September 17, 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: $15-20 MSRP (750mL)
From the Jim Beam website:
“Since 1795, Jim Beam has been crafted by the Beam family and distilled with a strong sense of family values. Seven generations later, it’s still made with those same values and aged twice as long as the law requires. Perhaps that’s why, today, Jim Beam stands as the World’s #1 Bourbon. Elegant. Smooth. Refined. That’s what 4 years of aging in newly charred American white oak barrels does to our bourbon. But every drop is worth the effort, and we love the idea of sticking to our great-great-grandfather’s recipe.“
Jim Beam is one of the best-selling bourbon brands in the US and the world, as well as one of the oldest names in the business, having operated through Prohibition with the likes of Brown Forman. It’s so widely sold that I’ve found it at some 7-Elevens in China. Just like Buffalo Trace, Jim Beam White is the gateway bourbon to everything else from Beam, including Jim Beam Black and two of my personal favorites: Knob Creek Single Barrel and Booker’s. Unlike Buffalo Trace, you can find Jim Beam everywhere, at any time, and with no markup. For the most part, Jim Beam White is an easily forgotten bottom shelf bourbon, but let’s give it a closer look in this Jim Beam review to see if it’s more than that.
Jim Beam White starts with a mix of moderately nutty, sweet, floral, and grassy scents. As always, the crushed peanut shell “Beam Funk” is front and center as the primary trait. Past all of that, there’s an underlying mintiness with vanilla and Dutch processed cocoa powder (not the sweet kind), as well as a dash of grated citrus rind and peach, adding some depth and complexity. The alcohol isn’t strong at all.
Swirling pushes the mint front and center with roasted corn and wood, followed by caramel sweetness and hints of cocoa, cloves, cinnamon, and spiced apples. Jim Beam White is quite mint-forward now, akin to spearmint gum. The grassy woodiness occasionally overtakes the sweetness, it’s still not overly woody. All-in-all Jim Beam White doesn’t smell that bad, but it’s not particularly complex or interesting either.
Sweet corn comes first followed by caramel and honey drizzle with a splash of orange and apple juice. There’s some light to moderate wood and mint, but the Jim Beam nuttiness is surprisingly absent in the taste. The flavors and mouthfeel are generally thin, but at least the alcohol is reserved as well.
Chewing riles up the woody bitterness, followed by honey, caramel, and mint. Slightly sour corn mash, orange peel, and cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove spice come next for support. The alcohol remains unchanged so it doesn’t smother the overall light flavors.
Alcohol tingles my mouth on the aftertaste, leading to a gentle honey, apple, and peach sweetness with some remaining skin, mint, and wood bitterness. The mint and oak tannins linger the longest. Overall, Jim Beam White is well balanced across sweet, minty, woody, and spicy flavors, but nothing stands-out to make it memorable or interesting. It is drinkable though.
Jim Beam White is honestly not bad for a “budget” bourbon. It’s pleasant enough to drink, but doesn’t have the complexity or depth for me to give it a “Mid Shelf” rating. It is still a step up from Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 and on par with Heaven Hill’s Fighting Cock. Strangely, Jim Beam White is noticeably more minty than Jack Daniel’s Rye, which is actually a rye whiskey.
Now to answer the burning question: should I buy Jim Beam White? No, unless that’s what you can afford (and I advocate for living within your means). If you can afford to pay a little more and still find it, I recommend that you consider buying Jim Beam Distiller’s Cut, the 5-year age-stated and 100 proof version, for around $20-25. If you can bear to spend more than that, I recommend Knob Creek Small Batch or Knob Creek Single Barrel. Now if you don’t want to pay more, I also recommend Evan Williams Bottled in Bond, a surprisingly interesting and enjoyable whiskey with a similar nuttiness that’s potentially one of the best sub $20 bourbons out there. You have a lot of better options than Jim Beam White, but you can still do worse.