Review: Jim Beam Pre-Prohibition Style Rye Whiskey (2015)

JB750_82Good old “yellow label” Jim Beam Rye was, for many drinkers, their first exposure to rye whiskey. What was it? Aside from something mentioned in a Don McLean song? Beam’s Rye was good enough — cheap, too — like a racier bourbon, but maybe not as sweet. Or you could go for Old Overholt if you wanted something fancier in your Sazerac.

Fast forward a decade and the world of rye has been completely upended. Tons of great ryes are available now, many costing up to 70 bucks a bottle or more. Who buys Yellow Label in the face of all kinds of rye goodness out there?

Beam got the hint, and Yellow Label (more recently repackaged with a sort of Beige Label) is going off the market. Reformulated and upgraded, Jim Beam Rye has been reimagined for the premium rye era, crafted from a “pre-Prohibition recipe” and bottled at 90 proof instead of 80. Mashbill composition is not available. The new, official name: Jim Beam Pre-Prohibition Style Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey. Just don’t let the green label confuse you, as Jim Beam Choice is still hanging around out there. (To clarify, this is now Beam’s only mainstream rye.)

And we tried it:

Deep butterscotch notes hit the nose first, ringed with hints of dark chocolate. It’s common to describe the body rye as “spicy,” but that’s often misconstrued to mean spicy with hot red pepper. What spicy often means, as it does here on Beam, is more akin to baking spice: Cloves, cinnamon, ginger, all wrapped up with some smoky bacon and just a touch of licorice. It’s lightly sweet with a vanilla custard note to it, but not as powerful as the punch of bourbon. Initially quite light on the body, it grows on you with its gentle notes of apple pie, caramel, and that slightly savory, almost smoky lacing. The finish is modest, almost short, but engaging and more than pleasant as it fades away.

I was ready to dismiss this as a gimmicky attempt to grab some share in a rapidly growing market, but whaddaya know? The stuff’s legit.

90 proof.

A- / $23 / jimbeam.com

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5 Responses

  1. John S. Steidler February 15, 2015 / 9:34 am

    This Jim Beam Whiskey reminds me of the stuff that my old German Aunt used to make thru her old milk separator that she made into a still and that stuff was goooood!!!! If anhy of her brew was still aroung in those jugs it would be about 45 years old by now (WELL FERMENTED!!!!, BUT STILL GOOD!!!!).

  2. Sam Komlenic February 19, 2015 / 6:30 pm

    Can’t wait for it to show up in the People’s Republic of Pennsylvania!

  3. Nelson Thomas March 20, 2015 / 8:16 pm

    I find this much better then the 80 proof recipe. Much smoother and a bit nutty with a much better plait. Good sipping drink. Good job done Jim Beam.

  4. Jim Davis August 29, 2015 / 7:49 pm

    I am generally skeptical of anything Beam, and almost didn’t spend the
    $20 on it, but this isn’t that bad. It’s really just a higher proof version of Jim Beam Rye 80 proof or Old Overholt, but for those not interested in a higher-intensity rye like Rittenhouse 100 at the same price, this might hit the spot. Still, next time I’m spending my twenty bucks on Rittenhouse.

  5. Jim Davis August 29, 2015 / 7:53 pm

    I am generally skeptical of anything Beam, and almost didn’t spend the $20 on it, but it’s not that bad. Good basic rye flavor, but not a whole lot more. It’s really just a higher-proof version of the 80 proof Jim Beam Rye or Old Overholt, but for those not interested in a higher-intensity rye like Rittenhouse 100 at the same price, this might be your rye. Still, next time I’m spending the twenty bucks on Rittenhouse.

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