Tasting #10 Recap: Jim Beam Night

Last night we had the pleasure of having Dave Kearns, Jim Beam Distillery Specialist, host our tenth monthly event. He brought Jim Beam Black, Single Barrel, Signature Craft 12-year, and Signature Craft Rare Spanish Brandy.

Know Your Whiskey

Originally from Germany, the Boem (later changed to Beam) family landed in America in 1740 where they quickly settled in Kentucky. Since 1795 (with a brief interruption during prohibition), seven generations of the Beam family have distilled whiskey. Their history is rich, complex, and filled with great stories. For instance, more than 60 brands of whiskey in three countries can be traced back to the Beam family. Follow the interactive timeline on their website here.

Dave shared with us that Jim Beam is the number #1 selling bourbon in the world. They make more than half the whiskey that comes out of Kentucky and recently filled their 13th million barrel since prohibition. They currently fill roughly 625-650 barrels a day and pull about 550-600 to be bottled. Sound like some busy folks!


Introduced in 1978 and aged eight years, Dave said this whiskey is one of the best kept secrets in the whiskey industry. I definitely agree with him on that sentiment. This is a great whiskey for a low price ($22).


This bourbon was introduced in March of 2014. I’m glad that the Jim Beam brand finally got on the single barrel train. I’m surprised that it took them so long but I guess they’ve been pretty focused on selling more bourbon than anyone else, ever. Dave let us taste from barrel 4-219.


Because it often seems like Jim Beam is making the same whiskies every year, I was really excited when they released this 12-year bourbon and Spanish Brandy (below) last August. I love it when distilleries add new products to their lineup and I think these two bourbons compliment their whiskey portfolio well.


When I first saw this whiskey I thought it was a bourbon finished in a Spanish brandy barrel. But it’s not. It’s a mix of 95% bourbon and 5% Spanish brandy. What’s unique about this whiskey is once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. The 12-year will continue to be a part of their regular lineup but every August they will bring in a new Signature whiskey.

Our Tasting Notes

Black was sweet and smooth with a good balance and not overly strong. One of our members said, “no bite, smooth and good.” It had a lot of vanilla and fruit on the palate. For $22, it's a super steal. If you haven’t checked this out, we’d definitely recommend picking up a bottle.

Single Barrel was bolder than the Black with good balance and an equal lack of burn. Dave recommended this one for cocktails, especially an old-fashioned. I got a lot of vanilla, cinnamon, and some hay on the palate.

Signature Craft 12-year was the most complex out of the group. It was also super smooth with lots of wood and fruit notes. Vanilla, cinnamon, and wood gave this bourbon an excellent depth. I’m considering stocking this one in my liquor cabinet (along with the Black).

Signature Craft Rare Spanish Brandy had lots of fruit and grape notes (makes sense since it has brandy in it). Many thought it was very complex but I didn’t get that. This was my least favorite out of the four (I liked the first 3) but I give Jim Beam tons of props in trying something different.

The Collective Favorite

We asked everyone to vote on which whiskey they liked best. This is how it broke down:

  • 8% liked Jim Beam Black as their favorite
  • 24% liked Jim Beam Single Barrel as their favorite
  • 48% liked Jim Beam Signature Craft 12-year as their favorite
  • 20% liked Jim Beam Signature Craft Rare Spanish Brandy as their favorite

If you’re on the fence about coming and checking out the Seattle Whiskey Collective let me tell you that Dave also brought a whiskey that will not be released until this fall. We were the first people in Washington to try it. Where else are you going to get those kind of perks? And he brought shot glasses and jiggers for all. Free schwag, score!

Thank you so much to Dave for teaching us a ton about Jim Beam and whiskey in general. And of course, thanks for bringing four great whiskies.

And thanks to all those that came out. If you’d like to join us at future tastings, sign up on our email list at seattlewhiskeycollective.com.