I complain a lot on this blog about whisky marketing. I have a short fuse when it comes to whisky companies claiming authenticity when no effort has been made to actually produce something authentic. It’s not that I have some kind of pseudo-Millennial disdain for inauthenticity; if you’re making an industrial product and you are clear about that, I have no qualms. It’s when you take the same boring old mass-produced minimum-aged factory swill, raise the proof slightly, and release it as “Pre Prohibition Style” with lots of marketing verbiage about “rediscovering” old recipes and “reformulating” for “bygone” blah blah blah that I have a problem. This is just Beam straight rye (likely at 4 years and a day old) at 45% ABV. Maybe – MAYBE – if they had anything whatsoever to say about what their “oldest recipe” entails, or why it has anything to do with pre-Prohibition distillation, or really any information at all about why this is different from the 40% ABV version that this is replacing, I MIGHT have been a little less cynical.
That’s it. That’s the review.
Nose: Grassy Beam character with a healthy dose of green apple, freshly-mown grass, and fresh corn kernels. The dominant note on the aroma is tart: that green apple almost turning into lime juice. There is very little of the expected rye profile: no cinnamon, no clove, and only a hint of anise. Still, there are no unpleasant notes, and no “paint thinner” or chemical smells.
Palate: Syrupy body. Hot, with an unpleasant amount of burn for a 90 proof whiskey. Burnt caramel, caramel apple, unroasted coffee beans, and (at last) a swath of bakery spices. Now it tastes like a rye, although the youthful grassy notes are still evident.
Finish: Medium-short. Tart again, with more apple and now candy-corn. This fades quickly, leaving apple skins, slightly bitter barrel char, and a touch of paint thinner.
With Water: Several drops of water make this smell even more like Beam: More grass. The water also adds a green banana / unripe coconut note to both the aroma and palate. The palate and finish also acquire a weird “fruit” punch or bubblegum flavor. Water is not necessary with this one, but won’t ruin anything either.
Overall: This is really not bad for $16 a bottle. If you forgive the young grassy notes, the faintness of the rye spices on the aroma, and the lackluster and kind-of unpleasant finish, you could do WAY worse for under $20 a bottle. I still prefer my old standbys Rittenhouse 100 and Hochstadter’s, but those do cost more…
I chose a “Not Recommended” rating, but really what I mean is “Recommended only if you really can’t spend an extra $4 on Rittenhouse 100”. Note that when mixed into a cocktail the low price does shine through: If you’re buying strictly for cocktails, don’t skimp this much.