Since I got yelled at a few weeks ago for reviewing Jim Beam’s original “White Label” bourbon without thoroughly panning it, I thought I’d double down and review Beam’s Double Oak edition. Yes I’ve been planning to use that joke since I bought the bottle. Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week.
Double Oak’s approach to the industry meme of “do something different to the base whiskey so we can charge more for it” is about as simple as you can get, and yet is oddly rare in the bourbon business. They took Jim Beam, having aged it like all bourbons in new charred American white oak barrels, and they… put it in another new charred American white oak barrel. Mind. Blown.
Seriously, though, this is essentially bourbon finished in new American oak, and that’s strangely innovative. It doubles the “first contact” period where whiskey dissolves and absorbs compounds from the charred oak lignin and other uhh… tree parts. That should, in theory, deepen the flavors associated primarily with bourbon, as opposed to many other whiskies like scotch that are aged in previously-used barrels.
The resulting bourbon is bottled at 43% instead of Beam White Label’s typical 40%, I guess as an attempt to elevate this bottling into the realm of “Craft”. Thankfully, Beam is only charging around $20 a bottle, so they’re not trying to fleece customers for more than the cost of an extra barrel.
Nose: The “Beam smell” (which I find is somewhere between hay bales and crushed peanut shells) is there, but it’s pretty far in the background. Instead I get black cherry syrup, Dr. Pepper, molasses, and maybe toasted marshmallows. The whole kit is pretty shy, even after a rest in the glass.
Palate: Thin body. Mild tongue burn. The same notes from the aroma come through on the palate, plus some of that Beam nuttiness (peanut shells). The dominant note is still cherry Dr. Pepper.
Finish: Medium-long. More cherry syrup, plus a bundle of mouth-drying bitter barrel tannins, a lot of charcoal, and a lingering note of burned toast that’s a little off-putting.
With Water: Several drops of water increase the nose tickle, but don’t seem to bring out any new aromas. The palate feels thinner, but the finish is sweeter – now with a ‘fruit punch’ note. I’d skip water with this one.
Overall: As weird as it is to say, I actually prefer the baseline Jim Beam Original to this. It feels like they took standard Beam and then managed to double only the bitter charcoal, missing most of the sweet woody notes that one associates with new oak barrels. The cherry Dr. Pepper note is interesting, but in no way makes up for the piles of charcoal. If you really want to buy Beam but spend more money, get Knob Creek instead. That’s what you’re actually looking for. Or even better, spend less and buy Old Tub.
I miss the old Jim Beam Bonded. It sold in Australia for about 20% more than the white label, and was a truly excellent bourbon. I can only assume some executive was outraged that they were selling such a great product for a reasonable price, and demanded it be removed from the market immediately.