In 2014, when Suntory purchase Jim Beam, fans speculated on how this new ownership might affect Jim Beam’s whisky. While there have been minor tweaks to the product line over the years, it be difficult to attribute any of them to Suntory—until now.
Legent is 100% Jim Beam Bourbon, with a combination of straight bourbon and bourbon finished in wine and sherry barrels. It’s the result of a collaborative relationship between two great whisky makers—Freddie Noe and Shinji Fukuyo. For years they shipped samples back and forth between US and Japan, with the intention of finding that perfect blend for a new product. Legent is all Jim Beam whisky, though unlike any regular Jim Beam expression, parts of the blend have been finished in wine and sherry casks.
Whether this is by poetry, design, or just psychosomatic, the signature nutty note of Jim Beam wafts away quickly upon the first pour. You’re left with something a little different. If you think “Jim Beam”, though, it’ll be hard to ignore. If you drink it like a Jim Beam product, you’ll never quite appreciate the stretch of flavor in the finish. That’s really where this whisky has a new identity over anything else I’ve tasted from Jim Beam Distillery—there’s a significant finish. It’s said that the bourbon is some of the “older” stuff. While that’s tough to verify, there is a beautiful brown sugar note that I associate with Jim Beam’s Signature portfolio well aged bourbons.
It’s a sipper’s whisky, and that means taking time between each taste so one can take a moment to enjoy the finish. It’s a long moment. The bottle is beautiful. There’s not a word of Jim Beam on the bottle, but both Freddie Noe and Shinji Fukuyo’s names are well featured. The cap is perfect, the pull of it from the bottle feels great, and it has a nice subtle touch of lettering above and beneath. The brushstroke on the front is based on the profile outline of Freddie Noe and Shinji Fukuyo.
There’s a lot to love about the whisky, and the bottle, and the experience of drinking it. When writing tasting notes below, I followed the general guidelines of whisky makers, blenders, and reviewers—taste the whisky in the morning after a consistent breakfast so the palate is the sharpest. But for Legent I did a real world test; having a drink of Legent late in the afternoon after ‘work.’ What are the results? It’s bright with orange citrus notes, boozy, peppery, and sweet. It seems to have all the right elements of an after-work drink. There’s nothing boring about it. Like many Jim Beam products, it’ll stand out in a loud bar. Unlike most Jim Beam products, you’ll enjoy a longer finish between sips.
Distillery: Jim Beam
Category: Straight Bourbon Finished in Wine & Sherry Barrels
Nose: On first pour of a fresh bottle, the classic Jim Beam nutty note comes and goes, and clears the way for a beautiful toasted almond note. The light thin caramel note is familiar, with just a touch of char. That’s as Jim Beam as the nose gets. You’re greeted by acidic notes from the wine and sherry barrels; a touch of sweetness, distant cinnamon, and a general red wine layer that gently covers it all. The cask finishes are seemingly subtle on the nose but when you look for them, they’re there.
Palate: Surprisingly sharp (47% ABV), spicy, and dry. There’s a hazelnut tasting note that starts you out and continues toward the finish. The peppery spice is sudden, and eases off into a gentle note. The speckling of brown sugar reminds me of some of the older Beam bourbons. Like most whiskies from Jim Beam Distillery, this is ‘thin’ on the palate but it has a heavier layer underneath it which brings with it a sweetness and buttery note that works well. The overall mouthfeel is good. The finish is primarily brown sugar, black pepper spice, and vanilla throughout. You don’t quite appreciate the sweetness of this whisky up until the fourth or fifth sip. That sweetness (probably from the wine casks) lingers. That’s probably my biggest criticism. After three or four sips, that lingering wine note is nice. After five, it becomes prominent. After a full glass of it, it starts to feel like an unwelcome flavour note.
Conclusion: This is a terrifically balanced whisky with an uncertain market. Can the heritage of the two great whisky makers carry this product through? It won’t compete for the attention of bourbon fans that are looking for high oak-volume cask strength whiskies. Legent has the qualities of a sipper, though. This whisky reminds me of that after-work drink, where you can have it neat or in a simple cocktail, and you can simply sit down and enjoy it. I’ll be curious to see where Legent finds its home, but I will say this is worth trying, because you never know quite where it’ll fit within your whisky cabinet.
Disclosure: Beam Suntory provided me with a sample of the bottle. This had no barring on my review.