Style Take a look at: The Jim Beam Distillery Releases a Rye Worthy of the High Shelf 

A new bottle of Old Overholt has arrived, sporting the same curmudgeonly sourpuss face of Abe Overholt on the label as the beloved original. But this is a special rye whiskey, bottled at cask strength and aged for 10 years, and a marker of just how good a bottom-shelf Jim Beam brand can be when it’s shown a little love and affection.

Old Overholt started out as a Pennsylvania rye whiskey, but the brand has been owned by Jim Beam—now known as the James B. Beam Distilling Co.—since 1987 (it’s said to be the oldest continually produced brand of whiskey in America). It’s been made as a Kentucky-style rye for decades now, meaning there’s somewhere around the legally required 51 percent rye in the mashbill. Beam kept Old Overholt as part of its low-cost “The Olds” family, which also includes Old Grand-Dad and Old Crow. While those brands haven’t changed much, Old Overholt has gotten some much needed and deserved attention over the past few years—upping the age from three to four years and the proof from 80 to 86 for the core expression, introducing a bottled-in-bond whiskey, and even launching a limited edition 11-year-old rye a few years ago. And now comes Extra Aged Cask Strength Rye, a premium bottle that shows how a higher ABV and lengthy maturation can improve this whiskey.

The whiskey for this release was barreled in the autumn and winter of 2012 and aged in one of Jim Beam’s “escalator warehouses” for a decade, meaning a warehouse that has an actual escalator to move barrels around making it easier to maintain consistency. It was bottled at cask strength of 121 proof, which is getting up there but not as strong as Booker’s, a bourbon that is part of the Jim Beam Small Batch Collection. This rye drinks a bit hot, but it’s a delicious sipper. Bartenders have long been fans of classic Old Overholt, touting it as an affordable rye whiskey that packs enough spice onto the palate to use in a Manhattan. Extra Aged Cask Strength would certainly make a delicious cocktail, but you’re probably better off sipping it, and maybe adding some water or a large ice cube if you’d like to proof it down. The spice factor is amplified a bit with age, but there are also notes of oak, caramel, vanilla, cherry syrup, candied orange, prune, and dash of cinnamon on the finish.

Will Beam ever start doting on Old Grand-Dad (yes, please) or Old Crow (less likely) in the same way it has on Old Overholt? Probably not, and truth be told the focus is still mostly on Beam’s other brands like the bourbon behemoth that is White Label. But fans of regular Old Overholt, a fine budget option in its own right, should give this beefed up version a try to see how it compares—you won’t be disappointed.

Score: 92

  • 100: Worth trading your first born for
  • 95 – 99 In the Pantheon: A trophy for the cabinet
  • 90 – 94 Great: An excited nod from friends when you pour them a dram 
  • 85 – 89 Very Good: Delicious enough to buy, but not quite special enough to chase on the secondary market
  • 80 – 84 Good: More of your everyday drinker, solid and reliable
  • Below 80 It’s alright: Honestly, we probably won’t waste your time and ours with this

Every week Jonah Flicker tastes the most buzzworthy and interesting whiskeys in the world. Check back each Friday for his latest review.

Source: Robb Report

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