Virtually every whisky on the market has a story, gimmick or marketing sleight of hand, to attract your attention, the consumer, and this recent release is no exception.
As whiskey ages in the barrel, evaporation takes place, and this loss is commonly referred to as the "angel's share." So, whiskey casks that age for many years can lose considerable volume. This drives up costs, in addition to the other costs of storage, monitoring by the master distiller's team and lack of revenue with everyday that passes in the cask.
Besides evaporation, whisky is absorbed into the very wood of the barrel it occupies. I do not think the volume is very great, but the marketing folks for Beam Global have cleverly labeled this loss of volume as the "Devil's Cut."
The Jim Beam people claim to have developed a "proprietary process" which extracts the bourbon in the barrel wood, after the bourbon barrels have been emptied. This extracted spirit is then blended with six year old Jim Beam bourbon, bottled at 90 proof, and Devil's Cut is thus created.
To say that a "proprietary process" is used may be technically accurate, but don't be overly impressed. If you think about it, what the Jim Beam marketing crew describe is actually the process of how Scotch whisky is typically made. Think about it. Oak barrels that formerly held sherry (port, bourbon, etc.) are filled by distilleries with very young distilled whisky, and left to age for a minimum of three years. During the passage of time, the sherry, port, etc, is drawn out of the wood, and becomes a part of the young whisky, deliciously seasoning the spirit. Is that proprietary? I suppose every distillery has a different period of aging, utilizing different recipes for white dog (whisky that has not been barrel aged), or maybe heats it to a certain temperature before adding it to the barrel, etc.
There is also the possibility that the Jim Beam people are doing little more that cutting/diluting 6 year old bourbon with "swish."
Swish is a term referring to the practice of taking an empty barrel that formerly held rum or another spirit, filling it with water, laying the barrel on its side, turning it a little every couple of months, and after a certain period of time, emptying it and drinking it. The once pristine spring water that went into say a barrel that previously held rum, will now be pretty strong drink, as it has successfully extracted the rum or other spirit from the barrel wood. A visit to the Devil's Cut website does not make the process any clearer:
"A proprietary process pulls the rich whiskey trapped inside the barrel wood after they're emptied. This barrel-treated extract is blended with 6 year old Jim Beam bourbon at 90 proof."
Oak, burnt almond and charred wood.
I am greeted by sweet, root beer flavored rock candy, followed by big lashes of saddle leather, spiced cedar, pecan pie, cocoa and vanilla.
No longer sweet. Now seriously mouth watering blast of brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, cloves, fudge and oak.
I like this bourbon.
At $22 or so a bottle, the Devil's Cut offers up a great value for money proposition. The ABV is 45%, but remarkably smooth and refined. No raw, unadulterated alcohol taste. I suspect the higher than standard ABV delivers the mouth watering sensations at mid-palate to finish stages of the drink experience. In addition, the higher than average proof is probably responsible for the robust flavors. The flavors are big, proud and demanding of attention, but in a good way. This whiskey speaks to me. Maybe not in tongues, but it does have something to say, and it is good.
Criticisms? Some may find it a little too sweet initially, and a tad bit perfume-like. At this price point, I can overlook that slight imperfection.
This bourbon is dominated by oak notes. I do not have a problem with it as I do not consider it unbalanced. If you don't like a lot of oak in your bourbon, you probably will not be a fan of the Devil's Cut.
- I still prefer Jim Beam Black, an 8 year old, bourbon for maybe $5 more.
- For those seeking a punchy, robust American whiskey that will not break the bank, Devil's Cut beats out the far more expensive Jack Daniel's Single Barrel (Tennessee whiskey).
- If you are looking for lots of spicy rye in your bourbon, you will probably prefer Wild Turkey 101 over Devil's Cut.
- If you place a premium on refinement, gentle, smooth bourbon taste, Maker's Mark, Blanton's and Four Roses would be preferred by you.
- Looking for maximum robustness of flavors and complexity at the same time, you need Knob Creek (mind you it is a lot more expensive).
- Looking for a rich corn taste, Devil's Cut has none. You need a Tennessee whiskey: Jack Daniel's Old No. 7.
Mix Devil's Cut with Coca-Cola, slice of lemon, ice cubes and you have a very nice poolside drink for those dog days of summer. The oak notes become more pronounced with the addition of the Coke, yet there is a nice tart nip on the tongue that tells you rum is not the only spirit to add to Coke in the summer. A nice change.
I think the Devil's Cut has some beatific qualities that may redeem it from a smoldering fate. Besides, the keeper of the hell fires is busy with his latest visitor, who coincidentally is also from the Jim Beam fold: Red Stag Black Cherry
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