By Father John Rayls
Clermont, Kentucky is the home of the Jim Beam Distillery which is owned by Suntory Holdings of Osaka, Japan. This purchase of one of the most popular whiskey names in the world occurred in 2014. However, the Jim Beam 12 Year Old Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey was initially released in 2013 as a part of the Jim Beam Signature Craft Series before the purchase. The titles in this series include the Harvest Collection, the 12 Year Old, Jim Beam Whiskey 12 Year Old finished with rare Spanish Brandy, the Quarter Cask Bourbon and the Masterpiece finished in PX sherry casks at 100 proof. They continue to be produced and released under the Beam Suntory agreement. Beam also owns some of my favorite “go-to” bourbons such as Old Grand Dad 114, Booker’s, Knob Creek and even Baker’s. The Beam name is almost synonymous with the bourbon industry powerfully impacting all of the Beam products as well as the Heaven Hill products. Almost all other bourbon distilleries have been influenced in one way or another by the Beam family.
Jim Beam 12 Year Old Small Batch Bourbon is a Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey bottled at 86 proof. It comes in an unassuming bottle labeled as a part of the Signature Craft Series. The coloring is a slightly darker shade of copper, but has beautiful polished brass highlights reflecting the light. The appearance of the bourbon is similar in both bottle and glass. Legs are mostly thin, but prolific. The nose is medium to assertive and is filled with oak, leather, sweet roasted corn and light caramel. The alcohol is noticeable, but with no apparent burn.
If you are a long time Jim Beam Bourbon fan, you will notice a very familiar taste profile that is simply older. This is the oldest Jim Beam Bourbon yet released. It is a light to medium bodied bourbon whiskey that doesn’t really create any mouth coating. It does drink slightly hot, but adding water will simply dilute the flavors too much. All most all of the tasting experience occurs at mid-mouth with both upper and lower activity. The flavors are light and match well with the nose. There’s oak, leather, sweet corn with very light caramel and vanilla. The finish is medium and is also hot primarily with pepper rather than cinnamon, although, there is a slight touch of cinnamon initially. For the most part, this is a very easy drinking whiskey that is just slightly hot.
The main advantage here is the name recognition and the distribution network. You can pick up all things Jim Beam just about anywhere. The Jim Beam 12 Year Old Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is available nationwide for under $40.00. I would pick several of the other Jim Beam products over this one including the Jim Beam Black and the Jim Beam Double Oaked Twice Barreled. However, this is an excellent example of Jim Beam Bourbon done well. If you are already a Beam believer, you will love it. If not, you will at least find it educational and enjoyable. Either way, it will be an interesting addition to your collection.