Price-wise, Jack Daniel’s is the least expensive of the three well-known whiskey brands. At just approximately $23 per 700 ml bottle, it is slightly cheaper than Crown Royal, which comes at about $27 per 750 ml bottle, but much costlier than Jim Beam, which costs around $15 per 750 ml bottle. All three have an 80-proof, or 40-percent alcohol by volume (ABV) content.
But aside from how much you can buy them and how much alcohol you can get per bottle, how you choose which of the three is best depends on what type of whiskey you are partial to. Crown Royal is a blended Canadian whiskey, Jim Beam is a bourbon whiskey, and Jack Daniel’s is a Tennessee whiskey. To a connoisseur of spirits, these are three very distinct types of whiskey.
“Blended whiskey,” as defined under federal guidelines, is a mixture that contains straight whiskey or a blend of straight whiskeys at not less than 20 percent on a proof gallon basis, and, separately or in combination, other whiskeys or neutral spirits. Now, the term “straight whiskey” refers to whiskey that (1) has been distilled to not more than 80-percent ABV, (2) has been aged for at least two years at a starting alcohol concentration of not more than 62.5-percent, and (3) has not been blended with any other spirits, colorings, or additives. A “bourbon whiskey” is whiskey made from a grain mixture with at least 51 percent corn content, while a “Tennessee whiskey” is a straight bourbon whiskey that has additionally undergone a special filtering process involving steeping the whiskey through a layer of maple charcoal to improve the flavor.
Crown Royal is a brand of blended Canadian whiskey that is now owned by London-based Dageo PLC, the world’s largest producer of spirits. It has a rich heritage, having been originally created as a gift for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to commemorate their 1939 visit to Canada. Presently, Crown Royal is the number one best-selling Canadian whiskey in the American market.
The brand now carries ten commercial variants, namely the flagship original Crown Royal, Crown Royal Black, Crown Royal Reserve, Crown Royal XR, Crown Royal Maple Finished, Crown Royal XO, Crown Royal Regal Apple, Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye, Crown Royal Hand-Selected Barrel, and Crown Royal Monarch 75th Anniversary Blend.
Crown Royal is sometimes touted as “a blend of 50 distinct, full-bodied whiskies matured in white oak barrels.” Of course, the ages of the various whiskies used in each blend range widely, from the relatively young to the relatively well-aged. Additionally, the distillates of various grains, including corn, rye, wheat, and barley, are aged in a large variety of oak casks, including those previously used for aging bourbon whiskey back when the company was still owned by Sagram. As expected, each particular distillate, when matured, will also yield a distinctive spirit. All these factors go into the preparation of a blend for the Crown Royal label for a particular batch. For instance, Crown Royal XR, introduced in 2006, was made from a blend that included the last batches of whiskey distilled at the now-closed Waterloo and Lasalle distilleries. Another is the Crown Royal Hand-Selected Barrel, introduced in May 2015, which was made from a single barrel of rye that was produced by the brand’s Coffey rye still.
Jim Beam is a brand of bourbon whiskey owned and produced by Beam Suntory. It is claimed to be “made using a secret recipe for more than 200 years,” and is one of the world’s leading made-in-Kentucky whiskey brands. Many now consider Jim Beam part of the American tradition.
Under federal law, all straight bourbon must be made of a grain mix of at least 51 percent corn, distilled at no higher than 160-proof or 80-percent ABV; free of any additives other than water, aged in new, charred white oak barrels; entered into the aging barrels at no higher than 125-proof or 62.5-percent ABV, aged for a minimum of 2 years; and finally, bottled at no less than 80-proof or 40-percent ABV. Jim Beam whiskey products are aged for at least four years, twice as long as the government’s minimum requirement. Additionally, it uses a special strain of yeast for the fermentation process that dates back to the Prohibition era.
Jim Beam straight bourbon whiskey comes in six variants: the flagship Jim Beam White, aged 4 years, 80-proof; the charcoal-filtered Jim Beam Choice, aged 5 years, 80-proof; the 90-proof Jim Beam Devil’s Cut, aged 6 years, uses extracted bourbon reclaimed from the walls of the cask after pouring; the Jim Beam Seven Year, aged 7 years, 80-proof; the 86-proof Jim Beam Black, aged 8 years; and the 100-proof Jim Beam Bonded, aged 4 years. The brand now also offers a number of special labels of craft whiskey, including straight rye whiskey, single-barrel bourbon whiskey, a “white whiskey,” its own version of blended whiskey, and flavored 70-proof liqueurs. Additionally, Jim Beam conducts a guided tour, the ”Kentucky Bourbon Trail,” that is a popular landmark destination for tourists in Louisville, Kentucky.
Jack Daniel’s is a brand of Tennessee whiskey that is owned and produced by the Brown-Foreman Corporation. Distilled at the historic Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee, Jack Daniel’s is considered the top selling American whiskey in the world. It is one of just four recognized Tennessee whiskey brands, the other three being George Dickel, Collier and McKeel, and Benjamin Prichard’s.
What distinguishes Tennessee whiskey from straight bourbon whiskey is the introduction of “mellowing,” an additional step in the production process. Known as the “Lincoln County Process,” because it originated in Lincoln County, the whiskey is filtered first through sugar maple charcoal chips or pellets before being transferred to the wooden casks for aging. The filtration, aside from removing impurities, also gives the Tennessee whiskey a smoother taste, which distinguishes it from regular bourbon whiskey.
Jack Daniel’s comes in 11 distinct variants: the original and flagship Black Label, Gentleman Jack, Single Barrel, Tennessee Honey, Tennessee Fire, Green Label, Silver Select, Winter Jack, No. 27 Gold, Sinatra Select, and Sinatra Century.