Over the past couple of years, there has been a bit of shift in the whisk(e)y liqueur market: whilst the Scotch liqueurs (Glenfiddich, Famous Grouse and the excellent Macallan Amber) have all been discontinued, there has been a rise from the other side of the pond with products from American Whiskey producers such as Evan Williams, Wild Turkey, Jack Daniels and, now, Jim Beam.
When we spotted this latest introduction to Jim Beam’s range, we jumped at the chance to try it. I am a big fan of Jim Beam’s Red Stag (bourbon infused with natural black cherry flavours), which takes their good, solid bourbon and adds another dimension of cherry without overpowering with artificial flavours or sugar, and so I was excited to get some of the new Jim Beam Honey in my glass.
What I found especially intriguing was the fact that I couldn’t find this product anywhere on Jim Beam’s American website; our sources tell us that this is because Honey was recently trialled in the German market, before being produced for the UK.
Like Red Stag, Jim Beam Honey isn’t a liqueur, but rather a flavoured bourbon; the label calls it a “spirit drink”. It’s a rich, dark caramel in colour and is 35% ABV. The bottle is the familiar Jim Beam shape, but the label has a subtly raised honeycomb pattern, which is a nice addition.
Now, onto the spirit…
The nose is light and sweet, full of vanilla and caramel notes that gradually give way to light woody notes. I occasionally caught a hint of alcohol at the very end, which faded into an acute sweet sugar note that reminded me of a kind of soft, seaside rock candy that we used to have on holiday when I was younger (it really is amazing how smells can bring back memories!).
Given that this wasn’t a liqueur, I was impressed at the silky, but not syrupy start, which allowed it to flow easily over my tongue without being sticky. I was also surprised at how smooth it managed to be; the start, especially, was remarkably so.
A few seconds later, the warmth kicks in, bringing with it more complex vanilla and oak flavours. The levels of sweetness are perfect for just “lifting” the drink slightly, whilst not taking over. This sweetness and the light and medium wood notes are finally highlighted on the finish with a hint of honey. I liked that the honey notes weren’t overpowering or sickly, but, instead, worked with the strength of this whiskey: the oak.
This product brought back fond memories of when I first tried Red Stag. As with that one, I was impressed by the way that Jim Beam Honey took Jim Beam’s bourbon and simply added another dimension of flavour, whilst not taking anything away from that base spirit. The result is a neat and solid new contender to the honeyed whiskey market and one that I will thoroughly enjoy drinking when I fancy something a little more than bourbon, but nothing as sweet as a liqueur.
– Mrs. B
Jim Beam Honey is available from The Whisky Exchange at around £23 for 70cl
Special thanks to Stephen, Garry and JM for their help in writing this article.