If you’re an avid fan of good ol’ corn-based whiskey, you may be hesitant to expand your palate to include a criteria-less new quasi-category of American single malt — after all, these whiskeys are notably different than what you’re used to with Scotch single malts. Likewise, there is no set of guidelines for how these are mashed, distilled, or aged as of yet (although there may be soon). As we await for standards of identification to be delineated, the James B. Beam Distilling Co. has decided to try its hand at its first American single malt with a new brand called Clermont Steep.
A lot of American single malts have succeeded, but even more have failed due to the lack of categorical stipulations. However, if you’re going to trust anyone in this industry to get the formula right, you’re better off looking towards someone with the experience and know-how to get the job done. Developed by Freddie Noe, 8th-generation master distiller and great-great-grandson of Jim Beam himself, Clermont Steep utilizes American malted barley as its only grain, which was hand-selected by the man himself. Just like all of the distillery’s products, it was then fermented using the Beam family jug yeast.
After that, it was distilled on a column still and aged for five years in bespoke toasted oak barrels in Clermont, Kentucky — the production site of Jim Beam. Unlike bourbon, whose char levels are traditionally between 2 to 4 (anywhere from 30 to 55 seconds of charring), the oak barrels used for Clermont Steep were only charred quickly to a level 1 char (around 15 seconds). This is said to impart flavors of toffee, vanilla, and caramel, along with grain and cereal notes.
It’s only a matter of time before every major distillery hops on the train of American single malts, but we’re excited to try one from the experts over at James B. Beam, which has over 227 years of history under its belt. Bottled at 47% ABV, Clermont Steep will be available starting next month from retailers such as ReserveBar, priced around $66.