Do you ever look back fondly on your earlier drinking days? For me, those were the days when Captain Morgan and Coke was all I needed and having Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey with ginger ale made me feel boujie. In a way I reminisce the way your parents might, saying that the “old days” were the days. Then I take a step back and remember how nostalgia is often its own form of rose-colored glasses. Case in point: much of the stuff I drank not even 10 years ago makes me wince in retrospect.
Which brings us to the subject of today’s review: Jim Beam Jacob’s Ghost. Jim Beam bottles were always easy to turn to since they offered a good variety of expressions at an affordable price, even if I ended up mixing them 90% of the time. Jacob’s Ghost, a self-proclaimed white whiskey, was among these many contenders. I was initially curious about how a mostly colorless whiskey would taste, and in a way it’s also what prompted me to purchase a recently discovered bottle. It’s no longer in production, but seems to have initially released around 2013 and made from the same mash bill as Jim Beam White. Per the bottle, “Jacob’s Ghost is clear, but it isn’t Moonshine or un-aged White Dog. It’s a special whiskey, aged at least one year in white oak barrels and crafted by our master distillers with over 200 years of Beam tradition to be uniquely versatile and flavorful.” I’ve tried white dog, both cut and uncut, and regard it similarly to many whiskey hobbyists, which is to say it’s simply worth trying for appreciation and perspective. I wonder what char level the barrels were subjected to, because I’d think a level 3 or 4 char would impart more color, even after just a year of aging (and watering down to 80 proof). In any case, let’s dive in.
Nose: As I hover the glass from a distance a slight, initial corn sweetness is followed by a bit of that dry character Jim Beam White has. As my nose nears the glass, it almost instantly transforms into store brand bleach. It’s like you slipped a half-dozen corn kernels into a tub of bleach and attempted to make hand sanitizer with it. I keep hoping it’ll switch gears, that I’ll start to smell grains and the nuances they can bring. Instead I’m reminded of the hotel I stayed at in Bardstown that had an indoor swimming pool (combine that with the carpet flooring and however old the place was and, well, I think that speaks for itself).
Palate: Mimics the nose. Feels like drinking the essence of a hotel with an indoor swimming pool where the carpets are always damp. Any time the carpet begins crossing into dry territory, a family with five kindergarteners vacates the swimming area, paying little mind to pat themselves dry before returning to their room.
Finish: Thankfully short-lived and starts to bring some actual corn flavor, but it’s so watered down and tainted by the chemical-like residual notes that it’s hardly of consolation. Maybe a touch of effervescence, but it’s like putting pool tablet dust into your club soda.
Now I know what you must be thinking: Ken, it sounds like your stay at Bardstown kinda sucked. But no, it was actually great, all things considered. It’s just that returning to the hotel room and being greeted with that chemical essence stood out as the biggest downside to my entire Kentucky trip. That’s where this bottle truly sticks out. It’s like an acute reminder of said trip, which I planned and saved for over the course of at least a couple years. It was a big bucket list entry, and I gleefully crossed it off, ignoring the blip in the radar that was the Bardstown hotel. Yet with Jacob’s Ghost, its reminder isn’t in any of the good parts of the trip. Instead, my mind jumps back in time (a whole 10 months) and goes “now we’re back in the hotel, but imagine you got drunk enough to pass out on the floor and really take in the damp carpet essence.” Forget the scenery, the fermenters, and the rickhouses, it’s all about the hotel and making that the part I remember while drinking this whiskey.
My previous Drain Pour was for Ten High, and in that review, I mentioned that that whiskey played a cruel trick by making me think it wouldn’t be so bad only to bite me immediately after. Jacob’s Ghost plays a different kind of trick, and it’s so much crueler. This feels like it’s actively souring a strong, recent, and pleasant memory. You could say Jacob’s Ghost is haunting me as I type this review. Even good memories have their imperfections, but they’re rarely worth fretting over in my experience. Jacob’s Ghost does just that with a microscope and smell-o-vision. It’s a miracle I haven’t actually poured this down my drain already. Why haven’t I? Because then I’d feel bad for my kitchen sink.