It has been a long time since I drank bourbon. Like many young men looking to break free of the shackles of adolescence, my late teens were spent in an almost nightly ritual of pouring bourbon and coke down my throat in an effort to discover meaning in my own existence. But like so much in life, after a few years the sugary sweetness wears off, and my tastes developed away from the American whiskey.
So it’s with some trepidation – and a touch of excitement – that I head to Sydney’s Eau de Vie bar in Darlinghurst to taste Jim Beam’s new premium bourbon. Known as the Devil’s Cut, Jim Beam has discovered a way to extract the whiskey trapped in the charred oak barrels, which it then blends with its six year old whiskey to produce the sweet, 90 proof bourbon.It’s a low key affair. A dozen or so journalists from different lifestyle publications sit around a quiet room talking, as waiters bring around both food and drink made using the premium bourbon. The first drink is not what I was expecting: A punch, combining rum, pineapple juice, grapefruit juice, bitters and ginger beer with the bourbon is sweet and fruity. The bourbon is there, underlying the flavours, but offers a much more mature experience than topping a glass up with post-mix coke. Served with a swordfish tartare laced with Devil’s Cut hot sauce, it’s immediately obvious that there’s much more to bourbon than my 19-year-old self would ever have guessed.
“By law, bourbon can only be aged in new oak barrels, which are charred on the inside to create the nice caramelised wood sugars that give bourbon its sweetness,” explains Jarred Plummer, Jim Beam’s Bourbon Brand Ambassador in Australia. “And because the Kentucky weather goes from extreme heat in the summer to extreme cold in the winter, the process of ageing a bourbon happens much faster than a Scotch whiskey.”
It turns out that the temperature extremes see the oak barrels absorb a significant chunk of the whiskey during the ageing process, which was traditionally known as the “angel’s share”. Because bourbon can only use brand new barrels – and only use them once – that bourbon traditionally remained in the barrels, helping to infuse whatever alcohol was next aged in them with extra Kentucky flavouring.
“The Devil’s Cut (which is a play on the “angel’s share”), uses a proprietary method to extract that intense, flavoursome bourbon from the barrels, which is then blended with Beam’s six-year old bourbon to create the new drink”, Plummer explains.
As the room takes a swig of the swirling brown liquid neat, you can taste the intensity. Sure, it warms your chest like liquid fire, but there’s a caramel to it, a sweetness that counteracts the high alcohol percentage to create a balanced, enjoyable flavour.
Things get better as the next cocktail is served. A Devil’s Cut fizz – with raspberries, egg whites and creme de cacao – is matched with poached Devil’s Cut peaches served with duck liver parfait on toasted brioche. At first the bourbon in the drink slides down easily, but then becomes almost too sweet. Fortunately, the third cocktail evens the night out perfectly.An old fashioned combination of Devil’s Cut and spiced cherry shrub, served with orange peel and Angostura bitters showcases the simplicity and strength of the new bourbon. When coupled with a honey and malt pannacotta, my opinions on bourbon officially sway. No longer is it just a drink to mix with coke as an easy a quick way to lose yourself to alcohol’s wonders. It’s a versatile base for a wild combination of flavours, with a fundamental sweetness that offsets the strength of the whiskey’s alcohol.
If you want to recreate any of the cocktails mentioned above, Jim Beam were kind enough to share the recipes with EFTM, which we’ve copied below. I’d thoroughly recommend it – the devil doesn’t share his cut willingly, but that just makes the taste that much sweeter.
Web: Jim Beam
Devils Cut Punch
50mls Devils Cut
10mls Cruzan Single Barrel Rum
60mls Pineapple juice
15mls White Grapefruit
15mls Crawley’s Agave
3 Dashes of Creole Bitter Truth
Splash of Ginger Beer
Method: Shake all except ginger beer and pour into a highball over ice
Garnish: Mint sprig & white grapefruit wedge
To pair with
Swordfish Tartare w/ Ginger infused pineapple and house made Devil’s Cut hot sauce
45mls Devils Cut
15mls Bols White Crème de Cacao
15mls Crawleys Raspberry
40mls White Grapefruit
Method: Shake all except soda water. Strain into a well chilled highball glass. Top with soda.
Garnish: Grated nutmeg
To pair with
EDV’s Juniper spiced Duck Liver parfait on toasted brioche w/ Devil’s Cut poached peaches
Cherry Whiskey Shrub
50mls Devils Cut
20mls Spiced Cherry Shrub
2 dashes of Angostura Bitters
Method: Build and stir with ice
Garnish: Orange peel
To pair with
Honey & Malt Pannacotta w/ Oloroso infused sour cherries