We get inundated with a lot of fake holidays around here (Hey! Check out this round of cocktail recipes for National Himalayan Salt Day!), but we’re pretty big fans of today’s fake holiday: Repeal Day. December 5th marks the day that the US government ended 13 years of prohibition. Just imagine, if you will, how modern life would be different without legalized booze. Picture going to a three-year-old’s birthday party without a few beers. Or Thanksgiving dinner without martinis. Imagine coming home after a day of work full of TPS reports and not being able to make yourself a cocktail. You can say what you want about love, I think booze makes the world go round. So, Repeal Day is a pretty big deal. Jim Beam obviously agrees with me, because they’ve released a limited edition whiskey to honor the occasion, Jim Beam Repeal Batch.
Prohibition hit Jim Beam pretty hard—they didn’t get a medicinal exemption that allowed the distillery to keep producing booze. They shut down for 13 years, then when prohibition was repealed the family worked their asses off to open the distillery again in just 120 days. Fast forward 85 years and Jim Beam is one of the best selling bourbons in the world. This new whiskey was inspired by the sort of whiskey Jim Beam was distilling in the late ‘30s after they got up and running again. It’s a little higher proof than the standard Jim Beam white label and skips Jim Beam’s typical chill filtration process, where the bourbon is brought down to a low temperature and fatty acids are removed. Skipping that process supposedly gives Repeal Batch a fuller body. Otherwise, Repeal Batch is similar to the white label Original. It’s aged four years and made from mostly corn (77%) with a little rye (13%) and a little less malted barley (10%), just like the original. The question is, how does the lack of chill filtration and extra proof affect the bourbon?
Repeal Batch pours more of an amber than a deep brown and delivers plenty of oak and corn on the nose. The mouthfeel is rich and oily and the sip delivers deep notes of corn followed by thin layers of vanilla and cherry. You get some tannins from the oak and some spice on the back end. Not pepper—more like the candy sort of spice from a Red Hot.
Jim Beam’s Original white label is known for its corn-heavy profile and a light, mellow body. It’s a straight forward, budget bourbon without a lot of heat that has introduced thousands, maybe millions of people to the world of bourbon. I certainly drank my fair share of it in college. Recently, I even discovered that Jim Beam Rye makes a serviceable $6 Old Fashioned at one of my favorite local cocktail bars. But Repeal Batch delivers on its promise of being a richer experience than the standard White. It’s a far more complex bourbon than Original white, but don’t confuse “complex” with “difficult.” Repeal Batch is plenty mellow and plenty easy to drink, so even though it’s good enough to drink on its own, it’s still positioned as an “introductory” bourbon. Add ice and it gets even more user friendly as all of the sweet notes come roaring forward in a rush of corn and cherry and vanilla.
Is this a great bourbon? No, it’s not “great.” But it is good, and you can’t take the price point out of the equation here. Jim Beam Repeal Batch is only $18. And it performs well above that price point. I’d put it right there with other cheap over achievers like Old Grand Dad and Old Forester.
Distillery: Jim Beam/Suntory
Style: Kentucky Straight Bourbon