Quick summary: Brandy, Cognac, and rum will be perfect alternatives to Jim Beam. But there are plenty more substitutes you can use for any idea you have.
Originally an American-owned brand, Jim Beam is one of the best-selling brands of American liquors in the world. They manufacture a range of straight Kentucky bourbon whiskey, premium bourbon, rye whiskey, and liqueurs.
Jim Beam’s White Label flagship whiskey is an 80-proof (40% ABV) straight bourbon whiskey aged for four years in new charred oak barrels.
Whether your local store is out of stock, or you’d like to try something different that’s not too far off the mark, we’ve got a great list of Jim Beam substitutes for any occasion.
Before we look at the variety of options and characteristics of each, let’s clear up one little thing—is bourbon and whiskey the same thing?
The Difference Between Whiskey and Bourbon
While all bourbon is whiskey, not all whiskey is bourbon. The main difference between the two is the kind of grain used in the production as well as where the spirit is produced.
To be classed as bourbon, the whiskey must be American made and contain at least 51% corn in its mash. It is also aged in new charred oak barrels.
Whiskey, on the other hand, can be produced anywhere in the world and made from various grains including barley, corn, wheat, or rye.
Bourbon vs. Whiskey Taste
Since bourbon production involves aging in new charred oak barrels, it presents caramel, oak, and vanilla flavor notes. You may also taste hints of cocoa, fruit, baking spices, and black pepper.
Bourbon is known for its smooth, soft mouthfeel with a sweet undertone. Bourbons produced with a high concentration of wheat present an even sweeter flavor.
Whiskey, on the other hand, has a sharper, grainier mouthfeel. The taste will depend on the style and grains used in production, but it generally has a woody profile with notes of oak, spice, nuts, fruit, vanilla, and caramel. Rye whiskey generally has a slightly spicier flavor than other whiskeys.
Best General Substitutes for Jim Beam
Unlike whiskey which uses grain, brandy is a 35% to 60% ABV liquor produced by distilling wine. Brandy is commonly enjoyed as an after-dinner drink, but is also popular in sweet and savory dishes.
The brandy flavor pairs well with steak sauces, beef cheeks, gravies, lobster soups or bisque, pecan pie, chocolate pastries, coffee mousse, barbecue ribs, and chocolate desserts.
Brandies vary in flavor. Some are aged in wooden casks while others include a caramel coloring to mimic the effect. They usually have a somewhat fruity flavor and light citrus undertones.
When substituting Jim Beam with brandy, keep in mind that it is sweeter. If your recipe includes another sweetener, sugar, or honey, start with a smaller amount first to ensure the flavor is balanced.
Cognac is a type of brandy. To be classified at Cognac, the white wine must be distilled twice using copper pot stills. The alcohol is then aged in French oak barrels for a minimum of two years.
Cognac is popularly enjoyed as an after-dinner drink or with desserts and has a smooth mouthfeel and sweet undertones of oak and vanilla.
Another easy-to-find substitute for Jim Beam is rum. This liquor is made by fermenting and distilling sugarcane juice or molasses. Rum is aged in oak barrels for a few years and is produced in many sugar-producing regions of the world.
Rum is well known for its distinctive sweet and tropical profile with notes of coconut and vanilla. It is, however, produced in various grades including light rum, golden or dark rum, and premium rum.
Light rum is generally used in cocktails. Dark rum is used for cooking, served neat, or with mixers. Premium rum is also generally served neat or iced.
This is a great Jim Beam substitute for almost any application. Try a rum marinade, rehydrate dried fruits to add to cakes or sauces, make rum balls, or use it for cocktail making.
Even if half spent a long-time-ago opened bottle is all you have, don’t worry. Rum cannot spoil.
Best Non-Alcoholic Jim Beam Substitutes
Bourbon extracts are a great choice if you are making an alcohol free mocktail. It is also ideal for baking, cooking, ice cream, cookies, cupcakes, and sauces.
Since extracts have a strong taste, only add a few drops at a time. Adding too much will give you an overpowering artificial flavor.
Depending on where you live, bourbon maple syrup might not be as easy to find. If you can get hold of it, buy a big stash because you’ll want it on pretty much everything! Bourbon-maple waffles with ice cream anyone?
It can also be added to mocktails and cocktails but keep in mind that you’ll want to reduce the sugar content elsewhere in drinks, baking, or cooking recipes when using the syrup as a substitute.
It may contain a trace amount of alcohol (less than 1%).
Best Brands to Replace Jim Beam Whiskey
Four Roses Bourbon
Four Roses bourbon is produced with corn, rye, and barley. It is aged in oak barrels for four to five years and has 45% to 50% alcohol content.
It’s a great choice for traditional cocktails such as the Kentucky Sunrise or Manhattan, and is also popularly enjoyed on the rocks. It features fruity and caramel notes with a sweet oaky undertone.
Maker’s Mark is a distinctive sweet bourbon made with corn, winter wheat, and barley. It is aged in oak barrels between four to seven years.
This is a wonderful dessert drink with a smooth warm finish. It has a light slightly nutty taste with notes of caramel, vanilla, and baking spices.
At a low to mid-range price, Old Grand-dad can serve you well if you don’t want to spend a fortune on whiskey for cocktails, baking, or cooking. It is available in three proofs between 80 and 114.
This bourbon is made with corn, barley, and rye and aged for four years. Its robust yet light flavor is reminiscent of charred oak and spices with brown sugar, apricot, and cinnamon.
Wild Turkey 101
Wild Turkey whiskey is aged in oak barrels for six to eight years. Made with corn, rye, and barley, the drink has a bolder taste with spicy notes and hints of vanilla and caramel
Due to its smooth and slightly sweet flavor, Woodford Reserve makes the best Jim Beam substitute, especially as a neat drink.
The silky whiskey is made with corn, rye, and barley, and aged in new, charred oak barrels for up to six or seven years. It has a sweet, smooth flavor, with notes of caramel, vanilla, and oak.
Comparable to Woodford Reserve, Buffalo Trace distillery produces bourbon that is aged for six to eight years. It features sweet notes and a mellow flavor.
Besides the similar vanilla and oak notes you will also find a subtle yet complex blend of spice, toffee, and candied fruit.
Evan Williams Bourbon
Evan Williams is an award winning bourbon whiskey that has been ranked as one of the world’s top sellers. Aged for a minimum of four years, it features a full-bodied flavor, with notes of oak, toasted nuts, herbs, and spice.
Enjoy it on its own or add it to your whiskey sour or Kentucky mule. The Evan Williams bourbon brand also includes some flavored whiskey varieties.
The popular drink, Jack Daniels, is aged in charred oak barrels which gives it a gorgeous smoothness and smoky sweetness with oak notes. It’s popular for drinking neat but can also be used in mixed drinks.
Is Jim Beam a good sipping whiskey?
Yes, Jim Beam is a good sipping whiskey. American whiskey is good as a straight drink, on the rocks, or in a mixer.
Do you chill Jim Beam?
No, you do not chill Jim Beam. As with many other alcoholic beverages, this fine whiskey delivers optimum taste at room temperature. Freezing Jim Beam will dull the flavors. If you prefer your drink cold, have it on the rocks (with ice) as opposed to keeping it refrigerated.
What mixed drinks pair well with Jim Beam?
Mixed drinks that pair well with Jim Beam are: lemonade with lime, cola with lime, ginger ale, and even apple cider or grapefruit juice.
Is Jim Beam good with cola?
Yes, Jim Beam is good with cola. It’s a popular pairing since the sweet and subtly sour notes of the whiskey pair well with the sweetness of cola.
What is the difference between Knob Creek Bourbon and classic Jim Beam?
The main difference is that Knob Creek Bourbon is aged for nine years in highly charred oak barrels. It is also bottled at a higher proof.
Jim Beam bourbon whiskey is a popular brand that has been around for very many years.
While it is a favorite of many, there are also several other great substitutes available. Each has its own unique flavor and qualities, so whether you’re on a budget or want to splash out, find one that perfectly meets your needs and taste buds.
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