The Booze Bag: The Devil’s Cut
Before I get into reviewing this ‘bourbon dream product’ from the good folks at Jim Beam, I feel it’s necessary to give you a bit of back story and possibly introduce you to several new terms. Historically, when distillers would open their barrels after having let their spirits age for several years, they would notice that volume-wise there was less spirit in the barrel then when they started. Temperature changes cause pure water in the Bourbon to evaporate, so the barrels commonly contain much less liquid than when they were filled. Bourbon loses about three percent of its volume for each year of aging, but contains between 10 and 20 percent more alcohol.(2)
Two terms emerged:
The “Angels’ Share” is a term for the portion (share) of a wine or distilled spirit’s volume that is lost to evaporation during aging in oak barrels. The barrels are typically French or American oak.(1)
The “Devil’s Cut” is a term for the portion of the spirit that is lost, because it has actually soaked into the oak barrel itself.
Believe it or not this “devils cut” has historically been extremely important to the distilling industry as these used bourbon soaked barrels give several other spirits (notably rum, brandy and Scotch) their underlying smokey flavors.
I guess Jim Beam had enough of that nonsense and has somehow figured out a way to extract this “Devil’s Share” of the bourbon back out of the barrel walls to infuse and reuse it in their own bourbon. Reclaiming the share from the Devil and giving us an incense-smoke, vanilla flavored bourbon. (all bullshit aside, quite a trick)
“To create Jim Beam® Devil’s Cut™, an extraordinary new bourbon experience, we developed a proprietary process that actually pulls the rich whiskey trapped inside the barrels’ wood after they’re emptied. We hold this barrel-treated extract until it develops the proper balance of bourbon notes, then blend it with 6 year old bourbon and bottle at 90 proof. The result: a robust, premium bourbon with deep color, aroma and character.”
I love the Angels’ Share and Devil’s Cut terms and I often use them as a test of sorts when speaking to those who profess to be whiskey connoisseurs. If you don’t know about the angels/devils share …forget it. In my opinion Jim Beam hit the ball out of the park with the name of this Bourbon alone. Fresh off the commercial success of their Honey Whiskey initiative someone must be feeling downright sassy over at Jim Beam.
This has been a long winded way to say that the name of this product piqued my interest in a big way. But how does it stack up to say a Bulliet, Buffalo Trace, or Woodford Reserve Bourbon?
Well…it was interesting and not exactly what I had hoped for. I was ready for the smoke and vanilla flavors that I had read so much about and the almost cinnamon’y after taste. But let’s put it this way: this is not sipping whiskey or sipping Bourbon. Drinking it ‘neat’ left a raw hint of the char and while slight flavors of vanilla may have been present, the unique, bitter, almost cinnamon’esque after taste left something to be desired. Mellow this baby ain’t. The first taste on ones pallet when sipping was high octane followed by a smokey caramel flavor followed by cinnamon-char that really lingered on and on. I know many folks find this a welcome change to the sweetness of most bourbons, but I was a little caught off guard.
Now as a mixing bourbon (i.e. with Coke on the rocks) it was actually rather enjoyable. The Devil’s Cut is a spicier take on a Beam and Coke. True blue Bourbon drinkers ought to give it a try, but know that I totally fell for the marketing hype on this one.