Review: Clermont Steep Is Beam’s Bold Entry Into American Single Malt

A new standard-bearer for the AMS whisky category, or a unique outlier?

June 6, 2023 5:49 am
A bottle of Clermont Steep and a glass of ice and whiskey. Clermont is a new American Single Malt from the producers of Jim Beam.
Clermont Steep, the new American Single Malt from the James B. Beam Distillery Co.
Beam Suntory

What we’re drinking: Clermont Steep American Single Malt 

Where it’s from: The James B. Beam Distilling Co., home to Jim Beam, Knob Creek and a lot of small-batch experimental releases in the bourbon and rye world (many of which are developed at the new-ish, on-site Fred B. Noe Distillery)

Why we’re drinking this: For the first time in 227 years, Beam is getting into the hot, still-not-official American Single Malt whiskey category.

“We started on this project a little over six years ago,” explains Freddie Noe, 8th Generation Master Distiller of The Fred B. Noe Distillery (and great-great-grandson of Jim Beam). “We’re stepping into a new category, but we want to continue to shape the landscape of American whiskey. I think this is a nice flag to plant in the ground for American Single Malt.”

And Noe really wants to emphasize the “American” part of that phrase. “American Single Malt needs to be an American whiskey,” he says. “Scotch does a great job with single malts, and so does Japan. But to be an American Single Malt, I think you have to pick up on core elements that can fit into the American whiskey category.”

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So for Clermont Steep, that meant the use of new American oak barrels with a unique twist, at least for Beam. “98% of our barrels use a standard char number-four new American oak,” says Noe. “But I thought some of the toasted bread elements I was picking up would dissipate with that kind of barrel. So we landed on a char number one cask and a specific toast profile. I think it brings out traditional American whiskey cask notes and allows the flavor to shine through.”

This isn’t how it always works with American Single Malts…a fact that Noe seems fine with. “If you look at the category, can anyone name one flavor or product that’s a standard? I think we need something to define the category of what American single malts are all about,” he says. “Again, this is about new oak. This isn’t going to be Scotch’s brother or cousin.”

That might also put him at odds with the American Single Malt Whiskey Commission, which is made up of several heavy hitters. “They have some rules which I disagree with,” Noe admits. “I think American whiskey was built on the use of a new cask. I’m not against used casks but I think it’s misleading not to have that on a label. I’m probably the regulation police when it comes to things like that. We’d probably butt heads on certain elements.” (As proposed, a potential definition for ASM allows for new or used casks.)

Master Distiller Freddie Noe: A close-up of the Clermont Steep bottle.
Master Distiller Freddie Noe; A close-up of the Clermont Steep bottle.
Ryan Muir/Beam Suntory

How it tastes: Clermont Steep is a five-year-old liquid crafted entirely from American malted barley; it uses the same yeast that’s used in all Beam products. The single malt was distilled on a column still and aged for five years in barrels that were toasted and then charred to char level 1. 

Coming in at 47% ABV, there is a lot of butterscotch on the palate, along with the expected toasted malt, vanilla and caramel notes. Slightly on the sweeter side for an ASM, this is certainly an approachable (and likable) entry into the category — and yes, you might say this is the American Single Malt for bourbon fans.

Fun fact: This technically isn’t the first single malt that Beam has created; you’ll find some in part of the blend that makes up a particular release of Little Book.

Where to buy: Clermont Steep will be available in select states across the U.S., in-store and on ReserveBar, beginning June 2023, with a suggested retail price of $59.99.


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