October 15, 2019
Distillery: Jim Beam
Type & Region: Bourbon, Kentucky, USA
Composition: 76% corn, 12% rye, 10% malted barley
Aged: 4+ years – straight bourbon without an age statement
Price: $20-25 MSRP (750mL)
From the Jim Beam website:
“When bourbon ages, a portion of the liquid evaporates through the barrel and up toward the heavens. Believed to be angels claiming their dues, this has been dubbed the “angel’s share.” Jim Beam Devil’s Cut is not that portion. Instead, it’s made from the liquid that gets trapped deep inside the wood of the barrel—the devil’s share. We take the liquid we extract from our barrels, blend it with extra-aged Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey and bottle it at 90 proof to create a premium bourbon with extra depth and complexity. Designed to be enjoyed neat or on the rocks, Jim Beam Devil’s Cut has a robust flavor with deep color, aroma and character.”
Jim Beam Devil’s Cut is another bourbon from the Jim Beam family, but introduces a novel twist. This bourbon’s differentiating trait is that some of the blend comes from bourbon extracted from the barrel itself, not just from what’s normally poured out of it. Since the extracted bourbon is likely incredibly woody, Beam blends it with their regular bourbon to provide balance. When they say “blended with extra-aged…bourbon”, it’s not clear if it’s blended with Jim Beam Black, White, or something else, but my guess is Jim Beam Black because it’s labeled as “Extra Aged”. It’s certainly an interesting idea, so in this Jim Beam Devil’s Cut review, let’s find out if this unique extraction method yields better bourbon for the drinker.
Jim Beam Devil’s Cut is wintergreen and mint forward with wood, honey, orange rind, and a little sour corn mash. There is some sweetness, but it’s primarily minty from the rye, different than Jim Beam White, which is sweeter with honey. It reminds me of standing in a pine forest in winter, a pleasant thought. There’s some clove spice underneath the mint, but it’s faint just like the alcohol.
Swirling releases more musty wood and sour corn mash with cocoa, as well as some dried grass that may also come from the wood. Honey and vanilla sweetness come afterwards, but it’s all permeated with wintergreen and menthol, like Vick’s Vaporub. The alcohol is a little stronger, but not by much. Jim Beam Devil’s Cut smells pleasant enough. It’s not great, but I don’t have much to complain about.
Oh boy, Jim Beam Devil’s Cut tastes nothing like it smells. While the nose is generally wintery and mint-forward, the initial lightly sweet flavors are quickly overrun by bitter oak. The slightly sweet caramel and corn mash are buried beneath the wood stampede. As oaky as it is, the flavors overall are oddly bright. The oak seems to add bitterness and dryness, but without the darker brown sugar, maple syrup, charred wood, cocoa, cinnamon, or nutmeg flavors. It makes sense that whiskey extracted from the barrel itself is woodier, but the lack of wood-influenced sweetness and spice is strange.
“Chewing” brings out a little more of the caramel and vanilla sweetness, but there’s still the constant and pervasive oak bitterness that pretty much drowns out everything else. While I also taste some minty corn mash and cocoa that float in the sea of oak, any semblance of fruitiness has long been lost to the bottom of the oak sea. The good news though: it’s not hot at all.
The finish, very much like the taste, is mostly oak bitterness with a little something sweet and minty. Jim Beam Devil’s Cut may be the oakiest whiskey that I’ve ever drank, even out-wooding Elijah Craig Barrel Proof and Stagg Jr. Whatever hope I had of tasting something delicious was completely wiped out by a tsunami of oak tannins (yes I’m really leaning in on the nautical analogies).
Note to self, extracting the leftover whiskey from the wood itself probably doesn’t lead to great results.
I was hopeful that I wouldn’t mind Jim Beam Devil’s Cut because Jim Beam White is decent enough. I was so wrong. The nose is actually pleasant, with wintery mint abound, but in my mouth the initial light caramel sweetness is quickly invaded by an overpowering and unpleasant oaky bitterness. Oak in and of itself is not a problem since I’ve enjoyed my fair share of oaky bourbons such as Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, Stagg Jr, and Knob Creek Single Barrel. The problem is that Jim Beam Devil’s cut lacks other flavors to add balance or even divert some of my attention away from the oak.
My advice: if you’re going to drink Jim Beam, you’re better off drinking Jim Beam White. Otherwise in the $20-25 range, you might also consider Jim Beam Distiller’s Cut, Evan Williams Bottled in Bond, Elijah Craig Small Batch, Buffalo Trace, and Larceny Wheated Bourbon. You have so many better options than Jim Beam Devils Cut, so don’t waste your money on it. Admittedly, I’ve still had worse whiskeys as part of my whiskey journey, but this is really bad.