Serious Eats: Drinks
That's the Spirit: Jim Beam Devil's Cut
Micro-distilleries aren't the only ones who are challenging the status quo of whiskey making. With new expressions and distilling techniques, major brands are committed to staying relevant in these revolutionary times for the American distillery. Today's example comes from one of the largest: even Jim Beam, the world's #1 selling bourbon, is eager to mix it up with the upstarts.
Their newest venture is Devil's Cut, a play on the barrel aging concept of the angel's share. But what is a devil's cut? Over the course of barrel aging a whiskey, not only is some of the spirit lost to the angels via evaporation, but some is also absorbed into the wood of the barrel. Jim Beam somehow (pressure washing? steaming and redistilling? magic?) extracts the whiskey that has become trapped in the wood of their barrels. Then, they take an undisclosed amount of this super-woody extract, blend it into 6 year-old bourbon (halfway between their flagship White Label at 4 years old and their premium Black Label at 8), and bottle it at 90 proof.
The result? The whiskey pours a medium amber with a sweet, almost holiday-spice scent. Prominent aromas of vanilla, cinnamon, and clove are rounded out by a nutty sweetness. The spirit opens up once sipped, with the oak beginning to dominate. It has a buttery texture, but is not quite the wood-bomb I was expecting, although the oak is definitely prominent compared to Beam's other offerings. It finishes sweet and smooth, with some lingering caramel and dry oak. Overall it's a very pleasant, sippable whiskey—very easygoing for a 90-proof spirit. If you like Jim Beam, or if you like oak, then you'll like this!
More of a cocktail person? Try it in a Lion's Tail where the baking spice flavors would be fleshed out by the citrus and allspice.
Hungry? This devil would be great with others: try it with a decadent devil's food cake. Mmm—a match made in hell!