A very interesting bourbon flavored with brandy. Well worth a try.
Notes: Jim Beam has a wide number of products some of which we have reviewed. Their are best known for their signature Jim Beam Bourbons and some of the ready to drink (RTD’s) such as Jim Beam in a can ( actually Jim Beam whiskey and cola to be more exact). They also over the years have purchased other venerable names such as Old Grand Dad, Old Crow, Fighting Cock and several others along with being importers for other spirits such as Courvoisier cognac, El Tesoro tequila, and a host of smaller brands. They have also been notable in the creation of the “Small Batch” bourbon as a product with early examples such as Knob Creek, Basil Hayden, Bookers, etc., ( including Jacobs Well a great bourbon that is lamentably no longer made)
What is small batch? No one really knows, it is not legally defined but does seem to mean a somewhat less than full bore industrial rollout of a notionally higher quality product or premium product. Chuck Cowdry has an interesting article on the subject here. A further question is what do you classify this as? Strictly speaking, it is a straight bourbon flavored with a brandy ( probably less than 2% brandy), but it could also be argued that it falls under the flavored whiskey or American whiskey catagory ( being the catchall for non standard bourbons and other marsupials of the American whiskey types that are not 100% bourbons by federal guidelines)
That being said the “Signature Craft” series seems to be an even more exclusive subset of bourbon for them. The two expressions so far are the Premium Bourbon finished with Spanish Brandy the spirit we are reviewing now, and the Small Batch Bourbon Aged For 12 Years
Appearance: Clear, slightly oily look to it nice gold amber tending towards a bit of red shows the age of the whiskey nicely .On swirling it show a distinctive and slightly thicker edge line than the 12 year old, with some legs developing and teardrops slowly forming
First Impression: Vanilla, oak, leather, dried black figs and plums, spiciness and a trace of citrus
Taste: Vanilla, corn, nice rye sweet sour notes and oak char with dried sweet dark fruit notes. Finish is medium length with a slightly fruity aftertaste. Smoother and lighter tasting than the 12 year old with the fruit providing a nice uplift and addition to the taste.
Drinks: Jim Beam says in their literature that the whiskey “is best enjoyed neat or on – the – rocks. While they may feel this is true we found it made for a very sturdy Manhattan, Old Fashioned, and also a Horses Neck. But at around $40 a bottle you can certainly find a cheaper alternative for such drinks see our comments under “other”.
Bottle: Flask shaped clear glass bottle shows the bourbon to good effect. Simple graphics on a clear plastic applied label are easy to recognize at a distance. Small gold on red paper label gives the particulars and distinguishes it from the other signature craft bottling which is small gold on black labels. Back label is large white paper label with black printing. Clear neck collar with screw cap and a “None Genuine Without My Signature” paper seal that harks back to an earlier era. Overall not a bad if slightly low end package for a premium product. While the screw cap is convenient ( and actually a better seal) the bottle itself is a touch on the skimpy side ( read not very decanter like). But if you can get past all that it is good whiskey inside.
Cigars: A Ghurka or similar robust smoke works well with this bourbon
Other: As stated above, it is part of a new branch as it were of the Jim Beam family. This one however is a limited release. It will be interesting to see what other products emerge in this collection.
Another thought is that you could make a similar product o your own by blending a good cognac ( such as Pierre Ferrrand or a Louis Royer), or if you want a fruitier brandy an Armenian one such as Ara Jan.
Final Thoughts: A decently made whiskey, one of the oldest Jim Beam has produced to date. While not as spectacular as some, it is a great value for the price. A touch more complex than the 12 year old . Somewhat reminiscent of the Masterpiece collection at a fraction of the price. Overall a good choice for your collection, and an interesting example of a superior Jim Beam product.