Jim Beam probably isn’t the first brand you think of when the words “limited” and “quality” are brought up. Yet that’s precisely what one would likely describe their Signature Craft lineup as. This collection consisted of six expressions, each sold in a 375mL bottle and aged for 11 years. Today we’ll be looking at the Six Row Barley variant.
According to The Whiskey Jug, Jim Beam Six Row Barley “differs from the more common two-row barley in a couple ways. It has a higher protein content which gives it less fermentable sugars which is why it’s often used as animal feed. It also has six rows of seeds on the end of the stalk where as two-row only has… two.”
The bottle itself boasts “an aroma of oak and light spice” with a taste of “nicely balanced grain and oak, with a light-bodied finish.” A bottle of this sets me back the same as a pour of George T. Stagg from a local bar, so let’s see how it fares.
Nose: Actual grains with a restrained sweetness, akin to a fresh batch of nuts in a field. Honestly reminds me more of Heaven Hill than Jim Beam. Smells like what I imagine distiller’s beer is like. Grain and wood with sawdust, lightly toasted deli bread and warm honey vanilla almond granola.
Palate: Sweet and lightly syrupy at the forefront. Vanilla, almonds, oak and grain. Mid-palate is easy with vanilla and light citrus notes, while the backend brings some bitterness and astringency that throws things off a bit.
Finish: Short-medium. Mostly some oak and warmth. Can get a bit of dry grain, sawdust and maple syrup. Definitely packs more than you’d expect out of a 90-proof bourbon.
This begins to make a case for Jim Beam products crossing double-digits age range. From the smell to the finish this feels more developed than most expressions from the distiller, despite its low proof. At the same time, this isn’t something you need to hunt down and try. It’s more of a “grab if you can find it without much trouble” sort of situation. I won’t tell you that this is an example of Jim Beam’s finest; I will tell you that this is better than most higher-end Jim Beam expressions I’ve had.
My only grievance with the Six Row Barley is that the aforementioned toastiness and astringency blend together too well. That may sound like a minor issue, but it’s a bit more substantial here since that heat characterizes so much of the back-end.
Taken as a whole, I’m glad I got to try this particular experimentation, especially for such an agreeable price ($45 adjusted for an 11-year bourbon is tough to shrug aside). Part of me feels even more age could’ve made the Six Row Barley better, but the impact of more oak could also throw it off. An interesting experiment all the same, just not one I’d be eager to try again.