Distillery: Jim Beam
Type & Region: Bourbon, Kentucky, USA
Composition: 75% corn, 13% rye, 12% barley
Aged: NAS, likely 5-6 years old
From the company website:
“Every bottle of Jim Beam Single Barrel is unique and perfect in its own way—both in the distinct flavor and personality of the liquid itself and the wisdom of our master distiller printed on the back. It is an extraordinary bourbon experience that’s different each time you break open a new seal.”
In late 2019, Jim Beam updated their single barrel offering with a brand-new bottle design and additional 108 proof version, in addition to the existing 95 proof. I’m a bit of a proof whore, so while I mostly ignored the original 95 proof version, the new 108 proof version (higher than the 100 proof Knob Creek 9 Year Small Batch) certainly caught my eye. Not only is it the highest ABV Jim Beam-branded release, I would expect that it’s probably a little older than the other Jim Beam releases (my best guess is around 5-6 years old).
The barrel in this review is Barrel JB 000203071, although no other information is provided on warehouse location, fill date, or bottle date. In this Jim Beam Single Barrel 108 Proof Bourbon review, let’s find out if the higher proof and possibly additional aging create something worth buying.
Jim Beam Single Barrel has honey, dried orange and apple, licorice, fennel, vanilla, roasted oak, cinnamon, clove, and candied pineapple. It has a nicely fragrant mix of pretty much everything a good bourbon usually has, plus very manageable heat. This actually smells like a mature bourbon, making it a more refined and developed Jim Beam White, and a step up from the quite good Jim Beam Distiller’s Cut.
Swirling brings fairly rich, bright, and vibrant honey, baked apple, orange, vanilla, and pineapple at first, then a little more herbal fennel and licorice, then roasted oak, clove, and cinnamon. The Jim Beam grassy nuttiness is light at best, so it’s very easy to miss. Over time, Jim Beam Single Barrel Bourbon becomes more apple-y and orange-y, which is great. Unlike other Jim Beam-branded bourbons I’ve had, this single barrel brings some extra fruitiness and herbalness that makes it that much more interesting. And while it’s not so deep, complex, or unique, it still has enough fragrance and variety to be plenty enjoyable.
The flavors have a nicely rich honey, vanilla, orange, and apple sweetness, then more herbal and oaky notes led by licorice, fennel, roasted oak, clove, pineapple, and a little nuttiness. Jim Beam Single Barrel Bourbon tastes good, drinking closer to Knob Creek 9 Year Bourbon than Jim Beam White. “Chewing” gives me nicely bright and rich honey, vanilla, apple, orange, and vanilla, then fennel, oak, cinnamon, clove, smoke, and dried berries. It’s sweet, fruity, a little herbal, and solidly oaky and spicy, making it a fairly mature and delicious all-around bourbon. Even at 54% ABV, the heat is well controlled. The flavors aren’t necessarily spectacular or that rich / complex, but they’re developed and varied enough to keep me interested.
The finish has a balanced mix of honey, licorice, roasted oak, and coffee grounds. Over time, there’s more herbal, pineapple, and nutty notes. After “chewing”, I get a similar mix of honey, roasted vanilla, baked apple, orange peel, pineapple, fennel, roasted oak, and smoke.
Well well, the updated release of Jim Beam Single Barrel Bourbon is quite good, bringing a well-balanced and interesting blend of honey, fruit, herbal, and oak traits that cover the full spectrum from dark to bright. The higher ABV adds additional character without any unpleasant heat, so the barrel selection was also well done. It’s a ridiculous steal for the $25 I paid for it, and I believe it’s still an easy buy up to the ~$35 MSRP, where it starts to overlap with Knob Creek 9 Year Small Batch and the lower end of Knob Creek 9 Year Single Barrel. This Single Barrel is a massive step up from Jim Beam White and is worth the upcharge for the upgraded experience (if you can afford it of course).
That said, Jim Beam Single Barrel isn’t so complex or rich, but it’s not an issue when you consider what this is – a high quality $30-40 mid-range bourbon. Price doesn’t factor into the rating, so it’s just an observation and I’m certainly glad that Jim Beam added the higher ABV version. Jim Beam Single Barrel Bourbon 108 Proof version is definitely worth trying if you’re looking to upgrade from something like Jim Beam White or even Evan Williams Bottled in Bond, or you’re just looking for something worthwhile in the $25-40price range.