Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Beam Puts Dregs To Good Use With New Devil's Cut.

The dictionary defines ‘dregs’ in part as, "the last remaining, and often least attractive part of something.’ That definition may need to be revised in light of a new product coming in May from Jim Beam.

It’s called Jim Beam Devil’s Cut. The name is a play on the expression ‘angel’s share,’ what distillers call whiskey that evaporates during aging. ‘Devil’s Cut’ is Beam’s trademarked term for whiskey that is still "trapped within the wood" after dumping. In other words, the dregs.

Whiskey-makers typically rinse their freshly-dumped barrels with water to extract some of this remainder. A few years ago, Jack Daniel’s started a program where they fill the emptied barrels about 1/3 with water and let them sit that way, on end, for several weeks. They estimate this recovers about five times more whiskey, measured by alcohol content, than rinsing alone.

All Beam will say about its process is this: "Through a unique, proprietary process, we extract this formerly lost liquid from deep inside the barrel wood and put it back into our special Bourbon. The resulting liquid is deep in color, aroma and character with robust notes of wood and vanilla."

I predict the enthusiast community will be enthusiastic about Jim Beam Devil’s Cut. This is exactly the kind of experimentation we’ve been urging Beam to do, and it follows on the heals of products such as Jim Beam Signature, Old Crow Reserve, and Knob Creek Single Barrel.

Fred Noe grew up in Bardstown, Kentucky, and participated no doubt in the local rite of passage known as 'sweating a barrel.' Kids would ‘liberate’ a freshly-dumped barrel from one of the local distilleries, put a few gallons of water in it, plug up the bung hole, and roll the barrel around in the hot sun until they got bored. The resulting liquid usually contained enough alcohol to deliver a light buzz.

How does Jim Beam Devil’s Cut taste? Exactly as I would have expected. Mixing these dregs (what else do you want to call them?) with the regular juice in some proportion gives the illusion of much greater age because it's so loaded with tannin, char and other wood flavors.

There is no age statement on the bottle so presumably Devil’s Cut is based on 4-year-old Jim Beam White Label, but the flavor is very different. Retail price will be in the neighborhood of $24 for a 750/ml bottle.

In the course of about a year, Beam Global has gone from the least innovative company in the industry to arguably the most innovative, and their willingness to bet the flagship brand on these escapades makes it even more impressive.


Leah said...

Wow, I may actually have to buy some Beam products. Chuck, any thoughts about why, after years of not doing any thing new, Beam is suddenly coming out with all of this stuff. Do you think pressure from you ando ther writers had something to do with it? Was it always part of the plan?

Chuck Cowdery said...

It seems to be a corporate imperative.

sam k said...

Amazing concept, and you're right...I'm actually excited to taste a Beam product for the first time in recent memory. Nice to see it being offered at 90 proof, too.

One question: will this make these particular barrels less attractive on the secondary market, or will someone come up with an even more creative use for them the second time around?

Chuck Cowdery said...

As I understand it, this if anything makes the used barrels more marketable because they are de-bourbonized, which many producers of scotch and other aged spirits actually prefer.

sam k said...

Win-win, eh?

Wade said...

Chuck - can they still call this bourbon? Assuming they are using water extraction, would not the water be below the barrel entry proof required to be called bourbon?

Inthewater said...

One thing that could suffer is Burbon Barrel Aged craft beers, but I doubt many of them get their barrels from Beam.

Curious to try this stuff, sounds sorta tasty.

Chuck Cowdery said...

The whiskey is already in the barrel, Wade, and water is just used to tease it out. There is no 'barrel entry' involved. There is nothing in the product except bourbon and water, just like every other straight bourbon on the market.

John Q. Gadfly said...

And yet when someone tries to get the same super-oaky effect by using a small barrel, YOU say the result sucks!

Hmmmm. Double standard much?

Anonymous said...

I just tried a bottle for "something new" - wow! good stuff...won't be for everybody but i'm sold...it will be one of my "go to's" in my booze cabinet!