Jim Beam Distiller’s Masterpiece 18 Years Cognac Finish Review

Jim Beam Distillers' Masterpeice Review

Jim Beam Distiller’s Masterpiece 18 Years Cognac Finish is a glass of whiskey history. Released in 1999, it was one of the first super premium bourbons on the market and retailed for the jaw dropping price of $250. Which might not sound that bad now, but 1999 was back in the “glory days”. Back when things like Port Ellen and Brora didn’t cost a small fortune, no one really cared about anything Van Winkle and the idea of dropping thousands of dollars on a bottle was pure insanity. In 1999 $250 must have felt like a giant slap in the face.

In addition to being one of the first super premium bourbons the Jim Beam Distiller’s Masterpiece 18 Years Cognac Finish was one of the first, if not the first, release by a major bourbon brand that featured a cask finish. In every way this was a weird whiskey for the market to absorb back then and is why, until a few years ago, you could see them sitting on the top shelf of liquor stores collecting dust. Though in today’s bourbon boom they’ve all disappeared and go for far more than $250 on the secondary and in auctions.

Jim Beam Distiller’s Masterpiece 18 Years Cognac Finish Info

Region: Kentucky, USA

Distiller: Jim Beam
Mashbill: 77% Corn, 13% Rye, 10 % Corn
Cask: New charred oak & ex-Cognac casks
Age: 18 years
ABV: 49.5%

Price: N/A – Auction or Specialty Store

Jim Beam Distiller’s Masterpiece 18 Years Cognac Finish Review

EYE
Reddish purplish brown.

NOSE
Butterscotch, caramel, cherry and fig heavy dark fruit, spice and a light bit of vanilla. It’s a rich deep aroma with complex darkly sweet notes pinned up by a rustic earthy character.

PALATE
Laden with dark fruits like cherries, figs and plums. That dark fruit is accompanied by a complex ball of dark sweets and light notes of vanilla, baking spice and citrus with a bit of mint that creeps in towards the end. Even though the citrus is light, something about it makes me think of an Orange Creamsicle.

FINISH
Long and sweet with layers of dark sweets, dark fruit, wood and mint.

BALANCE, BODY & FEEL
Nicely balanced, full bodied and a round oily feel.

OVERALL
The Jim Beam Distiller’s Masterpiece 18 Years Cognac Finish is awesome. We tasted this along with some other legendary bourbons in a LAWS blind bourbon tasting which included an Old Fitz Colonial Decanter from the 60s, Martin Mills 24, several legendary Willetts and some other stuff – and this JBMC held its own nicely. It has a rich deep aroma, bold full palate and long lovely finish that combines in way that excites the senses.

Not too long ago Beam decided to resurrect the Distiller’s Masterpiece label, but from everything I’ve read it’s nowhere near the same level of quality as the originals. Yes I said originals, plural. In addition to the The Jim Beam Distiller’s Masterpiece 18 Years Cognac Finish there was a 20 year port finish released around the same time. I haven’t tried it, but after tasting this and reading some good reviews it went on my bourbon bucket list. Hopefully someday I get to cross that one off!

SCORE: 90-92/100 (A-, not consumed at home)

Jim Beam Distiller's Masterpiece 18 Years Cognac Finish Review - Score Breakdown
  • Nose - 91
  • Palate - 91
  • Finish - 91
  • Balance, Body & Feel - 91

Summary

Jim Beam Distiller's Masterpiece 18 Years Cognac Finish is a great whiskey and should you get an opportunity to try it do so. I wouldn’t spend crazy money to do it, but if a feasible opportunity arrives go for it.

Jim Beam Distillers' Masterpeice Label

Josh Peters
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Josh Peters

I read about, think about, write about, and drink whisk(e)y. In short, it's my passion.
Josh Peters
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16 Responses to Jim Beam Distiller’s Masterpiece 18 Years Cognac Finish Review

    • Hi Tim,

      There’s kind of a market for this. The ones I’ve seen going on the secondary have been going for about 1.25 – 1.5x the original price. So not a massive market like there is for some, but it’s definitely gone up a bit in value.

  1. I own bottle 1555 of the distiller’s Masterpiece 20 year old. It is still unopened. I was given it as a gift from my boss who was a rep for Jim Beam.

  2. For those just getting into bourbon this isn’t the “real” Distiller’s Masterpiece 18 year bourbon. This is an artificially aged knock off of the 18-year that was truly noteworthy. The original came in a flat bottle with curved edges – not round or barrel shaped like this brand. This one is now produced whereas the original 18- and 20-year originals have seen their last distribution long ago. This one really isn’t that good IMO – far too sweet but YMMV.

    I have four bottles of the original 18-year: 968, 1950, 3515, 5513 and one of the 20-year ports which is sitting in a case and I’m too lazy to open to get the number. I’d like another 20-year if someone has one to sell. It’s been too long since I’ve tasted it and don’t want to open my last bottle yet.

    • Hey Patrick. This is a Beam product and 100% aged in oak so I’m curious what you mean by “this isn’t the “real” Distiller’s Masterpiece 18 year bourbon. This is an artificially aged knock off”.

      This is the original from the 90’s. This is one of the two that initially launched.

      • Hi Josh,

        I might have this article confused with the “18-year” that came out last (maybe one before) year. The picture looks like it’s the sherry cask variety but the title it says cognac; are we sure the picture goes with the article?

        It’s definitely a different bottle and the picture on this blog looks red/crimson which resembles the sherry one much more than the cognac.

        Beam released a recent (two years ago?) 18-year bottle that had the Distiller’s label. This is my favorite brand so I anxious to try it. I have to say I was a bit put off after tasting the latest bottle. It seemed like they rushed out a batch an put the most coveted label on it.

        @Tim Kersey – After reading this I tried to find the latest prices I could on the 20- and 18-year. Looks like, if the right buyer is involved, they’ll both hit as high as $1,300 (low end was around $600). My jaw dropped.

        Josh, I have never seen this color in a Distiller’s until recently. Since 2002 I grabbed every bottle I found for sale; RIP e-bay ‘collector bottle’ auctions. 🙁 BUT, I did find a color like this which was their new bottling which was sherry.

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