Jim Beam vs Jack Daniels is an interesting comparison as the two American whiskeys are by far the largest sellers of whiskey in the world. In 2020, Jack Daniels topped the charts selling 12.3 million cases with Jim Beam not far behind at 10.7 million cases. The next closest was Evan Williams which sold 3 million 9-liter cases of its whiskey.
The shear volume of these whiskeys sold is enough to tell you that both Jim Beam and Jack Daniels are two quality whiskeys that are coveted by people all around the world. However, we are not here to talk about which brand sold more. We want to know which is better? What is the price difference? How are they distilled and how do they differentiate? In this comparison guide, we will answer all these questions as Kentucky bourbon faces off with Tennessee whiskey.
Jim Beam vs Jack Daniels History
First and foremost, we must talk about the roots of these two brands in order to understand how they became the two largest sellers of whiskey throughout the world. Both companies faced early struggles, as many businesses do, and it was how they overcame them that now places them at the top.
Jim Beam History
The Beam family (originally Boehm, of German decent) arrived in the 13 colonies, before America existed, in 1740. In 1788, though, Jacob Beam moved west to grow corn as the US government was offering incentives to farmers in the late 1700’s. Many of these farmers were already making rye whiskey, but Jacob Beam decided to use his fathers recipe and his excess corn to distill bourbon, and in 1795 he sold his first barrel.
Over the next half century there were many struggles based around shipping and storage. However, in 1854, David Beam, son of Jacob, relocated the distillery to Nelson County, KY after hearing about plans of a railroad extension. He then bottled and labeled each bottle and was able to ship his bourbon north and south. This access to fast and widespread shipping along with the brand on each bottle allowed Jim Beam to become a national business.
During this time what we now know as Jim Beam was actually called “Old Tub”. James Beam took over the distillery before prohibition, and, for 13 years, the family didn’t distill any whiskey. Once prohibition ended in 1933, 70 year old James “Jim” Beam rebuilt the distillery in Clermont, KY. Then, in 1935, his son, T. Jeremiah Beam, re-founded the distillery as Jim B. Beam Distilling Company and branded the bourbon Jim Beam.
Jack Daniels History
Jasper “Jack” Newton Daniel founded the Jack Daniel Distillery in 1866 just shortly after being taken in by Reverend Dan Call. There, he learned the art of distilling from a slave named Nathan “Nearest” Green who would later go on to become the head distiller. Just some 38 years later Jack Daniels Old no. 7 takes the gold medal at the World’s Fair. However, it’s not long after that the problems for Jack Daniel and the Jack Daniel Distillery begin.
It is said that Jack Daniel kicked his safe in 1906 out of frustration of it not opening and broke his toe. The injury worsened and took his life in 1911. In 1907, he left his distillery and land to his nephew as he had no wife or children of his own. Lem Motlow and Jess Motlow take over the distillery as owner and master distiller, respectively, in 1911.
Over the next 3 decades the Jack Daniels Distillery faces its hardest times. For 13 years the Tennessee Whiskey shut down production and sales of its whiskey due to prohibition. Just after re-opening for business, the distillery was forced to shut down again as they began focusing their efforts to the war. These were the two times in history that Jack Daniels’ production was halted.
However, in 1947, Frank Sinatra was introduced to Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, and soon after Jack Daniel’s became popular among artists and musicians. As musicians and rock stars became more popular, so too did Jack Daniel’s. As rock stars started playing in different states and countries, Jack Daniel’s followed. This connection that Jack Daniel’s had with the music industry is what took Jack from a small Tennessee whiskey distillery to the largest in the world.
Jim Beam vs Jack Daniel’s Differences
Jim Beam and Jack have many similarities. They are both whiskeys, they are both 80 proof, or 40% abv, and both are aged 4 years. They are also the number one and two selling whiskeys in the world, yet there is one key difference that separates the two. Jack Daniel’s is a Tennessee whiskey and Jim Beam is a Kentucky bourbon.
Kentucky Bourbon vs Tennessee Whiskey
Bourbon is to America as scotch is to Scotland and as Irish whiskey is to Ireland. In 1964, congress declared bourbon to be “America’s native spirit”. While bourbon can be made anywhere in the US – it just must be distilled from at least 51% corn and barreled in new charred oak – 95% of bourbon is distilled in Kentucky, hence why it is commonly referred to as Kentucky Bourbon. The mash of at least 51% corn creates a sweeter flavor than other whiskeys.
Tennessee whiskey is recognized by the US as its own type of alcohol, but it is really a subset of bourbon as it must be made from straight-bourbon. The difference is Tennessee whiskey goes through an additional process called the Lincoln County Process. The Lincoln County Process requires that the whiskey be filtered through charcoal. This process of filtering whiskey through charcoal is said to create a more mellow and smooth whiskey by removing impurities.
Jim Beam vs Jack Daniel’s Taste
Now that we’ve covered some of the history and differences between these two whiskeys, let’s get into what we’re really here for – the taste. How does Jim Beam taste? How does Jack Daniel’s taste?
Jim Beam Flavor Profile
Jim Beam has a very mild taste, not so strong and flavorful as some whiskey enthusiasts may prefer, but equally not so strong as to turn someone new away. This is due in part to the 40% abv, but Jim Beam does offer a stronger, more potent option in there selection of whiskeys.
The best way to describe Jim Beam is a crisp, sweet bourbon with hints of vanilla, chocolate, and cola with a slight woody finish. As mentioned before, the corn provides bourbon a sweeter taste, but it is the American charred oak casks that provide much of the flavor. Obviously, the charred oak provides the woody finish, but it also supplies the strongest flavor of Jim Beam – vanilla. American Oak has a lot of vanillin in it which is precisely the type of barrel that Jim Beam uses to age its bourbon for four years.
Jack Daniel’s Flavor Profile
Similar to Jim Beam, Jack isn’t the strongest and most exciting of the whiskeys out there, but it does tend to have a little more of a unique flavor in my mind at least. It does, however, have a similar profile to Jim Beam since it is, at its core, a straight-bourbon first and foremost.
It has the same woody, vanilla, and caramel flavors as Jim Beam, but it also tends to be a bit nuttier as well. Jack does tend to have a sweeter finish for a couple reasons. First, it is distilled from 80% corn in comparison to the “at-least 51%”mash of corn that Jim Beam uses. Second, the Lincoln County Process requires that the whiskey be steeped in maple charcoal, giving Jack just a bit sweeter of a profile than Jim Beam.
Jim Beam vs Jack Daniels – Which Is Better?
At the end of the day, this is purely a subjective question and greatly varies on how you want to drink it and what you like as mixers. As we’ve stated, they are the best selling whiskeys in the world and as such both have similar ratings. With 341 reviews on Drizly, Jim Beam received a 4.8 star rating out of 5. Similarly, Jack Daniels received 4.7 stars but over the course of 1553 reviews.
However, the biggest difference is what you want to drink it with. It’s of our personal opinion that if you want a whiskey coke, it should be done with Jack. While you can mix any whiskey with coke, the Jack & Coke is the most popular and the best. The light chocolate and cola flavors of Jack help it pair very nicely with a Coca-Cola over ice.
With this being said, we think Jim Beam is better in most other drinks. Not only that, Jack isn’t typically drunk neat or on the rocks while Jim Beam tends to be a bit better that way. For that reason, Jim Beam has managed it’s way into our list of best budget bourbons available.
Jim Beam Cocktails
While a Jim Beam and Coke is very delicious as well, we have reserved that for Jack. Since we believe Jim Beam has a little more flexibility, we’re going to add the most popular and our favorite Jim Beam drinks below.
1. Jim Beam Highball
This is a mix of Jim Beam and soda water, garnished with a lemon slice. Try swapping out the soda water for ginger ale for a little extra taste if you’d like. Jim Beam also sells a canned seltzer highball as well.
2. Jim Beam Mule
Mix Jim Beam with some ginger beer, garnish with a little fruit or a squeeze of lemon or lime. Syrup can also be added, or mix in Jim Beam flavored bourbon for those who want a little extra splash of fruit.
Jim Beam vs Jack Daniels Variety
Up until this point we have focused on Jim Beam Original and Jack Daniels Old no. 7 Tennessee Whiskey, the original and base whiskeys that the brands sell, but they both have so much more to offer. The Jim Beam brand includes: Jim Beam Devil’s Cut, Single Barrel, Black, Double Oak, and Rye in their refined selection and Vanilla, Honey, Red Stagg, Fire and Peach in their flavorful selection.
Likewise Jack has a similar selection of flavors and specialties. Among them include: Rye, Single Barrel, Gentleman Jack, and Sinatra Select. Among their flavors include: Fire, Honey, and Apple. These lists include some very good options and alternatives to the original whiskeys each brand offers, and below I’m going to briefly cover the ones we believe are worth trying.
Jim Beam Black & Jim Beam Single Barrel
If you’re looking to try a different bourbon from the more refined selection of Jim Beam, we recommend Jim Beam Black and Jim Beam Single Barrel. Jim Beam Black is aged an extra 4 years – totaling 8 years – and is bottled at 47.5% abv. It’s aged twice as long and has the extra abv to make this bottle worth trying.
The barrels in which Jim Beam Single Barrel are aged in are hand selected by their expert distillers. Less than 1% of all their barrels are fit to be selected for their single barrel selection. Couple this with just the little extra abv (43%) and it’s another choice worth trying. The best part is that both come in at very reasonable price point.
Jack Daniels Single Barrel
Jack Daniels Single Barrel is definitely the way to go for more refined whiskey drinkers especially since they have 4 different options. The Single Barrel Select, Single Barrel Rye, Single Barrel Barrel Proof, and Single Barrel 100 Proof. All four of these are great options, but we recommend starting with the Single Barrel Select. If you want something stronger, move to the 100 proof or the Barrel Proof for something less strong. The rye is also stellar for those who like rye whiskey.
Jim Beam Vanilla, Peach, and Apple
Honestly, Jim Beam has my favorite selection of flavored whiskeys, so I couldn’t choose just one. Jim Beam Vanilla is a fantastic option that offers just a bit more flavor. Jim Beam already has hints of vanilla and coupled with a vanilla liqueur adds just that little extra flavor that goes a long way.
Jim Beam Peach is my favorite option for sweeter mixed drinks. It goes well with tea to make a nice alcoholic peach tea and it’s pairs well with the classic or ginger highball. On the other hand, Jim Beam Apple is my favorite to drink as a shot. I easily could’ve added the honey and fire to this list as well.
Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey and Tennessee Fire
The reason I didn’t add honey and fire to Jim Beam is because Tennessee Honey and Fire are superior. Tennessee honey couples well with mixed drinks such as a Tennessee Mule or a Lynchburg Lemonade. It’s also easy to do straight, over ice, or as a shot.
Jack Daniels Tennessee Fire is one of my go-to’s for shots just like Jim Beam Apple. Too many of us have had a bad experience with Fireball at, probably, too young an age as well. Tennessee Fire provides a similar cinnamon warmth with a much smoother finish.
Jim Beam vs Jack Daniels Price
We covered almost all there is to cover in Jim Beam vs Jack Daniels except for price. This is where we can begin to touch on value as well. Overall, Jim Beam is a decent bit cheaper than Jack Daniels as shown below.
- 750ml Jim Beam: $14-18
- 750ml Jack: $20-23
- 1.75L Jim Beam: $24-30
- 1.75L Jack $34-40
As you can see Jim Beam tends to be about $5-10 cheaper, however; prices may very depending on stores and locations. This difference in price is significant enough for us to wonder, is Jim Beam better than Jack Daniels?
Jim Beam vs Jack Daniels Value
Ultimately, the value between Jim Beam and Jack is dependent upon what you are looking for. If you are operating on a budget, Jim Beam is the way to go. If you don’t mind spending the extra money and you love a whiskey coke, then Jack is your best pick. If you prefer a fruitier option or more creative mixed drinks, Jim Beam is certainly the best pick. We here at Barrel and Brew drink much more Jack because we love a nice Jack & Coke.
If high quality is what you’re after and you don’t mind spending the extra money, Jack Daniels Single Barrel is the clear way to go, however; you can get the single barrel and black selections of Jim Beam for the same price as a handle of Jack.
Jim Beam vs Jack Daniels Summary
Jim Beam and Jack Daniels have sold the most cases of whiskey for numerous years in a row and for good reason. They are quality whiskeys that come in at fair and reasonable price points. Furthermore, they have a wide selection of flavors and specialties that offer variety and range.
The largest differences between the two is that Jim Beam is a bourbon and Jack Daniels is a Tennessee whiskey. Bu law, this separates the two as different types of whiskey. The other big difference is price point. Jack Daniels will typically cost you about $8-10 more. Jack is typically regarded as the smoother whiskey, though, due to the Lincoln County Process.
If you are interested in other options, take a look here at how Maker’s Mark compared to Jack Daniels. Or for something a little different, read about the leading Irish whiskeys in Bushmills vs Jameson.