Over 220 plus years of bourbon history started by the son of a German immigrant all began at the ‘Old Tub’ family distillery, now better known as the Jim Beam distillery. Passed from one generation to another, a total of seven, and very much still a family owned business, this rebranding took place after prohibition. Omnipresent – East, West, including Land and Sea in between, Jim Beam is the world’s No. 1 selling whisky in the world. And a lot of this credit goes to the “Original” also called the “White Label” – their most widely sold expression within the Jim Beam stable.
This whisky as is the case with all Bourbons is made from a minimum of 51% corn, some rye and malted barley. Together with limestone rich water and yeast (75 year old sour mash) what you get are the building blocks to this Kentucky based bourbon. Maturation takes place in charred, virgin American oak barrels for a minimum of four years, a little amateurish if you were to compare them to their Scottish counterparts. However unlike some Scotch, Bourbons are totally devoid of caramel coloring or any such additives – any noncompliance and the final byproduct would be un-bourbon like.
The Original was probably one of the first Bourbons that were bottled in India and fortunately for the company only a handful were at the time. Indians and Asians alike haven’t been all that fortunate to enjoy produce from the ‘Wild West’; Jack Daniels, Gentlemen Jack and Jim Beam Black were the most common if you were to take a walk at the Duty Free outlets. Things have changed now, and you do have a wider variety to choose from, but still in no way ‘spoilt for choice’.
Jim Beam have long associated themselves with high speed motorsports and have come out with sports car decanters and other memorabilia. You see the parallel with their packaging, a sight for sore eyes and a welcome change from the otherwise usual cardboard or tin boxing. On pulling open the top cover, you are greeted by the “White Label” neatly housed inside black foam. The bottle itself is mundane with relatively no change from what it was years back, so no points there.
Now, for a nation that idolizes all things Scotch, does this white bottle have the potential to shake things up a little bit? Or would we Indians continue to relate Bourbons to Jack Daniels or the older Gentlemen Jack…
Eye: Deep copper
Nose: Caramel and brown sugar along with toasted oak and spiced wood is soon greeted by mild yeast, corn and ripe banana peels. Black pepper, licorice and mild traces of cherry form the tail end.
Taste: Sweet caramel and charred spiced wood take up much of the flavor spectrum, corn and banana peels adds to the fermenty sweetness with mild hints of cardamon making a presence at the end.
Finish: Mild spice interleaved with some sweetness.
The Original is a low end bourbon which unfortunately doesn’t seem to tell you a story any different. The nose is average and gives out its ‘rough around the edges’ character; on the palate, you are left faced with the truth- a spirit that is very much dull, muted, raw and watered down. Being a four year old whiskey, somehow I expected more but was left disappointed; maybe I was comparing it to the Jack Daniel’s Old No 7. And though this might not be as “yeasty” as the entry level JD, it lacks on almost every other front.
You really aren’t missing anything by sipping this neat and so I see more purpose being served when used as a mixer or maybe even with some Coke. The Jim Beam Original – a one dimensional whiskey that at best needs a partner to do the tango!