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Notes: Bonded Beam Decanters (1960s)



1960s Bonded Beam Decanters


Distilled in the period when Chicagoan - Harry Blum - owned the company (1945-1968), Jim Beam began releasing decorative decanters in the early 50s. This strategy was designed to elevate the perceived value and position the decanters as ideal for gift giving. To that point, they were definitely selling the decanters and were often less thoughtful about the bourbon inside. While the bonded decanters I've sampled have all been of high quality, the 86 and 80 proof versions have been very hit or miss.


These older, dusty profiles don't much resemble contemporary Jim Beam. The richness and intensity is cranked way up. Mike Veach has documented some theories behind the profile differences found in contemporary and vintage bourbon. Essentially, all the components have undergone significant change: grain (hybrid stains), water (spring vs reverse osmosis), fermentation (wooden vats vs stainless steel - bacterial influence), stills (less copper influence these days) and rising distillation/barrel entry proofs.

 

Bonded Beam - Teal Vase - 9 yr. - (1957-1966) - 50%


Notes: Decadent nose. Wood sugars galore. Maple syrup. Soft caramel. Buttered toast. Plenty of old wood. Palate entry follows suit - heavy, rich entry - vanilla, maple syrup. The structure gets active quickly, popping candied citrus and ginger. Finish is full of wood spice, cola, and oak. There's lingering notes of butter and salinity that provide a lot of connective tissue.


Score: 9 (Stash Two) Totally barrel driven. Fortunately, the spice, citrus, and cola keep it from being completely over-oaked or two dimensionally sweet. Big, fun pour.

 

Bonded Beam - Green Vase - 8 yr. - (1957-1965) - 50%


Notes: No surprise - also barrel driven on the nose. Despite being a touch younger, there's even more old wood and char here. Cocoa powder, creamed corn, and root spice add layers. The palate lays a little flat. Obvious DMA similarities to the Teal vase - wood spices, salinity and earthy/rooty notes. However, the structure lays more flat on the palate. The wood notes push a little too far for me and dip into varnish. Welcomed additions of citrus pith and some greener herbal notes. Pleasant sarsaparilla/birchwood/cream soda toward the end (not uncommon for this era of Bonded Beam).


Score: 7 (Highly Recommend) Fairly dry all around from the wood. Still, these older styles are a lot of fun, delivering an experience you can't find in contemporary bourbon.

 

Rating System

10 - Reevaluate The Budget

9 - Stash Two (If Able)

8 - Stash One (At The Right Price)

7 - Highly Recommend It To Strangers

6 - Solid - Above Average

5 - Acceptable For The Situation

4 - Not Vocally Complaining

3 - Anything Else To Drink?

2 - Nothing Nice To Say

1 - Drain Pour

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