Jim Beam is in a tight race with Heaven Hill to see who can fill up the bottom shelf with products that are just different enough to necessitate a new label. To do this, they must carefully adjust ages, mash bills and proofs. But there is only so much adjusting they can do before consumers will eventually get wise to the fact that a producer is basically giving them the same product with different pricetags.
That’s the story with Old Tub. In 2020, Jim Beam already had two competent bottled-in-bond products on the shelves in the form of Jim Beam Bonded and Old Grand Dad Bonded. If you want to get even more in the weeds, they had many other bargain-priced 100 proof labels out as well including Distiller’s Cut and Knob Creek Small Batch.
So to introduce a new product – even one that was going to differentiate itself by being unfiltered – was probably not the best idea in an already crowded segment.
Jim Beam tests Old Tub BiB as a “distillery release” to see if enthusiasts will like it
Jim Beam was already releasing Old Tub in 375ml bottles as a gift-shop exclusive since 2020. Reactions were mostly positive, so this led to the decision to release Old Tub nationally in 2022. At the same time, Beam decided to end the Jim Beam Bonded label since it was its primary competitor.
There was an important difference between the two: Jim Beam Bonded was chill filtered whereas Old Tub would see no real filtration of any kind aside from a screen to catch larger sediment. Even across other brands who sell a BiB product, this was unique.
Initial reviews on Old Tub aren’t as positive as I was thinking they’d be. Yes, I know it’s a sub-$25 bottle, but I never saw the need to rush to the store to buy them. In fact, the opposite is true for the bottle I have in front of me.
My local liquor store struggled so much to sell them so they slashed the price to $10. Only then did they fly off the shelf. That’s probably the only reason I ended up with this bottle – otherwise it was really low on my list of products to try.
So now that I have it, I may as well try it. Does it taste like a $25 bottle? Or a $10 bottle? That’s what I’m hoping to find out. I sampled this neat in a glencairn.
Nose: The nose shows a lot of grain notes right up front – similar to a bowl of grits. Cinnamon spice is fairly aggressive too. Sweeter scents of table syrup and caramel chips take the edge off of each sniff. Overall, the nose is very robust, but not enough to think it’s a much more mature product.
Palate: Sweet notes like caramel tangle with harsher notes like barrel char, oak spice and corn. Spices fight for your attention too with notes of clove, cinnamon and a bit of peppermint. Overall, each sip is very bold and tastes like it was bottled at around 110 proof, not 100.
The spice level makes it taste like there’s more rye in the mash bill than there actually is. It tastes closer to the high-rye mash bill of Old Grand Dad bonded than a bottle of sweet and nutty Knob Creek Small Batch.
Finish: The finish is unique in the sense that notes like caramel and tannins go away quickly, but the spice notes last a while. Cinnamon, black pepper, red pepper flakes and allspice all settle into your tongue to remind you of the sip you just had. The flavors are much more simplified at the end, but I find the finish to still be nice enough.
Other review sites have noted that Old Tub didn’t taste too different from its competition. In most cases, they noted how its inferior to them. I don’t find that to be the case here. Old Tub is much more brash and bold than a bottle of, say, Evan Williams Bottled in Bond. It might even be the better bet than all of the other Jim Beam labeled products.
There is one bottle it loses easily against though – and that’s Old Grand Dad Bottled in Bond (OGDBiB). That bottle is so good that it even puts older 100 proof bottles to shame. The reason is because OGD has a combination of complex flavors that seem much more mature than its age leads on. Old Tub still tastes every bit of its 5 years in a barrel (I have reason to believe this is not only 4 years old).
If you’re a fan of Jim Beam bottom-shelf options and are looking to expand your horizons, then Old Tub is a fine choice. If you’re looking to move upwards, OGDBiB is a better choice. But if you’re a bourbon drinker that drinks at least at the Knob Creek price point, I don’t see much here to persuade you to slum it with Old Tub. It’s perfectly passable, but I don’t know why you’d want to cheap out when there are some awesome bottles at the $30-range.
In a crowded marketplace like Bottled in Bond Bourbons around $25, there’s a lot of selection but not a lot of reason to try them all if you’ve got a reasonable bourbon budget.
So either this review is going to fall on a lot of deaf ears or the more budget-conscious drinkers out there will hear what I’m trying to say. If you want a sipper that’s more about putting hair on your chest rather than meekly hoping it doesn’t burn too much going down, then look no further than Old Tub.
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