Jack Daniels and Jim Beam are the best-selling and most recognized whiskeys worldwide. They often appear in the same drinks, as frequently drinkers of one will drink the other as a substitute, the way you might order your second favorite brand of cola if it’s all the restaurant has.
The main difference between Jack Daniels and Jim Beam is that Jack Daniels is a sour mash whiskey distilled in Tennessee, while Jim Beam is a bourbon made in Kentucky.
While both Jack Daniels and Jim Beam are lumped together in the whiskey category, there are quite a few other noticeable differences.
As a Tennessee whiskey, Jack Daniels goes through a charcoal filtration process that gives it its smoothness. On the other hand, Jim Beam, being a Kentucky bourbon, is made with oak-barrel aged, fermented corn mash and is twice distilled to give it its smooth flavor.
Both Jack Daniels and Jim Beam use corn, rye, and malted barley for their different styles of whiskey. However, they use different amounts, which accounts for some of the difference in color and flavor between the two.
While, as stated above, Jack Daniels and Jim Beam use the same ingredients, the mash bills are different. A whiskey’s mash bill is its blend of corn, rye, barley, or other grains.
Those grains are steeped in hot water to extract their fermentable sugars and then combined with yeast to create alcohol.
The percentage of different grains in a mash bill profoundly affects the flavor and the balance of the whiskey. Jack Daniels uses 80% corn, 8% rye, and 12% barley. The higher ratio of corn makes for a sweeter whiskey.
Jim Beam’s mash bill features 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% barley. The higher percentage of rye accounts for its slightly spicier and less sweet flavor.
Both Jack Daniels and Jim Beam are required to age their whiskeys in American charred oak barrels. Jim Beam is aged for four years, while Jack Daniels is aged anywhere from 4 to 12 years.
While they once bottled at 90 proof, Jack Daniels has made some changes over the years and has settled at 80 proof. Jim Beam has the higher alcohol content of the two at 86 proof.
Side by side at the store, it would be hard to get Jack Daniels and Jim Beam mixed up. Jack Daniels has a black label with “Old No. 7” on it. It is also a light amber maple syrup color.
Jim Beam has a white label with a printed red seal and gold lettering. The whiskey itself is a light copper color.
After the appearance, the smell might be the first difference you notice between the two whiskeys. Jack Daniels has a woody aroma, whereas Jim Beam smells of fresh-cut hay and honey.
With Jack Daniels, you might also smell notes of vanilla, caramel, oak, fruit, cloves, apple, and licorice. Jim Beam also offers scents of vanilla, apricot, cinnamon, licorice, caraway seed, pineapple, and dried ginger.
Jack Daniels has a sweet taste and a light but viscous body. It tastes of aromatic wood, cinnamon, caramel, orange, white pepper, walnut, and honey.
Jim Beam is a bit thinner than Jack Daniels and could be described as “watered down” or thin. That does not mean the flavor is simple or unbalanced. It tastes of vanilla, corn, sweet, sour, watery caramel, citrus, and oak.
There is a slight calorie difference between Jack Daniels and Jim Beam. Jack Daniels has 97.5 calories per 1.5 oz serving, while Jim Beam is 100 calories for the same serving size. Both Jack Daniels and Jim Beam are gluten-free and contain no carbs or fat.
Whiskeys, including Jack Daniels and Jim Beam, contain polyphenols, antioxidants
Consuming small amounts of whiskey has also been found to help clear mucus congestion when you have a cold, helping with coughing or wheezing. Other studies suggest whiskeys like Jack Daniels and Jim Beam may provide immune support or help to maintain a healthy chemical balance in your brain.
It should be noted that all potential benefits of whiskey come from small to moderate doses. Heavy consumption has been proven to lead to chronic disease, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Jack Daniels and Jim Beam best mix with cola, ginger ale, lemonade, coffee, , hot chocolate, water, or lemon-lime soda. As a general rule, neither of them is a good match with fruit juice.
If you prefer your whiskey neat, Jack Daniels is a better smooth sipper than Jim Beam. Because of this, Jack Daniels is also an excellent place for a beginning whiskey drinker to start over the thinner, more bitter Jim Beam.
When it comes to cocktails, both Jack Daniels and Jim Beam have their signatures.
Jack Daniels makes a great, classic Old Fashioned. There’s also the Jack Apple Frizz and Jack’s Godfather Highball, which is made with Jack Daniels, Coca-Cola, and Amaretto.
Jim Beam makes an excellent Highball. There’s the Jim Beam Citrus Highball made with Jim Beam, soda water, rosemary, and lemon juice. The Jim Beam Cranberry Cooler features Jim Beam, cranberry juice, triple sec, and lemon juice.
Here’s what those differences look like side by side.
|Jack Daniels||Jim Beam|
|Type of Whiskey||Tennessee sour mash||Kentucky Bourbon|
|Ingredients||Corn, rye, malted barley||Corn, rye, malted barley|
|Mashbill||80% corn, 8% rye, 12% barley||75% corn, 13% rye, 12% barley|
|Age||4-12 years||4 years|
|Alcohol Content||80 Proof||86 Proof|
|Appearance||Light amber, maple syrup color||Copper color|
|Smell||Woody, vanilla, caramel, vanilla||Fresh-cut hay, vanilla, roasted oak|
|Taste||Sweet, cinnamon, dark caramel, hint of orange||Thin, vanilla, corn, sour, watery caramel|
|Calorie Count||97.5 calories per 1.5 oz||100 calories per 1.5 oz|