Jim Beam Black Is the Latest Beam Bourbon to Regain an Age Statement at 7 Years

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Jim Beam Black Is the Latest Beam Bourbon to Regain an Age Statement at 7 Years

It really has been fascinating, watching the bourbon and rye whiskey lineup of Jim Beam be revamped in the last few years, at least when it comes to the subject of age statements. Only a few years ago, the bourbon boom and dearth of aging whiskey in Kentucky led to a cascade of brands losing their former age statements because of demand, most famously in the cases of 12-year-old Elijah Craig Small Batch, or Beam’s 9-year-old Knob Creek Small Batch. But the consumer value inherent in those age statements has since been an aspect embraced by Beam in particular, which now extends all the way to the often undersung Jim Beam Black. In an announcement today, the company revealed that Jim Beam Black will now carry a 7-year age statement, as well as receiving a subtle boost in strength, from 43% ABV (86 proof) to 45% ABV (90 proof).

This is another step in Beam’s broader reevaluation of age statements, which began in 2020 when the flagship Knob Creek Small Batch Bourbon regained its 9 year age statement. That subsequently kicked off a period of experimentation with the brand with extra-aged releases, first in the form of the regularly available Knob Creek 12 and eventually with 15-year-old and 18-year-old special releases. The company then moved on to applying that transparency toward their rye whiskey lineup with a permanent 7 year age statement on Knob Creek Rye, followed by the recent first-time release of a new 10-year-old Knob Creek Rye expression.

To extend this thinking to the core Jim Beam line, though, is a bigger move than it might initially appear. It implies Beam’s recognition of how much “premiumization” has driven the American whiskey market forward in recent years, with higher dollar value bottles often working to offset sales decreases of more affordable brands. It also suggests the potential difficult faced by a “middle child” brand such as Jim Beam Black, which has always been an extra-aged version of the company’s 4-year-old, white label flagship. Sure, you can argue that the average consumer is going to be curious to try the bottle because it features what Beam describes as “an enhanced premium liquid,” but what’s to stop them from simply skipping over Jim Beam Black and going straight to the 9-year-old, 100 proof expression of Knob Creek? The $10 difference in MSRPs between those two ($25 vs. $35) is the primary thing separating them, and seems significantly more relevant to some consumers than others.

This is arguably the same sort of position that another middle child of the Beam lineup, Baker’s, has so often found itself in. At its $60 MSRP, it finds itself competing against the cask strength intensity of Booker’s, as well as the extra-aged Knob Creek 12. One wonders how many pieces of pie you can cut this segment into.

Regardless, the whiskey geeks in the audience always appreciate a concrete age statement, and none of them are going to be complaining about the subtle boost in strength, even if it is from 43% ABV to 45% ABV. With its MSRP remaining rooted at $25, this bottle should remain one of the best all-around values on the American whiskey shelf. For a baseline of quality in a cocktail such as the Old Fashioned, it will no doubt remain a popular go-to.

Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident brown liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.

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