Review: Jim Beam Black Has Undergone a Transformation

Now with a 7-year age statement, this $25 bourbon finally found its identity

June 26, 2024 6:39 am
Jim Beam Black Aged 7 Years next to an Old Fashioned
Meet the refreshed Jim Beam Black Aged 7 Years, which is ideal for cocktails
Suntory Global Spirits

What we’re drinking: Jim Beam Black Aged 7 Years

Where it’s from: Located in Clermont, KY, Jim Beam has been crafted by eight generations of family distillers since 1795. Fred Noe is the seventh-generation master distiller and Freddie Noe is the eighth-generation. Jim Beam is part of the larger James B. Beam Distilling Co. portfolio, which includes Baker’s, Booker’s, Little Book, Basil Hayden, Knob Creek and more.

Why we’re drinking this: While Jim Beam is the world’s best-selling bourbon, I tend to focus on the distillery’s many other releases and limited-time offerings rather than the core product. With this latest reimagining of Jim Beam Black, it seemed like the right time to dive into something you’ll probably see in any liquor store (for a decent price, too).

Jim Beam Black has a slightly convoluted history. Launched in 1978 and initially referred to as “double aged” (aged twice as long as standard Jim Beam), the product has possessed an eight-year age statement, no age statement, an “extra aged” label and various other design and liquid changes over the years.

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Not a ton has changed outside the maturation, the ABV and the packaging — it’s still Jim Beam with extra aging.  But now, the bottle prominently states “Aged 7 Years.” Why seven?

“It’s gone through a lot of redesigns,” admits Fred Noe. “We’ve done so many different things and even ventured to have no age statement at one point. But my son Freddie wanted to bring it back to seven — it’s where you really start getting the vanilla notes. And we took the proof up to 90, so the strength now is enough to make a good cocktail.”

“You’re also getting some butterscotch notes,” adds Freddie. “And at seven years, you’re getting to a place where there’s more consistency of flavor between barrels.” 

Fred and Freddie Noe at the James B. Beam Distilling Co.
Fred and Freddie Noe of James B. Beam Distilling Co.
Suntory Global Spirits

The return of age statements appears to be a part of a larger trend in the bourbon world. “I think the consumer is more educated now,” says Fred. “There was a time when bourbon was just taking off again and some studies were saying age statements didn’t matter. But I always thought that wasn’t right, because there are people who want to invest a little more and know what’s in the box. It’s also about being more transparent.”

How it tastes: As someone who doesn’t drink a lot of regular Jim Beam, I still picked up that bourbon’s profile right away, but now with a lot more oak spice, a hint of tobacco, and the vanilla and butterscotch character amped up (and the nuttiness dialed down). There’s also a touch of green apple here. Overall, while it lacks some of the complexity and richer mouthfeel of Beam’s other whiskey releases, Jim Beam Black comes across as an ideal cocktail base, particularly for summery drinks that don’t bury the bourbon’s flavor (see below).

Would we see a lot of difference if I tasted all the Jim Beam Black releases side by side? “Definitely,” says Freddie Noe. “It’s been at everything from eight years, 86 proof to 101 months and 90 proof. When we compared them, it was eye-opening to see something similar in age, with a little bit of proof point, there was a lot of variation.”  

Fun fact: The best way to drink Jim Beam Black? According to Fred Noe, it’s a unique whiskey sour. “My mother used to make it,” he says. “You take orange juice, Jim Beam Black, a blender full of ice and grind it down. Then you drink it by the pool.” (Freddie, meanwhile, prefers it in a highball with a 4:1 ratio.) 

Where to buy: Jim Beam Black is available for purchase at $24.99 SRP online or in pretty much any liquor store.


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