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.