Jim Beam is the biggest selling bourbon brand in the world and sits comfortably in the global top 10 for total spirit sales. The current distillery was built at the end of the Prohibition period in 1933. It is located in the town of Clermont, Kentucky. The state of Kentucky is the home to America's bourbon industry.
The Beam family have a longer whisky heritage, with their first distillery dating back to 1795. This was founded in Washington County, Kentucky by a German immigrant called Jacob Boehm (his surname later became Americanised to Beam). The distillery is currently run by the sixth generation of his family. The Beam empire has grown massively and Beam Global are now one of the biggest drinks companies in the world, holding a vast array of worldwide brands in their portfolio.
The current range of bourbons include this highly popular flagship White Label (approximately 3-4 years old and 40% ABV), the Black Label (8 years old and 43% ABV) and the Small Batch (a combination of just a few selected casks of differing ages). On our recent trip to Australia, we discovered that Jim Beam is extremely popular there and outsells all other whiskies by a huge margin. The range in Australia includes pre-mixed cans of Beam & Coke and some bars had this mix on tap and sold it in pints!
This White Label is golden in colour, with a nose packed with vanilla, oak and sweet cereal grains. More sweetness comes through later (imagine honey and caramel), as does an interesting floral note that is difficult to define (honeysuckle is possibly the nearest or maybe orange blossom). On the palate, the vanilla and oakiness are prominent and this feels light and warming in your mouth. The warmth is quite spicy (think of ginger and cinnamon or nutmeg), with a lovely mellow sweetness (those grains and honey again) and an interesting yeasty note (imagine rye bread). A distinct waxy note comes through - it sounds strange but it reminded me of beeswax or furniture polish. The finish is long with the sweetness becoming drier and very oaky. The warm spices really come through as does a citrus note (imagine candied orange peel).
White Label is a decent and enjoyable bourbon, that has a highly perfumed nose but is lighter on your palate than the nose suggests. This would make it ideal for mixing or putting in cocktails as some of its individual character will shine through. Saying that, its lightness on the palate makes it refreshing and it has enough interest to drink neat or with ice. For this reason, it would be a good bourbon for beginners to get them started in the world of bourbons. This is also widely available and should cost £15-20 for a bottle.