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New Masterpiece Bourbon from Jim Beam

Jack Bettridge
Posted: April 26, 2013

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Jim Beam Distiller's Masterpiece Finished in PX Sherry Casks (100 proof, or 50 percent alcohol by volume; no age statement; $199.99 a 750-milliliter bottle)

APPEARANCE: Straddles between copper and dark toffee in color. At first, the legs seem come in minute droplets. They stubbornly cling to the class, and when they at last begin to stroll down it's because they've clung together in fully formed beads.

NOSE: At first sniff the bouquet is a quick snap of caramel and vanilla (the hallmarks of Bourbon). But rather quickly come intense fruity notes: blackberries and cherries, followed by a snap of orange peel. Then the nose floats off into more exotic fruit: cassis and passion fruit.

PALATE: Explodes with fruit flavor on the tongue, channeling red berries, cherries, blueberries and pomegranate (like a citrusy Grenadine). Then it shows some floral aspects and a bit of herbal tea. And just when you're saying, "This is great, but is it really Bourbon," maple sugar and walnuts charge to remind of its ultimate provenance.

FINISH: This Bourbon behaves like a consummate Cognac with a flavor safari and complexity. At the finish, it is no exception as the parade moves on and on, switching back and forth from its out-front fruitiness to the engrained savory Bourbon elements of caramel, maple, vanilla, nuts and wood.

CIGAR PAIRING: Undercrown Robusto (5 inches by 54 ring gauge, $7.95, 88 points, June 2013 Cigar Aficionado). There is a cola aroma that emanates from the unlit foot of this dark, solidly rolled robusto. Cola flavors recur on the palate along with notes of earth and black licorice. The Undercrown glows like a lightning bug in the presence of the Bourbon, with its understated sweetness coming to the fore and the cola and anise flavors gaining more prominence. The Masterpiece develops a honey character, and its implicit nuttiness is more explicit.

Arturo Fuente Chateau Fuente Royal Salute Sungrown (7 5/8 inches by 54 ring gauge, $7.55, 87 points, June 2013 Cigar Aficionado). Leather and walnut flavor manages to get through the firm draw of this large, dark double corona. A medium- to full-bodied smoke. Once again, the Bourbon elicits fruit and sugar from the Fuente, this time a honey character not previously realized by the smoke. The cigar triumphs as the better companion for the Masterpiece, drawing out deep Sherry undertones—with its nuttiness—from the whiskey.

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