Kirkland (Costco’s brand name) has been offering up some substantial values in quality single-malt scotch over the last few years. I decided that their track record warranted trying out the American whisky side of the aisle, so I plopped down my $20 for a liter of “Premium Small Batch” Kentucky Straight Bourbon at 7 years of age and an impressive 103 proof. It’s from batch B-5183, if it matters. The label indicates that it was made in Clermont, which leaves no doubt as to its distiller – the Beam Corporation’s Jim Beam Clermont Distillery. Hoping that this was a 7-year batch of the company’s Knob Creek product (which I’ve enjoyed in the past and will be reviewing soon), I cracked open the bottle to see what kind of bourbon one gets for $20 a liter at Costco.
Right away I could tell. This was not Knob Creek. This was Jim Beam, and no question about it. Jim has a very specific flavor and aroma profile, which has no doubt been “crafted” over the decades to “perfection”, but which comes across to me as a vaguely vegetal, light-in-character nail polish remover. Eugh. I never liked the stuff in college, and it’s certainly not to my taste now.
Nose: Light brown sugar, a bare hint of acetone (nail polish remover), which reminds me instantly of Jim Beam. Less oak and less caramel than comparable bourbons. No detectable cherry element. Some raw corn and light corn syrup candies (caramel corn). The alcohol is somewhat biting.
Palate: A little syrupy, but with a rough tongue burn. Some astringency but without the woody flavors that come with older bourbon. Now there’s a bit of cherry (lozenge) and some hay notes. Still light on the sugar (no molasses) and rough on the palate.
Finish: Medium long. A little oak and more caramel corn. Forgettable.
With Water: A few drops of water don’t do anything to elevate the aroma, perhaps instead accentuating the nail polish remover. If you’re drinking this neat, water isn’t going to make much difference, except perhaps by proofing it down to tame the burn.
Overall: Unlike most Kirkland labelled booze, I’m severely underwhelmed by this one. It’s obviously Jim Beam, but I don’t think it comes from the recipe used to make Knob Creek (which was my hope) and instead seems to be slightly younger Jim Beam Black. I would not recommend this for drinking neat. It makes a passable cocktail (and $20 a liter isn’t a bad price), but you’d do much (much) better with a bottle of Knob Creek Small Batch, which is superior in basically every way. If you’re a Jim Beam lover, though, and looking for a value bottle, this should suit.