Jim Beam Maple
70 proof; no age statement
The story: If, as Steve Jobs said, innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower, Jim Beam is determined to be a leader. Hot on the heels of the Signature Craft whiskeys I reviewed last month (and Jacob’s Ghost and a slew of Red Stag flavors) is another new product, Jim Beam Maple. On the face of it, maple would seem to be a good pairing with bourbon, since maple is one of the flavor notes that you often find in straight bourbon. And, like honey and cherry before it, maple seems poised to seep into the marketplace, with Knob Creek Smoked Maple hitting shelves any day. But not all innovations are good ones. Jim Beam kindly sent a sample of the Jim Beam Maple for review; let’s see how they did.
The aroma: Maple! And a little caramel. Not a whole lot of bourbon here. It smells like maple syrup with a hint of alcohol fumes – but just a hint.
The taste: Maple! Lots of maple on the front, along with that caramel. After the initial sugar rush, a bit of the bourbon shows through in notes of oak and cinnamon, but at 70 proof there is no danger of any real spice. (That 70 proof gave me pause. While this stopped being a true bourbon the minute they added maple flavors, this is the first such product I’ve seen that didn’t have a proof of at least 80, the minimum proof for bourbon.) The mouthfeel is certainly more bourbon-y than syrupy, which distinguishes it from a liqueur. The finish is long, and again, mostly maple.
The verdict: Watch out, mimosa, there’s a new brunch drink in town. Of all the flavored bourbons I’ve tried, this is my favorite (although I am withholding final judgment until I’ve sampled that Knob Creek Smoked Maple, which weighs in at 90 proof). I can see it being the base for some nice cocktails, either for brunch or for sipping after dinner. But honestly, I will also be drinking this on its own, probably with a cube of ice to cut that sweetness a little bit. Hell, I might try pouring it over some pancakes.