By Richard Thomas
Billed as a sinister, stronger choice in bourbon, Jim Beam’s Devil’s Cut was indeed a cutting edge whiskey, albeit not for the reasons advertised. Instead, Devil’s Cut was the first mass market bourbon release to base itself firmly on the process of barrel rinsing.
When a whiskey barrel is emptied, some of the liquid remains behind, soaked into the interior wood surface of the barrel. Barrel rinsing extracts that last bit of whiskey out, and Beam was the first producer to use the barrel rinse extract on a large scale. Beam mixes the extract with a more normal 6 year old Beam (in what proportions they won’t say) to create the 90 proof Devil’s Cut.
I say first producer, but certainly not the last. Maker’s Mark, which is owned by Jim Beam, announced they would respond to their supply problems by introducing barrel rinsing, presumably using Beam’s proprietary method. Brown-Forman is also known to have a rinsing process of their own under patent. This is why The Whiskey Reviewer has chosen to look at Devil’s Cut, originally released more than two years ago, at the present time. The whiskey extracted by the rinsing process isn’t quite the same thing as the major portion floating around in the barrel, and if rinsing is going to become more widespread, taking a close look at a product drawn in large part from the rinse extract is very much in order.
Bottled in a pretty standard Beam-style bottle with a charred paper-stylized label, Devil’s Cut has a light-to-middling amber color in the glass. The nose has a certain floral vanilla sweetness to it, with hints of oak.
Given that nose, the flavor is a shocking surprise. Although that vanilla sweetness is still there, the bourbon is bold, oaky, spicy, and with a rough and ragged kick on the end. I must strongly and pointedly disagree with most other reviewers on this, so much so that I wonder if Beam hasn’t tinkered with the Devil’s Cut’s flavor profile since it’s release two years ago. While I would not call this bourbon harsh, it certainly isn’t mellow, and sweetness is not its dominant characteristic.
The finish leaves a slight vanilla aftertaste, and a lingering warmth that rides on and on, off into the sunset. This part bears much more resemblance to the nose than the spicy, bold, rough taste in the middle.
My question with Beam Devil’s Cut is one of how it stacks up against other bourbons that are a bit bolder, a bit spicier, and a bit stronger. Viewed from that perspective, it runs parallel to Jim Beam White Label. While very different from Jim Beam’s original and core product, it serves much the same role. Devil’s Cut is a baseline, thoroughly average whiskey for a whiskey of its type, just as Beam White Label is practically the textbook definition for an average bourbon.
Depending on local taxes, a fifth of Devil’s Cut should cost about $25.