The name Old Tub holds particular meaning in the history of the Jim Beam distillery. In 1892 when James and Park Beam took over leading operations, they named the family distillery after their best-selling bourbon brand, Old Tub. The brand's name was a reference to the large mash tubs in which mash was mixed, cooked, and stirred by hand.
Jim Beam Old Tub is a non-chill filtered, non-carbon filtered, Bottled in Bond bourbon. Up until 2020, it had been continually distilled and sold only in 375ml bottles at the distillery’s gift shop in Clermont, KY. With its broader release, it is now being bottled in 750ml sizes. While billed as a limited release when it came out in June, it seems to be readily available on shelves.
To be labelled Bottled in Bond, the whiskey must be the product of one distillation season and one distiller at a single distillery, aged in a federally bonded warehouse under U.S. government supervision for at least four years, and it must be bottled at exactly 100 proof. Additionally, the Bottled in Bond label must clearly identify the distillery where it was distilled and where it was bottled, if different.
Read more in the company's Press Release.
The nose starts off with simple scents of oak, corn, vanilla, and a hint of hay. While there’s not a lot of complexity to what’s present, it owns what it does deliver. There’s also the slightest tingle of ethanol to remind you of its Bottled in Bond 100 proof.
Sweet oak, vanilla, grain, a hint of peaches, and green peppercorn mingle together with vegetable and leather undertones that try to push above the sweet oak. It provides for a thin mouthfeel overall and is simpler and sweeter in nature. Don’t confuse that for being bad, as the palate delivers just enough flavor to be mildly interesting.
A dash of rye spice along with subtle hints of peanuts, oak, and dry vanilla open the finish. The flavors hang on before eventually dropping down to an oaky rye spice medley. Medium in length, the finish is consistent with the rest of the sip in both its drinkability and averageness.
Bottled in Bond bourbons have become more common as the years have gone on. While staples such as Evan Williams Bottled in Bond, Old Grand Dad Bottled in Bond, and Henry McKenna Single Barrel have been around for years, newcomers such as Early Times Bottled in Bond and Heaven Hill Bottled in Bond have helped introduce more bourbon drinkers to the category and in their own ways raised the bar.
Flavorwise, Old Tub doesn’t stand out compared to its peers. It doesn’t offer the more noticeable sweetness of Evan Williams Bottled in Bond or the complexity that can be found in a standout Henry McKenna Single Barrel. Comparing it to its own distillery sibling Old Grand-Dad Bottled in Bond, Old Tub pulls forward a lot more wood and grain versus the spicy and sweet flavors found in Old Grand-Dad. Now while these two bourbons have different mashbills, it does go to show the differences that two Bottled in Bond bourbons that are most likely the same age, from the same distillery, can have.
Besides the mashbill, Old Tub does have one quality though that helps set it apart from some of the other bourbons that Beam puts out, and that is the fact that Old Tub is a non-chill filtered, non-carbon filtered bourbon. What that means is that it is only screened for leftover barrel char before it’s proofed down and bottled. While this isn’t super uncommon to see, what makes this unique, is that Jim Beam typically chill filters their bourbons released at 100 proof or less. The end result has less impact on the overall flavor profile than I would have liked to have seen in this case, but it’s to be able to experience and compare against other Beam products of similar nature.
The $20 price category for bourbon is a dying breed. While you used to be able to find a consistent number of bottles in this category, over the years it’s become less common as brands have increased prices. In fact we talked about this a few years back.
It’s beyond refreshing to see Jim Beam Old Tub buck the trend and deliver a new offering to the market at an affordable $23 price tag. Additionally in a year full of high priced limited edition releases, credit needs to be given to Beam for introducing a limited edition release at this price point.
That said, compared to the similarly priced Old Grand-Dad Bottled in Bond and Early Times Bottled in Bond, Old Tub doesn’t quite match the bar they’ve set. However what Old Tubs low price point does allow for a fun comparison of chill filtered versus non-chill filtered Bottled in Bond bourbons at a low cost of entry. While it may not be the best valued Bottled in Bond bourbon in the $20 price range, the fact that its a non-chill filtered limited edition bourbon, does make this an above average value in today's marketplace.
Jim Beam Old Tub is aimed at the everyday bourbon drinker and priced accordingly so.
Jim Beam Old Tub is not going to win any bourbon of the year awards anytime soon. In a slowly growing sea of Bottled in Bond bourbons, Old Tub easily gets lost in the fold. Comparing its sip to others it doesn’t have any one defining quality that makes you raise even the slightest of eyebrows in appreciation.
However, what it may end up winning is a spot in value-based bourbon shoppers' hearts. The flavor profile and resulting sip is average, but the fact of the matter is, it is also very drinkable and even more affordable. As long as you’re aware what Old Tub is going into it, what you’ll find is a bourbon that can be easily enjoyed neat, or due to its very reasonable price tag, can be used in cocktails guilt-free.