By Richard Thomas
I’ve always thought one of the odder trends in the burgeoning sector of flavored whiskeys and liqueurs is the emergence of the maple whiskey. Honey whiskey liqueurs have been around for decades, and most of the others follow one of the many ways people used to put some flavor into their corn whiskey and/or moonshine. Maple is not nearly so traditional.
Perhaps that is because the maple whiskeys are so disappointing, so often the kind of thing that could only ever be used as a mixer or in cocktails, unsuitable for drinking on their own. Whereas a lot of the other flavored whiskeys at least have some go-it-alone merit, if only as something too simple to be diluted and dulled by ice, most maples whiskeys are too candied for that. There are exceptions, such as the Knob Creek Smoked Maple and Tap 357, but Jim Beam Maple is not one of them.
Jim Beam Maple is a straight bourbon infused with maple, and cut down to the below-bourbon proof of 70 (35% abv). In the glass, the color is akin to that of white wine, something more like what one would expect from the typical scotch rather than anything typical about bourbon.
That surprised me, because even watered down a bit, the whiskey part of Jim Beam Maple is supposed to be drawn from Jim Beam White. With maple syrup in there, one would expect the liquid to be more, not less amber. That lack of color hints at either young whiskey or not much whiskey, a hint that was soon confirmed.
The nose is thick with maple, leaning into butterscotch. There is a light bite of mineral spirits in the scent, hinting at the whiskey, but certainly nothing in the sense of mature whiskey. It isn’t harsh, but it’s there.
The flavor is solid maple, plain and simple. It’s sticky and sweet, and if the stuff were thicker you would think it was bourbon maple syrup and not maple bourbon whiskey. As it is, I guess what it tastes like is high proof maple cough syrup. I honestly can’t see where other reviewers thought the bourbon flavors in this are hiding, because to me the maple infusion drowns quiet old Jim Beam as surely as if the bottle were dunked in concrete and dropped into a vat of syrup. Even the finish is all maple, light but lasting.
The only plus here is the price, a mere $16 per fifth (750 ml) in most parts of the U.S. That makes it cheap enough to merit keep a bottle around if one wants that maple flavor for mixers and cocktails. The stuff is now available in the UK, where one can expect the taxes to make it much more expensive there.