By act of congress, September was declared National Bourbon Heritage Month for the United States in 2007. The exact origins are murky, though the history of America’s ‘Native Spirit’ can be traced back as far as the late 1700s with Jim Beam being amongst the earliest bourbon distilleries, still operating today with over 200 years of experience.
An extensive process, bourbon is required by US law to be made with at least 51 per cent corn, and to be aged for at least two years within brand new white oak barrels (one oak tree is generally just enough to form one barrel). The latest premium addition to the Jim Beam family, however – Jim Beam Double Oak – is matured for four years before being transferred into another brand new, freshly charred barrel for a second period of maturation to taste. As a result, the liquid benefits from greater contact with the wood and in turn has a far deeper flavour profile and a richness than the distillery’s Jim Beam Original expression.
When poured neat, rich aromas of vanilla are unsurprisingly prominent from the toasted oak, as are sweet notes of corn from the “mash bill”. Elsewhere, further sweet notes of slightly burnt caramel and cinnamon are also noticeable on the nose alongside a subtle smokiness that’s to be expected from the interaction with two barrels. On the palate, Jim Beam Double Oak is exceptionally smooth, beginning with further sweet flavours of caramel and butterscotch plus subtle pithy orange and back notes of leather that develop into a complex blend of spice and pleasant smokiness. This spiced oak profile continues into a long, warm finish with a remarkable balance of harmonising flavours that refrain from overpowering one another.
Surprisingly gentle on the palate but without lacking in flavour, this new permanent expression of Jim Beam is certainly one of the most well-balance and smoothest bourbons that’s available at this particular price bracket. It also provides a fine example of the expertly crafted bourbon from one of America’s finest distilleries, best enjoyed neat, over ice or as the base of a simple, classic whisky cocktail (Double Oak Fashioned recipe below) to celebrate America’s National Bourbon Heritage Month.
Jim Beam Double Oak Fashioned Recipe
50ml Jim Beam Double Oak
4 dashes bitters
2 sugar cubes
In an Old Fashioned glass, add the sugar cubes and bitters along with a little bourbon and ice.
With a bar spoon, muddle and stir the liquid so the sugar starts to dissolve – repeat until complete. Then, cut a thin slice of peel from the orange.
Pinch the orange peel and rub around the rim of the glass to coat with citrus oils. Repeat with the lemon. Garnish with the orange and lemon twists.
Jim Beam Double Oak is available from amazon.co.uk with a RRP of £27.99.