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Jim Beam vs Woodford Reserve: Which Wins?

Discover the differences between Jim Beam vs Woodford Reserve in this in-depth comparison and decide which Bourbon is better for You!

Jim Beam

NoseCaramel, vanilla, hay, corn
PalateToasty oak, peanut, vanilla, black pepper, oak spice
FinishShort-lived, caramel, oak spice
Alcohol content80 proof (40% ABV)
How to drinkCocktails
Similar toJack Daniel’s, Four Roses, Wild Turkey

The nose is rich in corn, vanilla and butterscotch with a slight whiff of ethanol coming behind.

On the palate, Jim Beam feels thin with very little body. Flavor has some of the same sweet corn, vanilla and butterscotch hints, along black pepper, followed by a hint of acetone.

You also get the traditional peanut note noticeable on every whiskey crafted at the Jim Beam Distillery (Booker’s, Knob Creek, Old Grand Dad, Basil Hayden’s, Old Crow).

The finish is short and warmer than you would expect from a mere 80 proof, leaving some sweetness, a bitter note from the oak spice and black pepper behind.

Jim Beam is a serviceable whiskey that comes handy when looking for something cheap to make cocktails but this is not something to drink either neat or on the rocks.

This bourbon is completely unremarkable, with no body, sweet at first but mostly warm and peppery. Jim Beam is not a good whiskey.

In summary, the Jim Beam Bourbon is a good mixer, but not good on its own. Just too harsh and peppery to make a decent sipper so you should consider substitutes to the Jim Beam

There are a few facts worth knowing about Jim Beam:

  • The mash bill is 75% corn, 13% rye and 12% malted barley.
  • Jim Beam ages for 4 years in newly charred American white oak barrels. Those barrels add the vanilla notes Jim Beam offers.
  • Is also known as the White Label or the Original.
  • Jim Beam was founded by Jacob Beam a German immigrant in 1795 and is now property of Suntory Holdings, a Japanese conglomerate with an extensive portfolio in the spirits business.

Woodford Reserve

NoseMint, honey, vanilla, citrus
PalateSweet oak, cinnamon, mint, ripe fruit
FinishOak, caramel, baking spice
Alcohol content90 proof (45% ABV)
How to drinkNeat
Similar toMaker’s Mark, Buffalo Trace, Bulleit

Woodford Reserve is pleasant and subtle on the nose, with hints of wood, mint, vanilla and caramel.

Palate is sweet and spicy yet entirely smooth. Some oak up front, but in moderation, along cinnamon, mint, and a sweet fruity note.

The finish brings additional caramel sweetness, along oak, and satisfying warmth that lingers.

The Woodford Reserve Bourbon is nicely balanced, body is creamy and does not have any off-putting or troubling notes.

It makes a great sipper due to its smoothness and is yet spicy due to rich cinnamon notes.

This is a sweet and mellow bourbon with the right level of heat that drinkers of all levels will appreciate alike.

Excellent everyday bourbon, smooth and clean, good both neat and when served rocks or in a Mint Julep as if you were in Churchill Downs watching the Kentucky Derby.

I find it somewhat weak to make great cocktails making me prefer the Woodford Reserve Rye, whose rich rye content makes cocktails more rewarding.

Consider further options by reading my post with similar whiskeys to Woodford Reserve.

There are a few facts worth knowing about the Woodford Reserve:

  • Woodford’s mash bill is made from 72% corn, 18% rye and 10% barley.
  • Aged for 7 years in one of the few warehouses that uses heat cycling. This process involves cooling and heating the air to closely control the aging.
  • Earned gold and double gold medals at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Jim Beam vs Woodford Reserve: Price comparison

Prices are approximate and stated in USD:

Jim Beam$20
Woodford Reserve$42

Jim Beam vs Woodford Reserve: Which is better?

Woodford Reserve is entirely better

WhiskeyJim BeamWoodford Reserve
  • Woodford Reserve is a solid mid-line bourbon, well balanced, with the right amount of warmth providing a good experience from nose to finish.
  • Jim Beam is a bottom-dweller, plagued with some weird nail polish notes, making a bad sipper but becomes handy as a mixer for low-end cocktails.
  • Despite it’s low price it offers poor value for the money as there are several better bottles at that price range.