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Jim Beam Devil’s Cut Bourbon Review

Jim Beam’s Devil’s Cut is the latest release from the Bourbon Behemoth from Clermont, KY. It’s made from pretty interesting process called “barrel sweating”. Once the barrels of whiskey are dumped, they are filled with a proportion of water and agitated (rolled, moved) in the heat to bring out the “trapped” whiskey that’s been slumbering deep in the wood.

While I personally haven’t seen this process in action, I am told that it would surprise anyone just how much liquid is left in the wood itself. Once the process concludes, this woodier juice is reintroduced to 6 year old base Jim Beam. The result is Devil’s Cut.

And what about that name? Well, that’s a clever play on the “Angel’s Share”, which is a term referring to the whiskey that is lost to evaporation during the aging process. The amount lost to the angels can be quite significant over a 4, 8, 12, etc. period of time. The folks at Beam have apparently figured out how to take the Devil’s Cut as well.

Jim Beam Devil’s Cut, 45% abv (90 Proof), $24

Color: Lighter Amber (A bit lighter than I would have expected)

Nose: Sweet, candy shop nose of brown sugar, toffee, big vanilla, and ripe banana before oak and wood spices pick up steam. It’s certainly sweeter than the devilish name suggests.

Palate: Pretty straight forward and lacking complexity, but with bold flavor. Caramel sweetness and vanilla dominate the front palate with oak and spices (cinnamon, pepper, and nutmeg) emerging firmly from mid palate through finish.

Finish: The finish has it’s own zip code – it’s long and lingers forever. This, for me, is where I think their process for creating this whiskey makes it’s presence felt most. There’s loads of wood, barrel tannin, and spice influence backed with caramel and corn.

Overall: Devil’s Cut starts off innocent and sweetly enough, but quickly the spice and wood emerges. It’s understandable considering the process I noted in the introduction above. It’s not a very complex whiskey, but frankly I found it quite interesting. It’s a spicy bourbon for the folks that make some fairly sweet and mellow juice for the most part. I applaud the effort.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: (8.5 Very Good/Excellent)

Buffalo Trace Antique Collection: George T. Stagg Bourbon Review

2010 George T. Stagg Bourbon, 71.5% abv (143 Proof), $70-$80/bottle

Color: Deep Mahogany

Nose: Rich and flooding with almond toffee, ripe banana, vanilla, sweet spices, popcorn, and a tangy sweetness of sorghum and molasses. A scant teaspoon of water to a 2 oz. pour ramps up the spices, dried fruits, and deep oak notes.

Palate: On the palate this bourbon just hits you with flavors in waves and it keeps on coming. Few whiskies can match it in that department. Deep dark sticky caramel, Rum Bananas, vanilla, Dried Dark Fruits, root beer, fudge, and intense sweet spices of cinnamon, clove, and mint are dominant when sipped neat. A teaspoon of water brings out the barrel flavors and rounds out the alcohol edge and heat.

Finish: Candied sweetness, smokey oak, and woody spices. Very long.

Overall: The Buffalo Trace Antique Collection produces five of the most highly anticipated releases each year. Finding them can be a real pain in the rear. Allocation of this stuff, particularly the bellwethers of the group, George T. Stagg and William Larue Weller, is frustrating. Both are huge whiskies at barrel proof, but certainly different. George T. Stagg is the leader of this pack. Some may argue Weller or one of the ryes (Sazerac 18 or Thomas H. Handy) are better, but I don’t think anyone would argue that Stagg is probably the single biggest bruiser of a whiskey on the planet. At 140+ proof, it packs a hell of a punch. Some may find it lacks a little grace and tact akin to taking a bazooka to a knife fight, but there is no arguing that it’s special. It’s also fun to sip a whiskey that is over 1.5 times the strength of todays more standard 90 proof offerings. But if that sounds like a novelty only, it’s not. George T. Stagg is is seriously fantastic whiskey. I’d recommend taking all the time you need and enjoy this one neat first. But for me, a splash of water helps to cool the alcohol flames enough to where those flavors shine even further. Don’t dilute it too much – after all you bought it for the beast that it is.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.6 (Epic classification)

Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year Bourbon Review (90 Proof)

Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year Bourbon, 45% abv (90 Proof), $35/bottle

Color: Deep Amber/Gold

Nose: Ripe banana, vanilla, toffee, rum, dried dark fruits, backed with reasonably significant toasted oak aromas.

Palate: Again, a solid oak backbone presents itself. Big, rich mouth feel reveals toffee, vanilla, sweetened coffee, roasted nuts, and burned sugar/caramel. Sweet, rich, and everything a “wheater” should be.

Finish: Excellent length in comparison to other wheated whiskeys in the 10 year and under range. Burned sugar, toast, cinnamon, and barrel flavors remain.

Overall: ORVW 10 is a wheated recipe, a little brother to Pappy Van Winkle 15. Essentially the same recipe just 5 years junior. For those that cannot get a hold of Pappy 15, give this one a try! It’s an outstanding whiskey, and one of the richest wheated bourbons under 12 years I’ve had. The 107 proof packs more whallop, but this 90 proof offering is no slouch. I highly recommend it.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.8 (Superb/Outstanding)

The Legend: Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year Old Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Pappy Van Winkle 15 yr Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 53.5% abv (107 Proof), $65/bottle

Each year I drink the latest release of this bourbon. Each year I’m taken aback by how great it is. It’s scarce and extremely tough to locate. And it seems just when I’m frustrated enough, I get a call from my local merchant informing me, “Pappy 15 is in!” This year was no different. I intended to review this with at least one of its older brothers, the 20 or 23 year expressions, but you needed to know about this one quick enough to get your hands on a bottle.

Pappy 15′s nose is as nearly perfect as you can get; rum, dried fruits (dates, apricots, raisins), soft caramel, maple syrup, buttery toffee, vanilla, barrel, leather, and light cedar. It’s rich, sweet, well spiced, but still vibrant in spite of it’s 15 years on the barrel. Pappy 15 pours into your glass like slightly watered down syrup or honey. From that moment you sense just how rich, thick, and lush this whiskey is. Flavors of rum soaked fruits, dried red or berry fruits, salted caramel, nutmeg, clove, maple, vanilla, toasted coconut, almonds, and char plow over your taste buds. This bourbon is huge – just a monster of flavors, with a long finish of toffee, caramel, fruits, barrel, and warming spices (nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon). Simply put, it’s one of the finest whiskeys made on the planet – an EPIC expression of Bourbon. The highest of recommendations.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.8 (Epic)

Old Weller Antique (107) Bourbon

Old Weller Antique Bourbon, 53.5% abv(107Proof), $24/bottle

Old Weller Antique is a high proof “wheated” bourbon from Weller and Sons distillery in Frankfurt, KY. The first sniff reveals a good bit of the alcohol you would expect from a bourbon at this proof, however it’s not too tough to work through considering. The nose is somewhat restrained and helped mightily with a splash of spring water to open it up a good bit more. Hints of ripe banana, vanilla, and caramel sweetness reveal themselves at the forefront, but the nose lacks some layered depth. The sip has some nice alcoholic bite and punch, caramel, some integrated barrel char, and sweetness. A splash of water once again elevates those flavors further, and yields a much more creamy mouth feel and viscosity. The finish tapers off short and quick with some light oak remaining, but still leaving me a bit wanting. Old Weller Antique lacks depth and complexity, but is a very nice “sipper” offering some classic bourbon flavor at a very good value.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 7.2(Good)

Maker’s Mark 46

Maker’s Mark 46, 47% abv(94 Proof), $35/bottle

Maker’s Mark 46 is the first true (read: not limited edition) product line of bourbon that Maker’s Mark has produced in over 50 years. Talk about pressure! With a “finishing” process to the tried and true, but somewhat flat, Maker’s Mark original, Kevin Smith (Master Distiller) and Bill Samuels Jr. (CEO) have delivered with a pretty impressive bourbon whiskey. Maker’s 46 opens up far bigger and fuller than its little brother with intense vanilla, caramel, maple syrup, toast, cinnamon, and baked apple. It’s really a masterclass of Bourbon noses with sweetness and high notes of spice. The first sip assures with that smooth, sweet “front of the mouth” flavor of caramel and vanilla that are so familiar with the original Maker’s Mark. “46″ takes that a couple notches further with heaps of maple syrup and honey. The major difference between these two family members is almost immediately felt down the top center of your tongue. Intense cinnamon bite akin to fireball candy or big red chewing gum emerges. There’s a hint of wood tannin and bitter grip that asserts itself as the spirit runs it’s way to the back of your throat. In this moment, this bourbon is telling you, “See – I’m very different!”. The finish is long and lingering with cinnamon burn and toasted oak. Maker’s Mark 46 is an outstanding pour that is a recommended “buy” for any bourbon or whiskey lover.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.9 (Superb/Outstanding)
***Note: The only thing keeping this bourbon from scoring well into the 9′s is that slightly intense wood tannin that shows late, growing in intensity as you sip. I’d recommend taking your time with this one, thus lessening that impact. I think over time Maker’s Mark will get this fine tuned and I can’t wait to see where it goes. And it’s also possible this bottle I purchased was just a little more tannic than others.***