Clermont Steep American Single Malt

Clermont Steep American Single Malt (Image by the brand)


When is an American single-malt (ASM) not an ASM? When it’s the new whiskey line from Jim Beam, Clermont Steep! With much fanfare, JB released the bourbon maker’s first foray into the ever-widening marketplace of the USA’s newest style of whiskey.

For those unfamiliar with the genre, American single-malt whiskey is a direct descendant of Scotch and Irish whiskeys, its defining characteristic being the grain used – it’s made of 100% malted barley. Unlike its predecessors, the style uses no grains other than barley, although I do not doubt that blended malts will come down the pike eventually. For now, hundreds of new distilleries and a handful of old pros are trying their hands at the upstart whiskey style, resulting in varied degrees of success.

Self-Identified Expert

Now, I consider myself a bit of a ringer when it comes to ASMs – I’ve been a rabid proponent since I first tried them a few years ago due to my love for Scotch and intense patriotism. I sincerely believe that we’ll do it better! Like Scotch and Irish, ASMs exhibit unique flavor characteristics compared to bourbon, rye, and other traditional American whiskeys. And, while much of its due to barley, there are other key contributors, including terroir, yeast strains, and even the distillation process.

Enter Clermont Steep. I was extremely excited when I learned that Beam had entered my favorite marketplace. After all, it has been an industry leader in the bourbon marketplace for centuries, as one of the (if not the) oldest whiskey in America, so it seemed reasonable to expect something special. However, sometimes fantasy outperforms reality.

Ideal Onramp

On paper, it’s the ideal American single-malt whiskey, replete with Heirloom “Jug” yeast and five years of aging in American oak. Plus, it’s a visually “beautiful” whiskey, showing a dark amber in the glass. However, that’s where it ends. Everything else about this whiskey screams “bourbon.” I swore I was drinking bourbon from the aroma to the flavor, the mouthfeel to the finish. At first, I thought there was an issue with my bottle. I irrationally thought that I had received bourbon by mistake.

To be fair, I must tell on myself – I’m not a bourbon fan. I far prefer barley-based whiskeys, ASMs to be sure, but also Scotch and Irish whiskey. And in my humble opinion, this tastes too much like bourbon for my preference. That said, if you like bourbon and are reticent about trying malt whiskeys, this could be the ideal onramp or bridge.

Might Be Perfect!

Please know that there is nothing “bad” about Clermont Steep. It’s just not my style. It has oodles of toasted caramel, toffee, brown sugar, and molasses overtones, backed by cereal creaminess, honey, and sweet vanilla notes. It’s a bold, full-bodied dram that’s quite warming (it’s bottled at 47% ABV). But, if you’re expecting true “barley-ness” (to coin a word), this ain’t it!

So, if you like bourbon, dislike Scotch, but want to try something new, this may be just for you. As always, YMMV!