After spending most of the last decade of my life surrounded by shelves of liquor, I have come to the definitive conclusion that different spirits have distinctive personalities. And, up until today, I was pretty sure who rye was. Now, I’m not so sure. There was a day when I knew everyone in the bar, and I then this whole new Jim Beam (ri) thing happened. Now I’m wondering what the heck is going on and re-evaluating everyone trying to figure out who is who.

Ok let’s see here; there’s Bourbon. You know Bourbon that down-home, play you an old song until you admit you like it too, Red State voting, will get you drunk and lecture you the next morning for having a hangover, only seen him get really upset like three times but when it happened it was really bad, retired fellow that compensates for it by mowing the lawn three times a week. He owns a tractor that he parks in his front yard that hasn’t moved in fifteen years that people use as a landmark when giving directions, and he is an uncle to 23 kids without having any of his own.


Then, you’ve got that smart-ass gin. He’s the professor who will give you an F while gesturing with your 40 page term paper and tell you it’s ok because the real value is some absurd life lesson. He makes everything more complicated than it needs to be, tries too hard to be philosophical in a coffee shop so others can hear, balances out better when he’s bitter, but somehow grows on you as you get older until you finally admit that he’s just the type of person you have to get used to.


That sleazy frat guy in the corner trying to get people as drunk as possible without them knowing, who would slip you a roofy in a freaking heartbeat if he didn’t already have two felonies on his record, used Pontiac car salesman dressed in the nicest suit he can afford, bragging about how may times he slept with the prom queen fifteen years ago, boring personal history that gets over exaggerated when sharing stories, guy I hate is Vodka.


Rum is a pirate and always will be.


The unemployed guy always looking for someone to bum a cigarette off of, known as Jager, is the person you seem to run into every time you go to a bar making you wonder if he’s following you. Tomorrow he is probably going to buy the most expensive impractical vehicle he can’t afford with two or three wheels. He doesn’t show up early in the morning when you have to move and owns a freakin’ python, but you’ve know since him you were in college so you just can’t seem to not answer the phone when he calls – even though you don’t want to talk to him because you know it will result in a five hour long pointless conversation that leaves you exhausted for your presentation at work the next day.


And then there’s your best friend. Sure everybody’s best friend is different, but there’s something about them that’s just grows on you. They’re not perfect by any means, but you’ve just been through so much that they’ve kind of become a part of you. This could of course be any of the personality types listed above or some of the others I haven’t, like that slut Chambord who seems to have been knocked up like 8 times since she was 14. It all just depends on who you are I guess. But for me, it’s rye. There’s just something genuine about it.

So today, when I tried Jim Beam’s new offering, it was kind of like having a day on which my best friend came to me and confessed his undying love for this bitch we both worked with two years ago he’s been secretly seeing and blowing me off for every weekend since. It was almost as if my friend rye, the guy I could always count on to be there, was sleeping with the freaking enemy while I watched the rain delayed, anti-climactic World Series by myself.

There are just so many things about this rye that contradicts the very nature of what rye is. To begin, the words “ultra-premium” are on the label. We could probably just end things there, but since blogs need some sort of content now and then, even while you are building your own bar and short on time, we’ll discuss further. Whenever I see the words “ultra-premium” red flags and alarms start going off. This phrase which has been used to describe every new brand of vodka over the last five years is so played out that it makes Nickelback seem like a refreshing alternative to other mainstream radio choices.

I understand that this is what pr firms do. They identify trends and sales potential, and after numerous focus groups and endless rhetorical analysis, create a new marketing campaign that squeezes as much financial sweat out of a product until the trends turn south just in time for a new product and initiative. That’s the world we live in, and generally I just ignore it. The marketing team for Ri1 probably is onto a lot here, and they will likely be very successful. Since, this is their job – more power to them.

jim-beam-ri.jpgBut, if rye starts to change in any way; I’m going to have to start reading some more Chuck Palahniuk novels. When boutique offerings starting fading and cucumber or root beer rye infusions start appearing, you guys are going to have to find a new bartender. I’m sure it won’t get to that point, but I do think that recent trends in spirit marketing demonstrate that when popularity is noted by a large spirit conglomerate interested more in money than maturation, quality may suffer tremendously. Rye is so critical to the revitalization of the cocktail, and this concerns me tremendously. This not only threatens to diminish the genuine nature of rye, but moreover this may indicate that some individuals are interested in recasting the classic cocktail as the next wave of trendy drinks to be priced at $15 in every sweaty nightclub in America charging a cover charge for a bad DJ. I can’t help but think that if Thomas Handy were alive today he’d be rethinking the switch from Cognac in his sazeracs. This doesn’t necessarily mean that this is what this brand is trying to accomplish, as it is quite a bit far off from all of this. But, I do think that Jim Beam’s latest release of a rye shows the spirit is now on the map for marketing firms looking for the next in spirit.

Ok, so I’ve given my opinion on the bottle and marketing past what anyone was likely interest in, but how does it taste? There’s nothing overly offensive about the rye; it just happens to not be as bold as some of the ryes I’ve tasted. It is fairly smooth for being 92 proof, but I’ve never valued smoothness as a characteristic in rye. Rye isn’t supposed to emphasize drinkability; it’s a bold spirit that should demonstrate spicier characteristics with an evolving, extensive finish. The Jim Beam (ri) is a spirit perfectly aligned with its marketing campaign focused on fads, not flavors. Admittedly, I haven’t tried the new rye in any cocktails yet, but, I’m predicting it will make a less than desirable Manhattan. At $50 for a 750ml a bottle, there are some notable alternatives – three bottles of Rittenhouse bonded, two bottles of Wild Turkey rye, or chip in another five for a bottle of Thomas Handy. You could also take that wad of cash and buy the Sazerac 6, a bottle of Vya sweet vermouth, and some Angostura bitters.

Before I tried the Jim Beam (ri) I ran into a friend who told me all of what I have written (in a much more straightforward manner), but I just had to try it myself. I am sure some of you reading this will do the same. I understand. New rye – got to try it. After all, rye is your best friend; he’s always been there for you. He would never do this to you. Well, you’re wrong; he’s marrying that bitch because he thinks it’s a good move for his future. And, there is nothing you can do about it. You can either pretend you’re okay with it and hope she doesn’t want to come along for your annual trips to visit a new baseball stadium, or you can do what I did and tell him how you feel to his face…err…on a cocktail blog. Who knows; maybe you”ll learn to love her.

I’m really curious to find out what others think about the new offering from Jim Beam. Obviously, I am a fan of other styles of rye, but I wonder if I’m way off base here. I think the marketing certainly shows that they are appealing to a mainstream audience, but does anyone who has tried the rye like it? There doesn’t seem to be very much actual feedback online to this point, so let’s get some comments going on here.

40 Responses to “JIM BEAM NEW (ri)1 RYE REVIEW”

  1. Ben says:

    This is the best thing I’ve ever read about anything ever.

  2. Brandon says:

    what about tequila?

  3. Alex says:

    I tried this not too long ago, and was giving it the benefit of the doubt even thought the packaging wasn’t something that encouraged me. I was puzzled to say the least as it didn’t really strike me as a “rye”. As you said, too inoffensive — It didn’t even try to slap me in the face.

    When I found out it was $50 all bets were off. Worst price point ever. I should have known from the packaging they were going for high end, but it just didn’t have the goods to back it up, and I found it hard to believe anybody would try and break into the quality rye market with something so dull.

    I have a tough time imagining that this stuff is gonna crack the douche market, then again I don’t really understand that market to begin with so who knows. It may well be that people reading about rye will see the pretty bottle and go for it. My one hope is that maybe it will be their gateway rye and they’ll end up drinking the good stuff.

    As long as it’s not the Rittenhouse Bonded. That stuff is hard to find these days, keep your mitts off.

  4. Robert Heugel says:

    Tequila? I’m not even touching that one. Stereotypes of crazy white people in photos is fine, but I’m not about to touch tequila and risk all the political backlash that would go with that.

    I hope that the Jim Beam (ri) does lead to more interest, but I am not sure that Jim Beam is the brand I would choose to lead people to the promise land either though they did contribute quite a bit to the bourbon market with some of their boutique brands. Perhaps I’m just not giving them enough credit, but I think I’m right here.

  5. Ken Erwick says:

    This is just about the funniest thing I have ever read on a cocktail blog. You need to get that bar open so you can write more. There should be more honest funny stuff like this about cocktails online. I love the picture of “Jager”; I have a friend who looks just like that!

  6. Alison Cook says:

    um, tour de force much?

    poor Vodka, you’ve really got him nailed.

  7. neverfull says:

    well done. most entertaining blog post — that wasn’t totally full of shit — i’ve read in awhile.

  8. Tiare says:

    What a awesome blogpost! totally!

    I cannot say anything about this rye though, haven`t tried it but i`m not in a hurry..

  9. Karel says:


    What about Scotch??

  10. melissa says:

    I have nothing to add about rye in general, but I agree with Ben–this is the best thing I’ve ever read, about anything ever.

  11. Jon Lennard says:

    Great, now I’m obligated to try this stuff. I don’t have much hope since I usually agree with your tastes (open the bar already!). Seems like marketing might be trying the same approach used with tequila a decade ago. Put a lack luster brand in a fancy package and charge 3x too much for it. Watch the line form. Fortunately, the price hikes of all tequilas that followed only lasted a couple years. Vodka on the other hand…

  12. Ward says:

    Brilliant post. Written so well I think I can understand *exactly* where you’re coming from. Hilarious, too.

    More liquor reviews, please.

    Was just thinking the other day that I hadn’t seen you guys post in a while, figured you were busy getting the new bar up and running. Good to see some activity here.

  13. Ward says:

    P.S. The general level of offense expressed here brings to mind my feelings when I tasted (I had to; curiousity was killing me) the insult that is the new Bud American Ale. Wow, that’s some bad stuff.

  14. Mike says:

    Hi Robert,

    This is Mike and I work with Beam Global. Thank you so much for your in-depth review and personal story around rye based whiskey. This was one of the most creative posting I’ve seen so far. Excellent writing!

    We have also launched http://www.ri1whiskey.com. This will be the home for (ri)1 information, tasting notes, graphics, and more.

  15. Great post! I read about this rye and went looking to try it. But no one in this portion of the South stocks it and after now, two attempts to prod Beam into telling us where to find it – nothing. So, I guess I am out of luck until I get home to NY. In any event, I added a subscription to you, because I think you write beautifully and I know a bit booze-wise but I am working on being an unparalelled genius! Be well.

  16. Rye Fan says:

    The only justification that one could give to the beneficial side of this product (besides the quite obvious grab for dollars) is that this could serve as a gateway rye for many uninitiated drinkers. The problem I see with this argument is that (ri) is so far from what rye should be that anyone who starts with (ri) and likes it will never be able to make the jump to the good stuff.

  17. Paulie says:

    Read this and immediately sent the link to a lifelong Navy buddy. Good friends are like rye…

  18. Hey there, Robert.

    Happily, today I received a couple bottles of (ri), and I have to say that I’m pretty happy with the results of my first taste. This is certainly a good rye – not “the measure by with all others should be judged” certainly (have they never had the Pappy 13?), but it surely is a good whiskey, no question.

    Now if only we could get (ri) a standard order here in Seattle…

    Keep up the good work.

  19. David says:

    Children, Children…
    For a whiskey that will impress new friends and even the ladies: Tangle Ridge
    For catching up with an old friend: Bulleit Bourbon
    I’ll try Ri, but at the bar. I won’t commit to buying a bottle.

  20. mike says:

    Well, i ended up buying a bottle of RI1 yesterday.

    I was told by the guys at the store that there will be a RI2 and RI3 to follow (although I’m unclear what the distinguishing factors .. anyone?). At any rate, based on the taste (not offensive, but not special either) and price ($50.83) … I probably won’t buy another RI1 or 2 or 3 for that matter.

    Guess I have to face facts, as a bourbon lover, I’ll take Jefferson Reserve for special occassions and Jim Beam Black as the common drink of choice.

  21. Tex says:

    This post made me have to pour a glass of Thomas Handy, something to calm the nerves, something to keep me from getting pissed off that my friend Rye tried to bitch-slap my friend Bobby.

    I have seen this product but not tasted it. I was first of all pissed off at myself for being such a no-name that nobody sent me the promotional materials that so many of my (aspired-to) colleagues received. My bruised emotions eventually healed, but only to be battered again by the visual impact of the product–a rye whiskey that is too cool for school? It’s so trendy and cheeseball. It baffles me that people think that monosyllabic/phonetic thing is so hip. It was parodied years ago in the commercial where everybody is sitting on the floor of a restaurant called Flör. A bar called Grüv has already opened and closed in Austin, but people are still opening salons called Cut, wine bars called Cru and coffee shops called Lift. And they all can suck it.

    The effort to make Rye hip misses the point of rye. Fortunately I don’t think people are going to buy into it. Rye is a classic spirit, I think it will be largely immune to the pressures of the marketing firms. Consider the night club whose theme is Classy, with a sign outside the door that says “Dress to Impress!” with a list of prohibited sartorial choices: No flip flops, warm-up suits, bandanas, grills, or cutoffs. Meanwhile down the street there is a lounge that actually IS classy, where no one at the door has to ask you to remove your grill upon entry. If Rye were a club, it would be this latter sort. The type of consumer who needs to take cues from PR firms and packaging are not the type of people who will like the brown liquor inside a bottle marked Rye, or, gasp, (ri). I would even venture to say that the average liquor store shopper, and the average cocky shot-bar bartender are so far out of the loop when it comes to things like Rye, they probably don’t even get it–as in if they don’t know what Rye is, they wont know that (ri) is a hipper/cooler Rye.

  22. William says:

    Is this going to replace the old yellow-label Jim Beam rye? Now, that is a
    reliable friend. About $15 for a bottle, it is pleasantly smooth while full of subtle highlights. It has a saki-like and plummy aftertaste. And it mixes well, for those savage enough to mix. I hope they haven’t thrown it away.

    I was disappointed that you would mention the Wild Turkey rye, which is nasty. My closest rye friends have always been:
    1. Van Winkle Family Reserve (sadly extinct, now)
    2. Jim Beam yellow-label
    3. Sazerac
    4. Old Overholt

  23. Robert Heugel says:

    Wooooaaahhhh, this escalated quickly! I thought this rye might be a hot-button issue, but let’s here some more reviews from those who have tried it so far. If you don’t want to spring for a bottle, do what everyone should do when trying new spirits. Try it out at a bar before springing for the whole bottle.

    William – I love tons of ryes, so I didn’t really mention them all, and the ones you listed are definitely some of my favorites as well. I’ve got to object to your opinion of the Wild Turkey Rye however. I find this rye to be one of the most distinct brands on the market. It has a grassy flavor that differentiates it from so many other ryes or whiskeys for that matter. Perhaps this is a flavor that you aren’t fond of and that’s what is putting you off, which is completely understandable if you don’t like that flavor. I do know for a fact though that the Wild Turkey Rye is a favorite, especially considering its price point, among many of my friends and those I respect as enthusiasts and industry professionals nationwide. It is pretty distinct though, so if you’re not feeling its unique qualities, it could certainly stand out to you as “nasty”. We’ve all got our own perspectives.

    I am sure that perceptive differentiations towards ryes will also show that some like the Jim Beam ri1, while others don’t. What say you others who have tried?

  24. This blog post is a tour-da’-force, however that’s spelled. I hope the Anvil bar never opens; it will steal time away from your brilliant writing. That said, I must confess that I’ve been wanting to try Rye ever since I saw Don Draper guzzling tossing them back in his office. I’m such a sucker. So, yeah, I will probably be shilling out fitty (or is it fiddy?) bucks in the near future . . .

  25. Err, “shelling” not “shilling.” Something else entirely . . .

  26. [...] that it is noticably better than $10-$20/bottle standard ryes, although you may want to check out Drink Dogma. Robert’s review wasn’t very positive, and  it generated some passionate comments. [...]

  27. O. Jones says:

    Many points well taken. However, I do enjoy the rye. I am making a manhattan out of it with Carpano Antica, angostura bitters, Hibiscus bud, and a demi spoon of the hibiscus syrup floating on the bottom in an up glass. It is delicious and so far has met with great success as we run tests at the bar.

    You are correct in your tasting analysis of the rye, and it could just be a trend, but the upside of what I see in this is that it will be approachable for a wider audience, which will interest them in Rye itself. Of course I think we will also be seeing more of the artisan ryes popping up as it has with other spirits, which I look forward too. If the old timers feel betrayed by this, that will be unfortunate, since there may be a really fantastic evolution of the beverage, with many more options to enjoy.


  28. Dawg says:

    I passed this up when I saw it for $49.99, but snagged a bottle for $29.99 and have enjoyed it.

    Always hunt the shady, seedy liquor stores. They’re usually friendlier, have better prices (something is ALWAYS truly on sale, not just marked down from 31.99 to 29.99) and you run a better chance of finding something old or out of the ordinary.

    If you can find this bottle for $35.99 or less, I would highly recommend it.

  29. A. says:

    it IS good. i admit. but all things considered, please, just put Ri1 in a mason jar…i don’t want’ to pay for the $20 bottle….i’ll pay about $18 for the contents….it’s not that stellar. Wild Turkey rye blows it away. so does Sazerac…take away the marketing fog and i might respect it….and the Beam marketing team…..oy

  30. The Skunk says:

    Luckily the first time I saw this in the store my old buddy Ritt BIB was down on the bottom shelf hurling insults at me for even considering it, but after about three minutes of that- shopkeepers constantly asking ‘if i need help’… “no we have this discussion often”- he gave in and said ‘tell you what, they have a bottle open at the tasting counter- go give it a try then come back and see me’. So I did, and got very worried when I first smelled it. Not worried that I was going to hate it, but that it was going to be very. very. good. I hadn’t experienced such a floral nose before, and without the bottle sitting here I can’t put my memory on what particular flower it was, but I remember it being very specifically floral. I wonder what flowers taste like..

    As a single bead of sweat meandered from my armpit in nervous anticipation of past friendships being shattered, I raised the glass to my lips and tasted….. well- not much. To be fair it’s been awhile, and we didn’t get a chance to hang out at my place, but absolutely nothing offensive to be sure. No burn, no tingling, no finish. No rye that I worked so hard at acquiring a taste for, and as noted above- smooth to the nth degree. I’d imagine that if I had invited it over, it would leave the glass it used perfectly clean- whereas Ritt always leaves a dirty glass the next day (but it smells INCREDIBLE!) All that said, Ri would still have a place at my bar were it not for the price.

    To make a long story longer; I had to go grab a couple of the chuckling Ritts and shove them in a brown paper bag to shut them up. After a short but uncomfortably silent ride home we made up and vowed ‘bros before hoes’.

  31. Robert Heugel says:

    Awesome Skunk, just awesome! Thanks for continuing the story.

  32. I bought it out of curiosity and thought it was weak sauce. It was like when McDonald’s came out with a veggie burger and tried to tell everyone how green they were and how much they care about being healthy. The bottle is pretty too bad its all hat and no cattle. I think they just found some crap bourbon and mixed a little rye in it. If you tried it blind you would not have said rye whiskey.

  33. Rick says:

    Word. Stickin’ to Turkey till I can find some Sazerac

  34. tevie says:

    Great piece
    personally i think ri is overrated rittenhouse or pappy has it beat any day
    have you tried Templeton Rye yet i think its based out of Illinois also meh

  35. Spork Toast says:

    Templeton is actually based out of Iowa, and the “what” to that WTF is that Templeton Iowa is exactly where Capone was getting his rye during prohibition.

    They claim to be using the same process and recipe, if not actually the same equipment. Given that it’s forebear was made during a time of haste and duress, I think it’s understandable that it would retain some of those rougher edges. Plus they’ve only been at it (legally) for a few years, and have none of their own historical reserve to blend with. It’s not the best, but it shows potential, and my second bottle (from two years later) demonstrates improvement over the first.

  36. [...] under the cabinet and staring intently at it with new eyes. Heck, I’d say he is one of the best writers I’ve read recently. [...]

  37. boozeblogger says:

    So a Vodka-Gin Martini would be a mixture between the snobby college professor and the sleazy used car dealer?

    Somehow, this makes perfect sense to me.

  38. prcrstn8 says:

    Tried it last night – it’s about as distinctive (not very) as VO.

    Re: William’s fear that this stuff will replace Jim Beam Yellow – ditto that.

  39. Rye Smile says:

    Just came across this and found description “friends” excellent. My estimation of the piece rose on the second read through when I realized who the “vodka” picture is!

  40. Rye Lover says:

    It should be noted that since this article this “genericized rye” has dropped in most stores to right around $20. It’s now generally less expensive than Rittenhouse 100 & Wild Turkey 101 Rye.

    And it’s still too expensive at that price point.

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