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Every Bottle Of Jim Beam’s Core Whiskey Line, Ranked

Jim Beam is the second best-selling American whiskey brand in the world, behind only Jack Daniel’s. That makes Jim Beam the best-selling bourbon, globally. The brand is in a growth phase, too — thanks to an industry-wide whiskey boom — with a nearly seven percent increase in sales between 2018 and 2019. In the simplest terms, there’s a very good chance that if you’ve ever taken a sip of bourbon, it’s come from one of Jim Beam’s many warehouses.

Which begs the question: What’s the best bottle of bourbon from Jim Beam’s main lineup?

First, a little context. There are seven core bottles in the line, with two limited editions from this year (Old Tub and Repeal Batch). That’s nine bottles of bourbon in total. Just to be clear, we’re not talking about the entire Jim Beam umbrella. We’ll rank the core expressions of Knob Creek, Basil Hayden’s, Booker’s, Baker’s, Old Crow, Old Grand-Dad, and Maker’s another time. This is just the seven core Beam bottles, plus the two 2020 limited editions. (We’re also not getting into flavored bourbons from Beam. That’s eight more bottles and a whole other style.)

So what are the best bottles of Beam? Check our ranking below.

9. Jim Beam Devil’s Cut

Jim Beam

ABV: 45%
Average Price: $22

The Whiskey:

This is an interesting bourbon. The “Devil’s Cut” in this case is what’s left in the oak of the barrel after the “angel’s share” evaporates during maturation. That extracted hot juice is re-barreled and aged again. Finally, it’s blended with six-year-old Beam and cut down to proof with that soft Kentucky limestone water.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a clear sense of a charred oak barrel with a hint of spiciness and honey on the nose. The sip leans into the oak with a cinnamon-spiked cream soda sweetness and body. A bit of caramel corn arrives late, with a mellow billow of smoke setting off a lingering finish.

Bottom Line:

I do like this expression but it’s just missing something that I can’t quite put my finger on. I’ve had it on the rocks, in a highball, and in a cocktail, and it was… fine. But, I’ve never really reached for it again — hence its ranking here.

8. Jim Beam

Jim Beam

ABV: 40%
Average Price: $18

The Whiskey:

This bourbon has a low-rye mash bill. It’s aged for four years before the barrels are blended and it’s cut down to 80 proof. This is a lot of folks’ entry point into the wider world of bourbon because it’s a quaffable whiskey that’s very affordable and on pretty much every liquor store shelf right at eye level.

Tasting Notes:

You can sense the corn next to classic bourbon notes of caramel, vanilla, and orchard fruit. The sip centers the vanilla and caramel as a distant echo of oak arrives on the tongue. The sip warms, with a bit of spice next to a sweetened caramel corn edge on the fast finish.

Bottom Line:

This is a solid all-around whiskey. You can shoot it with a beer back. It works in a highball. You can mix up old fashioned cocktails all day long with it. More importantly, it’s so cheap that you can practice making cocktails with this and not break the bank.

7. Jim Beam Double Oak

Jim Beam

ABV: 43%
Average Price: $22

The Whiskey:

This was initially released for the international market, no doubt to compete with double oaked single malts from Scotland. It’s now available in the U.S. and worth giving a shot. The juice is aged in new American oak per bourbon trade laws. The whiskey is then transferred to a brand new oak barrel for another round of aging, adding some nice depth to the dram.

Tasting Notes:

There’s, of course, a rush of wood on the nose but it leans more towards a dry cord of firewood than a charred barrel. The vanilla and caramel drive you towards toffee sweetness and a wisp of campfire smoke on the palate. By the medium-length end, you’re left with the vanilla, wood, and smoke lingering together.

Bottom Line:

This is an interesting sip and blooms nicely with a touch of water or a few rocks. The smokiness really adds that little something which helps this whiskey stand out. That also makes it a nice highball candidate.

6. Jim Beam Black Extra-Aged

Jim Beam

ABV: 43%
Average Price: $22

The Whiskey:

This expression replaced the old Black Label 8 Year. The juice in this bottle is aged longer than your average four-year-old Beam, but there is no age statement on exactly how long. The best way to think of it is that it’s aged for as long as it needs to be, according to the distilling team.

Tasting Notes:

This bourbon is where Jim Beam starts to get dialed-in to its core notes of vanilla, caramel, corn, and oak, with a hint of orchard fruit. Yes, all of those elements were there in standard Jim Beam above. But there’s more refinement in this whiskey with a little bit of sweet smoke added in. By the end, the vanilla is more like a dried vanilla pod, the caramel is richer, the fruit is a bit more tart (sweet apple-ish), the oak is more toasted than charred.

The fade isn’t too long but sticks with you.

Bottom Line:

It’s really hard to argue with this bourbon at this price point (it could easily cost $30 or more). This one works with some rocks or in a highball but really shines as a cocktail base.

5. Jim Beam Repeal Batch

Jim Beam

ABV: 43%
Average Price: $16

The Whiskey:

This bourbon was released in 2018, to celebrate the 85th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition by recreating the first batch of bourbon made by Jim Beam after the dry-era ended. The bourbon was a hit and has become a yearly limited release from the brand.

Tasting Notes:

This one draws you in with the smells of a sizzling skillet full of bananas in brown butter and brown sugar with a dollop of vanilla. The palate carries on in that direction, adding in cornmeal, cinnamon spice, and a touch of woody oak. The end comes along fairly slowly with the oak, buttery fruit, and vanilla fading quickly through the senses leaving you with a touch of sweet smoke and bitter char.

Bottom Line:

This is a stand out on the list. Still, it reminds me more of Tennessee whiskey (thanks to that banana edge) than a classic Kentucky bourbon. I don’t say that like it’s a bad thing. I actually really dig this bourbon, especially in a highball. It’s just that I’d rather drink a couple of different Tennessee whiskeys that nail these flavor notes a bit better.

4. Jim Beam Single Barrel

Jim Beam

ABV: 47.5%
Average Price: $36

The Whiskey:

This is an interesting whiskey. Each bottling is pulled from single barrels that hit just the right spot of taste, texture, and drinkability according to the master distillers at Beam. That means this juice is pulled from less than one percent of all barrels in Beam’s warehouses, making this a very special bottle at a bafflingly affordable price.

Tasting Notes:

Toasted oak, fairground caramel kettle corn, and oily vanilla pods greet your senses. The palate delivers on those promises and adds in a fresh honeycomb sweetness next to a rush of zesty orange oils and a wisp of cherry pipe tobacco smoke. The sip warms up with a mild matrix of Christmas spices as the caramel corn sweetness edges this whiskey towards a big, long finish.

Bottom Line:

You really need to add some water and let this one bloom but it’ll be worth taking your time with it. I also really dig this one in a Manhattan with a good rinse of orange oils over the drink and a nice cherry dropped in.

3. Old Tub

Jim Beam

ABV: 50%
Average Price: $24

The Whiskey:

This expression used to only be available in half-bottles and only at the distillery. This year, Beam decided to release it nationwide for a test run and it’s a hit. The limited-edition juice is a tribute to what the brand was — both in the label and in the bottle — before Prohibition. Yes, Jim Beam used to be known as Old Tub Bourbon worldwide. The whiskey is bottled-in-bond at 100 proof and goes through no filtration before bottling.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a subtle roughness to this whiskey that draws you in — rough-milled dry corn, raw honey, freshly sawed wood, and vanilla pods. The caramel popcorn sweetness is there but not overdone as the vanilla, woody oak, and very distant spice and fruit come together to create an all-around easy-sipper by the end. As that end lingers, you get a final note of orange citrus that’s counterpointed by a lingering sense of limestone.

Bottom Line:

I really didn’t know where to put this. This is just an interesting sip. I really hope it gets a yearly release because it’s a throwback that adds something to the conversation.

Try it on the rocks first and then go from there.

2. Jim Beam Rye Pre-Prohibition Style

Jim Beam

ABV: 40%
Average Price: $22

The Whiskey:

This rye was designed by the master himself — Master Distiller and whiskey legend Fred Noe — as a return to the bigger and bolder days of rye before Prohibition defanged a lot of the industry and its recipes. The juice is a throwback recipe to the 1920s version of Beam’s rye, giving the whiskey a fruitier and spicer edge in the process.

Tasting Notes:

Berries mingle with black pepper spice on the nose with a hint of candied cherries. Christmas spices cut with plenty of candied fruit — ripe and tart berries — slide in next to hints of vanilla and toffee as the rye pepperiness powers the sip. As the dram builds before the fade, notes of black licorice, fresh mint, and dried flowers arrive and mingle with the rye spice and sweet fruits.

This sip lingers long enough to keep you warm, a nice perk this time of year.

Bottom Line:

This was nearly the number one expression from Jim Beam on this list. This bottle is a f*cking good rye at a fantastic price point. This is a great workhorse bottle, too — it works as everything from a shooter to the base of a cracking cocktail. I dig it in a highball, Sazerac, or Manhattan personally, but also drop it into a boulevardier every-now-and-then.

1. Jim Beam Bonded

Jim Beam

ABV: 50%
Average Price: $22

The Whiskey:

While this doesn’t come from only one percent of Jim Beam barrels or go through a special secondary aging cycle, this bourbon is Jim Beam’s high watermark when it comes to Kentucky bourbon. The juice is aged in a bottled-in-bond facility for four years where it’s also bottled at 100 proof with no bullshit. This is the standard Beam bourbon mash bill but there’s just something extra happening that makes this expression shine.

Tasting Notes:

This bourbon beckons you in with notes of toasted oak, red cherry, and vanilla. That leads to fresh honey, sweet caramel corn, rich toffee, bold vanilla, crisp apple, more of that red cherry, peppery spice, and a note of fresh mint. With a little water, the dram edges towards bitter dark chocolate with a nice billow of pipe tobacco while holding onto the mint, toffee, and vanilla oakiness.

The end is long, meandering, and full of warmth, fruit, spice, and bourbon goodness.

Bottom Line:

There’s a reason bonded bourbons are colloquially called “the good stuff.” This is really a fine bourbon all-around. And at $22 per bottle, it’s one of the better value bonded bourbons that you can score anywhere on the market right now. It’s also a workhorse whiskey and makes for a nice sipper, is tasty on the rocks, shines in a highball, or rules as a cocktail base.

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