Had the privilege of trying Jim Beam's relatively new Distiller's Masterpiece a few days ago and I have to say I was remarkably impressed. There's no age statement but my palate tells me its one of the oldest bourbons they've ever released considering how tannic and oak driven the flavor profile is. While Scotch producers have been using sherry barrels to age whiskey for centuries, it's a relatively new concept for American whiskey. Here are my tasting notes:
Aromas/Nose: Strong notes of sherry on the nose in the form of fruitcake, figs and marizapan. I also get aromas of candied ginger, firewood, granite stone, chocolate souffle and Italian sausage. The impressive heavy handedness of the oak seems to proliferate even the aromas, adding a density you wouldn't think possible. I get the sensation of being in a swamp where fallen trees and branches are slowly decomposing and a damp wood smell fills the air.
Taste: Wow this stuff's good. It's bold, it's viscous and resinous, it's everything I never knew Jim Beam could be. The initially flavors I get are earth, volcanic ash and gravel. Tannic and oak driven are an understatement, and I could see how this might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I'm unabashedly smitten. All a board the oak train, we're riding this one till the wheels fall off. As it opens up I get notes of sticky toffee pudding, pumpernickel, cinnabons, espresso, cement and bran muffins. At 50% alcohol the flavors are perfectly concentrated without being overwhelming.
Finish: The finish is rustic and earthy, with a pronounced lingering minerality. There's some creaminess mid-palate but the finish is all beautiful leathery tannins that make your mouth water. Absolutely epic!
This for me is about as good as it gets bourbon wise. The richness of the sherry combines beautifully with the intensity of the oak. The price tag's a little steep at $200, but it's a one time release that's definitely worth seeking out. All things considered, you could pay $10,000 or more for a Scotch of equivalent quality. I'm sure I'll be taking home a few bottles of this for my cellar.
Available @ Both Shops!