When these bottles of Jim Beam Bourbon showed up at my doorstep, it got me to pondering about the barrels that were used in aging this spirit. I had recently tried some Tequila that had been aged in bourbon barrels and not too long ago some Scotch that had been similarly aged. It seems to me that these bourbon barrels almost never outlive their usefulness. Those wily Kentucky Bourbon distillers were making a profit on their Bourbon as well as the used barrels. It turns out that there is really not all that much profit in those barrels after all.

As of late 2007, the price for a brand new standard American oak barrel was $270.00, French oak $600.00, and Eastern European $480.00. Well, a used 53 gallon barrel brings only about $85.00. Not only that but they have to be younger barrels used less than 3 to 4 years because after that the Bourbon interacts with the wood so much that there is hardly anything worthwhile in the wood left to repurpose. But I have to admit that those Kentuckians are still pretty wily.

Jim Beam Red Stag starts with their classic four-year aged bourbon and infuses it with cinnamon. They also have honey and tea leaves infused Bourbon. Looks like Vodka isn’t the all purpose flavored spirit after all. Flavored bourbons, just like flavored Vodkas, aren’t for everyone but they can mingle well in mixed drinks.

The Red Stag definitely has the full nose of cinnamon, sort of like those red hot candies rather than the more subtle aroma of cinnamon the spice. There’s an air of sweetness about it as well and that’s supported by a bit of alcohol poking about in the background. Straight up in the glass the aroma loses some of its intensity and actually becomes inviting with a bit of oak poking through the sweetness.

It is thick and oily on the palate and I mean that in a nice way. It continues to be subtly sweet and spicy. Upon swallowing, I finally get the Bourbon taste I have been missing. That taste is good old Jim Beam’s smooth Bourbon. The finish is smooth and peppery but pleasant.

I might use this Bourbon during the Holidays to spice up mixed Christmas treats or possibly even as a dessert Bourbon (if there is such a thing) after a nice meal. I doubt it will make true blue Beam Bourbon fans happy but it might get a few new heads turned in Bourbon’s direction. At only around $18.00 per 750 ml bottle, it is a novelty worth trying during the holidays for sure.

Jim Beam Black is an 8 year old straight up traditional middle priced Bourbon that runs $18.00 to $20.00 per 750 ml. The nose is a subtle Bourbon aroma with a bit of oak and vanilla and a hint of leather and a bit of alcohol. I have to admit I didn’t find it very complex yet it was pleasantly subtle. On the palate, the smokiness seeps through the Bourbon flavor and the vanilla and oak and I pick up a bit of citrus and the mixture is pleasing, not over-stated. The finish is smooth and clean with an ending tingle. It’s a decent little Bourbon for the price and could just become a daily sipper at that price point. You could certainly get more bang for the buck at two or three or many times more dollars, but at this price point, you’re getting your money’s worth.

By George Brozowski

For more George’s Rants and Raves click here