I am no bourbon aficionado but I do prefer a good bourbon to just about any other drink and I have always favored Jim Beam’s selections with the long gone Jacob’s Well being my all-time favorite. Over the years, as my tastes have refined, I have found that I really enjoy the single barrel offerings for neat sipping and only use the more common Jim Beam blends for mixed drinks. When I saw Jim Beam’s Devil’s Cut, the bottle alone made me think “sales gimmick.” When I read up on it and found that the concept of a devil’s cut was indeed a marketing idea that was derived from playing off the “Angel’s Share” which is the liquid that is lost due to evaporation during the aging process. This didn’t make me feel a lot better about the new offering, but further reading on the process gave me a glimmer of hope.
Jim Beam: Devil’s Cut is a blend of Jim Beam’s 6 year old bourbon which incorporates an unspecified amount of whiskey that is extracted from the wood of the aging barrel after it has been emptied. According to Jim Beam it is “a robust, premium bourbon with deep color, aroma and character” and is “full bodied with intense oak and vanilla notes.”
Again, while I am not a connoisseur, that seems like a big claim for a bottle that is less than $30, but price isn’t everything.
Over the years, Jim Beam White Label has become a bit harsh and unrefined to me. As I said earlier, it is great for mixing and the nose on it brings back a lot of memories for me, but it is just a bit harsh and burns a bit too much to be something that I like to sip. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the nose of Devil’s cut but was pleasantly surprised to get a new, slightly woody, slightly sweet smell that had the old notes of Jim Beam White Label around the edges so you have a wonderful blend of something new and exciting wrapped in the comforting smells of something you know all too well. To me, that is a good mix. Being pretty plain and straight-forward, I am not going to try to elaborate further on the nose and will leave it with saying that the smell was something old and something new, pretty much just as the marketing said it would be.
I find that nose and taste can be quite different from time to time and nose does not always result in the taste you would expect. However, with Devil’s Cut, the smell and the taste go hand in hand. There is a small initial bite, but none of the harshness of Jim Beam White Label and then an explosion of flavor. The wood is definitely there, moreso than I have found in virtually any bourbon (but which can often be found in scotches). This really gives Devil’s Cut a unique flavor or perhaps I should say MORE flavor than I am used to in a bourbon. I often find that I don’t have much of an ability to taste the sweeter notes in bourbons, but you can clearly taste it around the edges and in the finish of a sip of Devil’s Cut. I have read reviews where people feel that the wood overpowers the sweetness completely, but I thought they worked well together and while the wood is clearly the stronger of the two, the sweetness is there. Jim Beam claims it is a vanilla flavor. While I couldn’t clearly identify it as vanilla, it was sweet. And did I mention smooth? It is surprisingly smooth for a bottle in this price range… and even more smooth than some higher end single barrels I have tasted. Last but not least the end note is that of Jim Beam White Label which is really nice because it is like the signature on the letter, just reminding your gently that while this hasn’t tasted like any Jim Beam you know, yes, it is indeed a Jim Beam product! My initial instinct is to make a taco analogy, but since that seems crude when talking about bourbon, I would liken Devil’s Cut to layers of flavor. At the core you have a heavy oak flavor, strong and bold. Wrapped around that is a much more delicate sweetness and on the outside is the thinnest layer of Jim Beam White to make it feel like home.
So, is this a new top 5 contender? No… I don’t think so. Is it the marketing ploy I initially thought it to be? Well, it was certainly a marketing genius that came up with this, but it is a far cry from a ploy. This is a genuinely unique and interesting product that is worth the time and effort it took to create it. I’d buy it over virtually any standard brand and even over a few single barrels. It isn’t so unique that you would only want it for the novelty yet not so average that it becomes lost. Devil’s Cut is its own unique thing and I think Jim Beam has hit a home run with it. Give it a try for yourself and let me know what you think.