The humming and buzzing echoed and bounced off of the globular structure in which we were encased. A surreal scene of beekeepers and bouncing acrobats played out in front of our eyes while pumping, vibrating beats kept time.
Recently, I found myself in a hive of activity at the launch of Jim Beam’s new Honey brand, housed in a giant, pop-up honeycomb in Broadgate Circle and featuring elastic band-flexible acrobats spinning through the air.
The product, which launched the week before in the company’s strongest European market, Germany, is the second in the line of “flavoured whiskies” it has brought to market – last year, the Red Stag (a cherry infused bourbon) hit shelves. Now, it should be noted that this was not, as I had thought, a “whiskey” – as it only comes in it 35%, it has been branded a “spirit drink”.
Eileen Livingstone, the company’s marketing controller for imported whiskies, told me they’re putting a lot of work into getting UK consumers to know what Jim Beam is.
“We need to increase the relevance of the brand,” she said. “Over the last three years we have been trying to establish how we can grow Jim Beam in the UK. My personal objective is to make that a real success and it’s quite a tough one in the UK market.”
The main target for the Jim Beam Honey is the younger consumer – in getting them into bourbon or whisky at a younger age. She said the sweeter flavours, “give a younger audience a reason to try easy drinking spirits.”
So what did I think? Well, it’s definitely sweet. Very, very sweet – like that level of sweetness that really bites at the back of your gums and gives you a bit of a sugar high. Oddly, it has a slightly peanuty hint as well which is an intriguing twist.
The spirit – which is made by infusing a natural honey syrup into oak-aged bourbon – is unlikely to convince those who like single malts or punchier bourbons. But, then again, that isn’t the market the company is aiming for.
“It’s never going to be a replacement for whisky but it’s a nice alternative to have…a different choice for different times,” added Eileen.
Whether or not it’s a great idea to get 18-22 year olds thinking this is how bourbon tastes, is another, longer question and one that may only be answered after its presence in the market for a few years when one can test if any of those that started on JB Honey moved on to richer, less saccharine drinks.
It did make a refreshing long drink, however. I’ve put a recipe below, in case you get your hands on any and want a way to bring down that very sweet flavour.
Beam Honey Buck
25ml Jim Beam Honey, 1 wedge fresh lime, 50ml pressed apple juice, top with ginger ale
Take a tall glass and fill with cubed ice
Squeeze over fresh lime wedge
Add Jim Beam Honey, pressed apple juice and top with ginger ale
Softly stir for 5 seconds
Garnish with an apple slice