us if age makes a difference to the bourbon, and now you get a very quick - yes!
The key component to what makes a bourbon a bourbon is the barrel and the aging process. Sure the mash bill is very important, as is the water used & the barrel entry proof of the liquid. But until you put it in the barrel it can't actually be called bourbon. It needs to touch the inside of a new oak container before it gets the bourbon stamp. From there it's all about the interaction between the liquid and the wood. So the longer it interacts with it the more it will influence the end product - and that is where our stance comes from on the age. Just because the wood has longer to influence the bourbon it does not mean that influence is always to it's benefit. There is an excellent collection of industry views on the best age for a bourbon here at the Whiskey Wash website, we think it's well worth a read.
So will the Gents find those extra years in the barrel a positive? Or are we just going to be tasting a forest full of wood...
For this review, we drank it neat in a Glencairn glass
What we got –Very woody - splinters come to mind immediately, caramel, cherry, cinnamon, vanilla. If you wanted to introduce someone to a typical bourbon nose then this is the perfect one.
What they say we should get - Vanilla, oak, leather. Traces of dark dried fruits
What we got – Woody, dry, not predominantly spicy, vanilla, caramel follows through, not as solid as I would expect for a 12-year-old bourbon (Mr. Pie).
What they say we should get - Vanilla, corn, rye sweet-sour notes and a lot of oak
What we got – Overall a very dry finish with a pleasant peppery finish to it
What they say we should get – Medium, caramel, and wood with a hint of popcorn
There is no getting away from the wood here. Those 12 years have sucked up a lot of the oak from the barrel and it is the predominant note coming through on both the nose and the palate. Luckily though this is just the initial impression and very quickly it is followed up with caramel and vanilla with a touch of spice that all brings a balance to the bourbon.
Without a doubt, this is one of the better Jim Beam offerings and easily falls into the Gents list of everyday sippers. Very easy to drink and quite rounded once you get over the opening hit of oakiness.
We can readily recommend this as one for your collection and its price (at least in the UK) puts it nicely positioned in the mid-range bourbon area which, now that Elijah Craig has dropped their age statement, makes this the only 12-year-old in class at that price point.
7 out of 10 - Mav
7 out of 10 – Mr. Pie