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Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Marketing Trick or Treat? Jim Beam Devil's Cut Bourbon Whiskey

I’ve never been a fan of Halloween. Masks, fancy dress, ghouls and ghosts. Not really my thing, I’m afraid. Little Dickensian urchins running around the street like urban foxes, looking for treats purchased in haste by frightened old ladies from the local pound shop. I don’t know who the Halloween equivalent of Scrooge is, but we’re certainly related. 

However, as this occasion become increasingly more commercialised over time, I have become increasingly more frustrated by its seemingly ubiquitous nature. From very little pieces of Halloween kit in the local supermarket, there now seems to be an entire aisle dedicated to crappy plastic bits and bobs which make the Elephant Man look like Kate Moss.

But as I sit in this evening, awaiting the inevitable knock-knock on the door from the local South London kids (who do a bloody good job scaring the bejeebers out of me with just a hoodie and a BMX on a regular day) adorned in a Scream mask with a flashing plastic poker, maybe I should have something ready for them as a treat?

Instead of a random bag of Haribo sours, I was thinking more whiskey sours... imagine the horror of the parents when I open the door to a  fully stocked bar, offering their little bundle of joy a top-notch cocktail. I might even garnish it with a packet of Marlborough Reds and a Turkey Twizzler. Go the whole hog on trying the keep them away of next year.

If I was to be handing out free whiskey sours which, for the point of responsible drinking and general welfare of the local community, I shall not be, then I would have only one choice of bourbon with which to make the concoction: Jim Beam Devil’s Cut.

A brilliantly worked concept for a new product (or ‘marketing’, whichever way you want to cut it), Jim Beam Devil’s Cut was launch last month in to the UK market after being a hit stateside and in selected other markets such as Australia and South Africa.

The idea behind this extra-strength offering from the biggest selling bourbon in the world is thus: we have all heard of the ‘angels’ share’, where a portion of the liquid inside the cask evaporates in to the air. Well, as with all whisk(e)y maturation, some of the new make filled into the cask after distillation, is absorbed into the wood and effectively lost forever. This, Jim Beam claim, is the ‘devil’s cut’. 


With the angles’ share, this evaporated spirit is lost forever; gone to the heavens for an almighty party (or a party with the Almighty). The devil’s cut, however, is still locked inside the porous oak staves from which the cask is made. By filling the emptied casks with water and spinning them at high-speed, Jim Beam claim they can free some of this lost liquid. The water, containing a large amount of this ‘devil’s cut’ is then used to cut down the traditional six year old Jim Beam, resulting in a whiskey of higher strength and, according to the manufacturer, increased flavour. But is this a trick, or a treat?

Jim Beam – Devil’s Cut – Kentucky Straight Bourbon – 45% abv -  ~£25.00

Nose: the classic bourbon notes of raspberry jam, red boiled sweets and some cracked black pepper are all there, but there is an extra woody note of dry timber, some old antique furniture and a hint of spearmint.

Palate: Yes, there is certainly more oak in the palate and it is dryer than the traditional bottling of Jim Beam. The extra abv gives a good kick to the palate, but there is a richer and rounder feel (think well made flap-jack or cookie dough) to the classic Beam palate.

Finish: Spicy and filling.

Overall: Not strictly made for sipping, but for mixing, this does drink well with a block of ice, but is best used to make a robust Old Fashioned or Manhattan. If you like an additional twist of strength and flavour to your regular bourbon-based cocktails, then certainly grab yourself a bottle of this.

As for the festivities of this evening, I’m drawing all curtains, sitting in the dark and waiting for the night to be over. Or maybe I will set up that cocktail stall. More Bar Humbug than ‘Bah, Humbug’...