JIM BEAM DISTILLER’S CUT
Limited Release (2017)
MASH BILL – 77% corn, 13% rye, 10% malted barley
PROOF – 100
AGE – 5 to 6 years
DISTILLERY – Jim Beam
PRICE – $24
WORTH BUYING? – Heck yes!
Like a small miracle, in ye olde 2017 Jim Beam released Distiller’s Cut, a bottom-shelf limited release with stats that, today, only four years later, could easily command twice the original price. At 100 proof, age stated at 5 to 6 years, and bottled without chill filtration, this was arguably among the biggest no-brainer-buys of 2017. I thought it made a great Jim Beam gateway bourbon, or to rev up the tastebuds for a higher-proof flight night. A very easy thumbs up for the price.
A year later Jim Beam released their Repeal Batch, an 86-proof, non-chill filtered bourbon age stated at 4 years. Also marketed as a limited edition bottom-shelfer, despite being younger and a much lower proof than Distiller’s Cut, Repeal Batch made a fine follow up. The label design was classic oldtimey stuff—much more appealing than the Distiller’s Cut label, which had riffed unimaginatively on the standard Jim Beam bottom-shelf offerings. Repeal Batch was marketed as a commemoration of the 85th anniversary of Repeal Day. It sold for about $20 and was a simple but delightfully lively sipper, also perfect for cocktails. I brought a bottle to a party and it was gone within an hour. I went through two more bottles soon after that.
Repeal Batch didn’t exactly fly off the shelves. Following its 2018 release, it remained in stock at stores for a notably long time, eventually getting discounted as low as $10 in some places just to move it out the door. I marveled that such a good whiskey had apparently bombed. This struck me as either classist, the telling flip side of FOMO, or both. Had Jim Beam packaged the exact same whiskey in some fancier way, they may have received some garden variety social media sarcasm for the low proof and age, but it likely would have sold much better.
Distiller’s Cut, with even better stats, could easily have sold better with snappier packaging. No doubt. Maybe in 2017 Jim Beam didn’t yet have the confidence to do it. The bourbon boom was already booming then. But it exploded exponentially soon thereafter. In fact, while writing this post, with a quick Google I found a bottle of Distiller’s Cut online for $49! Even worse, in the same search I also spotted Repeal Batch for a whopping $68! Greed and stupidity have always gotten along exceptionally well together, so I’m sure these bottles will sell.
I can’t think what Beam’s motivation for putting out a “limited release” bottom-shelfer with stats as great as Distiller’s Cut could have been. But I’m glad they did. And I’m glad I picked up a second bottle after my first. I’ve been sitting on it these handful of years, and finally unscrewed it one recent sunny afternoon to accompany a game of cards in a friend’s backyard. It seemed a very fitting match for cards.
Upon one sip, I was immediately reminded of why I’d liked it so much back in 2017. The nose was crowd pleasing right out of the gate, with that easy Jim Beam caramel/spice combo. The taste showed bright rich caramel, a thin yet notably oily texture, with a very nice spice bloom at the end. It then finished warm and tangy, with nice vanilla and peanut notes gently and slowly fading.
Having thoroughly enjoyed it as an accompaniment to a game of cards with friends, I wanted to see how this bottom-shelf success stood up in a proper tasting, where it would be the sole subject of attention. Also, to be frank, I just wanted to give this unsung hero some love on the ol’ blog. ❤️
So here we are, four days after unscrewing the bottle and several pours in. Tasted in both a traditional Glenacairn and a simple tumbler, here are some notes in brief.
COLOR – pale brassy oranges
NOSE – sugary cinnamons, bright oak, bright buttery caramel, a nice dash of black pepper on a bit of sweet breakfast pastry
TASTE – very like the nose, now with a peanut note blended into the caramel, and a subtly viscous texture
FINISH – warm and sparkly, with the peanut and baking spices fading fairly quickly, leaving the warmth in their wake
OVERALL – a solid, fun bottom-shelfer
Yep. There isn’t much more to say about this that I haven’t already. It’s not complex or unusual as a tasting experience. The event here is what you’re getting for the price—decent age, great proof, classic Beam flavors.
It was great alongside card games the other day—fun to sip without drawing our attention away from the fun in hand. And although it doesn’t warrant a stand-alone tasting, I can imagine it serving as a worthwhile opener in a Jim Beam flight designed to explore that distillery’s range. One might start here and end up at Booker’s!
If you like Jim Beam products and find a bottle of Distiller’s Cut gathering dust on the shelf for the intended price of $25 or so, go for it. Similarly, keep an eye out for its cheaper, younger cousin, Repeal Batch. These make great easygoing party offerings, cocktail mixers, quick sippers while gambling, or I imagine any number of other occasions that might be enhanced by good old fashioned cheap bourbon that’s tasty enough it won’t make your face scrunch up, and will actually add to the fun without making a big deal about it.