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View Full Version : Did Beam change yeast strain in the 1990s?



Enoch
08-02-2011, 06:49
I have several older Beam bourbons (1990s-Jacobs Well, 1980s-Beam Choice 8 year, 1970s-Beam) None of these seem to have the "funky" yeast taste that I think all current Beam products seem to have to some degree (OGD, OT, OC, Beam, Small Batch, etc.) I was just wondering if they changed their yeast strain sometime in the 90s or does that "funky" taste go away as the bourbon sits on the shelf? The taste seems stronger in the younger Beams.

cowdery
08-02-2011, 08:01
Beam's story, and I've never heard it contradicted, is that the yeast they use today is the same yeast Jim Beam himself made on his back porch in 1933, which they have used ever since.

macdeffe
08-02-2011, 09:05
OBE (old bottle effect) tends to mellow out sharpness so to say in whisky

It's a hard a subject to discuss as you never really know what has caused a change in a whisky. Composition (vatting formulas), recipe (production wise) or time spend in the bottle

Look over at the malt maniacs site for some discussion of this subject

http://www.maltmaniacs.org/ADHD/mm17b.html#17-25

Steffen

Josh
08-03-2011, 07:28
I think the best explanation is the glut. Age in the barrel smoothes out those yeasty edges. Knob Creek, for instance, has much less of it than white label or Old Crow. I suspect that if we were to taste a 12 or 15 y/o Beam it would be nearly entirely gone. Those 1970s and 1980s Beams probably had much older barrels in the mix than they do today.

Another possibility is a change in rickhouses. So much of the flavor of whiskey comes from the aging process that a shift in locations or the addition or subtraction of rickhouses will have an impact on the whiskey going into the bottle.

I also think Steffan may be on to something with the OBE business.

LikeItWasSodaPop
08-03-2011, 11:49
Old Beam tastes nothing like the new stuff. I can't say why, but I have plenty of SW to compare with current VW stuff and other would-be SW. There are differences based on age, proof, etc. but there is a distinct family resemblance, and that spans decades. Can't say that for Beam. At all.

I just can't buy the idea that OBE could change my least favorite whiskey into one of my favorites. Something about Beam has changed, in an elemental way.

cowdery
08-03-2011, 21:53
But that can't be so. Beam says it hasn't changed a thing in 216 years.

macdeffe
08-04-2011, 01:52
I just can't buy the idea that OBE could change my least favorite whiskey into one of my favorites. Something about Beam has changed, in an elemental way.

@LikeItWasSodaPop

I would say you're right. Afaik OBE is a more subtle change

Steffen

Brisko
02-02-2012, 09:14
Sorry to resurrect an old thread but this question has been bugging me for the last few days.

I have relatively limited experience with Beam products but it spans a few decades.

First is a Cornhuskers '70 and '71 national championships commemorative decanter (football shaped with Bob Devaney's bust as the stopper). I assume this came out not too long after 1971. I only got a "taste"-- just a trickle of leftovers from the decanter, but I remember the aroma very well. It was butterscotchy, even with hints of apricots. Almost brandy-like. Of course this was 130 months old so hard to compare to the following.

Fast forward to 1995 through about 1999 (college) when I drank gallons of Beam White and Jack (more Beam due to cheaper price). I mostly drank it straight from the bottle and I also remember that flavor profile well. The closest thing I could compare it to today is Very Rare Old Heaven Hill 8 y/o 86 proof. They would be very similar except that the VROHH is a lot drier.

Then there is today's Beam, with all its funky, fruity notes. It's very different from what I drank 15 years ago. Yes, there is a family resemblance, but the mid 90's Beam white was more, well, mainstream in terms of profile. Today, for better or worse, it's much more distinctive.

Ignoring the 10 y/o decanter, what changed over the years? Assuming they didn't purposefully change the yeast, did it mutate? Maybe it has to do with the mash cooking-- are they cooking faster or slower, hotter or colder, and getting different flavors from the same yeast?

Another question-- HH has or at least used to have basically the same yeast. But their product doesn't have any of the funk that the current Beam lines do. They are, however, notably grassy. Is there a relationship between the grassiness at HH and the funkiness at Beam?

I'm probably nuts but this kind of stuff intrigues me.

callmeox
02-02-2012, 19:41
Jim Rutledge openly admits that their yeast strains mutate over time so there is no way to guarantee that what you have now is what you had back then. They do their best to monitor them and can go back to what they have put away in storage but they cant stop mother nature or biology.

White Dog
02-03-2012, 19:50
Makes sense. Outside of OGD it smells mutant to me.

bad_scientist
02-03-2012, 20:05
Makes sense. Outside of OGD it smells mutant to me.

It is a bit funky, but Beam always used a "wild" yeast. I'm not sure if yeast was cultured in commercial quantities in the 18th Century (I seriously doubt it), but the capture of a wild yeast is part of the Beam story.

Josh
02-04-2012, 06:11
Yeast mutation is a good possibility but I really think the glut is still the reason why Beam tastes different now. In my experience, the older Beam expressions have less of that yeasty funk than the young ones. If more old bourbon was going into those expressions in the 1980s, that could explain why they don't taste as funky.

This hypothesis is easily testible. Line up minis of current Beam White, Baker's and/or Beam Black and Knob Creek. Dilute them all to 80 proof and go up the scale. A blind tasting would be even better. I think the funk would be strongest in the White, weakest in the KC and Baker's and/or Black would be somewhere in between.

Brisko
02-04-2012, 20:23
Josh,I'm not sure I agree with that.. First, I don't know that the Beam white I was drinking in 95 and later was glut whiskey. Second, supposedly Baker's uses a special yeast--which I can believe as it is the least Beamy of any of them, even including the OGD mashiill. Even Knob shows a lot of family resemblance despite its age in my opinion.

Enoch
02-11-2012, 14:23
Josh,I'm not sure I agree with that.. First, I don't know that the Beam white I was drinking in 95 and later was glut whiskey. Second, supposedly Baker's uses a special yeast--which I can believe as it is the least Beamy of any of them, even including the OGD mashiill. Even Knob shows a lot of family resemblance despite its age in my opinion.

I can pick out current Jim Beam bourbon family products always. They all have the funky taste to some degree. Higher end products to a lesser degree. I purchased a dusty bottle of Jim Beam White with 95 on the bottom this afternoon. The owner confirmed that no replacements had been purchased for any liquor since his father died in 1996. (The store is really closed. The son and his friends just hang out there on the weekends.) While it has a hint of the funky taste, it is no way as prevalent as the current offerings. I have also tasted some JBW from around 1980 and it has NONE of the funky taste. It may be the taste dies down with age (OBE) or it my be the yeast has slowly mutated over time. Beam my have done it on purpose to give their products a distinctive taste. College kids I work with love it.