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Flavored Whiskey Blind Taste Test — Jim Beam Vs. Jack Daniels

It’s time for another blind taste test. Today’s pick? Flavored whiskey from Jim Beam and Jack Daniel’s, two brands I really enjoy making a genre of whiskey I don’t particularly care for. Which made for an altogether fascinating experience.

Speaking generally, I find that almost all flavored whiskeys skew towards being overly saccharine. So be patient with me if you feel me having to stretch to find positive things to say throughout this blind tasting. The whiskeys themselves are already sweet enough, they don’t need help from me.

I also changed up the format slightly. I’m tasting six bottles staring with Jack Daniel’s and Jim Beam’s honey and apple expressions plus JD’s Fire (their cinnamon expression) and Beam’s Red Stag (their cherry liqueur infused with bourbon). I tasted the honey bottles against each other and chose one as a winner. I did the same with the apple expressions. Then the Fire and Red Stag were like a “Wild Card” round. In the end, I still ranked them all by taste.

I did find one dram I didn’t mind in all this chaos. I was kind of taken aback by it, in fact, because I’ve had the expression before and dismissed it. Today, it rang the truest and won the day. Click the prices to order the expressions that look best to you!

Part 1: The Taste

Zach Johnston

Taste 1 (Honey):

Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

Okay… I’m getting a lot of vanilla cream on the nose. In fact, it’s almost exactly like a box of Jell-O vanilla pudding but thin like it was made with skim milk. The taste is not that at all — it’s very sweet honey hard candies. The mid-palate lurches back towards that vanilla cream which doesn’t feel quite right with the honey candy. The end is very short and very sweet but more vanilla than honey.

Taste 2 (Honey):

Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

Well… this is weird. There’s almost nothing on the nose besides mineral water and a very slight touch of grain and fruit. The taste on the other hand explodes with a fresh honey vibe and peaks with a slight end-of-the-tongue spice note and buzz. The honey lasts and feels like I had a spoon of actual honey.

WINNER:

Taste 2 by far. It tasted like actual honey.

Taste 3 (Apple):

Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

There’s a really sour apple note on the nose that almost feels like an apple yogurt with a hint of wet wood. The taste is so sweet that it’s pretty much an apple Jolly Rancher through and through. It gets syrupy the longer it goes on, to the point where it tastes like the apple bar syrup you use for Appletinis.

Taste 4 (Apple):

Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

This is a sweet apple on the nose, almost Red Delicious. The taste is kind of like an apple cider — not the bubbly kind but those little stubby Martinelli’s Apple Cider bottles you get in delis. It’s also smooth and leads towards an apple cider oak barrel, with a touch of spice.

WINNER:

Taste 4. It was familiar and dialed back. It was sweet but the sweetness came via the apple, not the syrups.

Taste 5 (Wild Card):

Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

Wow! This nose is exactly like cinnamon ginger snaps. It’s boldly cinnamon and ginger forward to the point that I feel like it’s December again. The taste is all Red Hots with a good cinnamon spice that starts to get woody by the end of the sip. Plus, it still feels a little bit like whiskey. A definite perk.

Taste 6 (Wild Card):

Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

This nose is cherry candy that almost feels like cherry yogurt with a hint of sourness. The taste is pure cherry bar syrup. After another sip, there’s a slight hint of spice and maybe caramel somewhere under all that sugary cherry.

WINNER:

Taste 5 by a landslide. I have to say, I actually like that cinnamon whiskey quite a bit.

Part 2: The Ranking

Zach Johnston

6. Jim Beam Apple (Taste 3)

Beam Suntory

ABV: 35%

Average Price: $18

The Whiskey:

This product starts out with Beam’s own apple liqueur. The juice is then cut with a touch of Beam’s classic bourbon and bottled at a very low proof of 70.

Bottom Line:

This and the Red Stag are basically tied. Still, the overly sweet apple here was just not doing it for me. It kind of reminds me of a bygone era when apple syrups were considered a fine replacement for actual apples.

5. Jim Beam Red Stag Black Cherry (Taste 6)

Beam Suntory

ABV: 35%

Average Price: $18

The Whiskey:

This is the same as above. Cherry liqueur is cut with standard Jim Beam bourbon to create a mixer.

Bottom Line:

Again, this is so sickly sweet and only vaguely reminiscent of cherry. As with the Beam Apple above, there’s no sense at all that you’re drinking alcohol. I get that these are for mixing, but still…

4. Jack Daniel’s Honey (Taste 1)

Brown-Forman

ABV: 35%

Average Price: $25

The Whiskey:

Like Jim Beam, Jack Daniel’s starts by making a honey liqueur. They then add in their signature Tennessee whiskey to create a mixing liqueur with a touch of whiskey taste.

Bottom Line:

This was more like a vanilla whiskey than a honey one. Yes, there was definite and clear honey on the palate. But it was weirdly over-sugared and felt more like a facsimile of honey than actual honey.

3. Jim Beam Honey (Taste 2)

Beam Suntory

ABV: 35%

Average Price: $18

The Whiskey:

Jim Beam’s honey starts with their own honey liqueur that’s cut with Beam’s iconic bourbon. The expression is built as a mixer.

Bottom Line:

This wins out for Beam by actually tasting like real honey. It’s not as complex as the JD Honey above, but that felt like a good thing today. Still, this had the same problem as the other Beams in that I had no idea I was drinking alcohol.

2. Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Apple (Taste 4)

Brown-Forman

ABV: 35%

Average Price: $25

The Whiskey:

Jack Daniel’s starts by making their own apple liqueur before adding in a dose of their Old No. 7 to remind you that you’re drinking the good stuff.

Bottom Line:

This hit a sweet spot in that Martinelli’s Apple Cider vibe. I can see using this in a highball or mixed into a spicy, wintry cocktail.

1. Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire (Taste 5)

Brown-Forman

ABV: 35%

Average Price: $25

The Whiskey:

Cinnamon liqueur and Jack Daniel’s come together in this bottle. The cinnamon is given the spotlight with the Old No. 7 there to remind you that you’re still drinking Tennessee whiskey.

Bottom Line:

This was shockingly refined. It was truly spicy but in a nice clean way — derived from cinnamon and ginger. The overall experience was pleasant. I could actually see drinking this as a shot, in a highball, or even in an old fashioned.

Part 3: Final Thoughts

Zach Johnston

If I were ranking the Beam and Jack separately, it’d go like this:

Jim Beam: 3rd Red Stag, 2nd Apple, and 1st Honey.

Jack Daniel’s: 3rd Honey, 2nd Apple, 1st Fire.

At the end of the day, it was Jack Daniel’s Fire that won by a fairly big margin. There was no getting past the balance and flavors delivered. In fact, I’m thinking of mixing the Jack Daniel’s Apple and Fire to get a stewed apple pie vibe going and making an old-fashioned with that.

There you have it, folks. I came into this rolling my eyes pretty hard and I’ve left with an idea for a creative riff on a classic cocktail. That’s the beauty of a blind tasting, you never know where it’ll take you — even when you’re facing a genre of spirit that you don’t like!


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