Saturday, March 7, 2009

Jim Beam Beef Jerky - Cracked Pepper

Jim Beam Beef Jerky The third in our series of Jim Beam Beef Jerky is this Cracked Pepper variety. Read my earlier reviews of their Original, and Barbecue varieties.

The idea of combining Jim Beam whiskey into beef jerky is perhaps a study of successful brand extension, by taking a well loved brand such as Jim Beam, and crossing it over to a well loved product like beef jerky. It was enough to win Thanasi Foods, LLC, the company behind this effort, awards from CSP Magazine as the best new convenience store product in 2005. Though I tend to think the marketing success of Jim Beam jerky has more to do with indulging the inner-alcoholic in each of us, and Thanasi's skillful package artwork.

In my review of Jim Beam's Barbecue variety, I noted the jerky was manufactured by Jerky Snack Brands. However this package of Cracked Pepper was made by Monogram Meat Snacks, which appears to be the current processor moving forward. While I'm sure the flavor recipe is still the same, a different meat processor always seems to have a profound effect on the meat consistency and overall flavor.


Beef, water, brown sugar, contains 2% or less of sugar, salt, black pepper, hydrolyzed soy protein, spices, garlic powder, white pepper, worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, genuine Jim Beam Bourbon, sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrite.


The first thing I taste from this jerky is a light sweetness and a light smokiness from the surface. With some sucking, I can get some saltiness. But I don't taste any black pepper off the surface despite trying a piece with a lot of pepper. When I start chewing, right away I taste the natural meat flavors. In that meat flavor, there's good deal of saltiness. I can pick up the black pepper in the chewing, likely due to biting into the peppercorns.

For being a cracked pepper variety, I do get the flavor of black pepper, but it's a light flavor overall. On an individual piece basis, I only taste it in the chewing. Across several pieces, the black pepper aftertaste is easily noticed and it lingers around throughout the entire contents of this package, giving me the effect that I'm tasting it on the surface of each piece.

And for containing "genuine Jim Beam Bourbon", I don't taste any bourbon or whiskey at all. Nothing. Nada. Even after thinking carefully, and searching hard, I taste nothing resembling such spirit.

Otherwise, the dominant taste of this jerky is the natural meat flavors, lasting throughout the chewing. It not so much the "natural" flavor of beef, but a meat flavor that resembles something like beef summer sausage. I'm not sure what ingredients and/or processing creates this flavor, but I'm not criticizing it. I think it's a snackable and enjoyable flavor.

The salt intensity in this seems to be at a medium level, strong enough to be a dominant flavor second only to the meat flavor, but not quite too salty for me.

The worcestershire sauce and soy sauce are not noticed individually, but I'm sure they add to the meat flavor, or ambience somehow. The garlic powder is just a faint aftertaste.

Overall, what you're going to taste from this is that summer sausage-like meat flavor, and saltiness. You'll taste the black pepper in light amounts during the chewing, but it'll build up a stronger aftertaste that will last as you continue to eat more. The light sweetness and smokiness I mentioned on the surface can be enjoyed just for those few seconds after putting a piece into your mouth, but is quickly removed from your taste buds once you get into the chewing.

Meat Consistency

These appear to be slices of whole meat, sliced to a medium thickness, and in small to medium sized pieces.

This feels like a semi-moist jerky on the surface, but after tearing pieces apart it looks more like a dry jerky. But I think the soft chew makes it better to call it semi-moist. It's easy to tear pieces apart with my fingers, and it's easy to chew.

The chewing texture starts with a soft rubber-like chewing resistance, and takes about 30 seconds before it starts to feel something like meat. But it never really gets to that fibrous, steak-like texture. It continues with that rubbery feel, but just something mashed down. If anything, it might be more like a steak cooked rare. I notice a few pieces that do produce drier, fibrous quality, but still being somewhat rubbery.

As I tear pieces apart, I notice quite a bit of cracked pepper corns falling off onto my lap and desk. But my fingers don't pick up any residue from these pieces.

I did find one piece with a sizeable chunk of fat, otherwise this jerky seems to be pretty lean. I didn't find any pieces with tendon, gristle, and found no sinews and membranous tissues leaving behind unchewable wads in my mouth.

Snack Value

Thanasi Foods has a suggested retail price of $5.99 for this 3.15oz bag of Jim Beam Beef Jerky. That works out to a price of $1.90 per ounce, putting this into the average price range, at the higher end.

For general jerky snacking purposes, at this $1.90 per ounce price, I think it presents a fair value. I'm getting a good snackability for its meat flavor, and that light black pepper taste, along with its easy chewing. I think the price is kinda high, however, considering that it's not the best chewing texture and that while the taste is snackable it's not exactly spectacular.

As a Cracked Pepper variety, at the $1.90 price per ounce, it's a weak value. I'm getting black pepper taste, but I expected more for this upper-level price. I only get light amounts of black pepper flavor on an individual piece, but it's largely a black pepper aftertaste that I experience throughout this package.

And then there's there Jim Beam bourbon thing. If you bought this jerky thinking you'll experience some kind of marriage between whiskey and jerky, you'll see this as a disappointment. If you can put that aside, and just enjoy it for what it is, you'll be more pleased.


I'm giving this an average rating.

This Cracked Pepper variety from Jim Beam Beef Jerky offers a good snackability and that seems to be about it. That snackability comes about from a good overall flavor mostly for its summer sausage-like meat flavor, while the black pepper flavor is strong enough only to provide some taste interest. It's easy to tear apart and chew, though the chewing texture is more rubbery than it is like real meat.

But I'm not getting enough out of this to say that it's above average. Perhaps if it actually tasted like Jim Beam bourbon, it would open up a whole new ballgame. Perhaps if I got more black pepper taste, or a better meat chewing texture, or more smokiness, or maybe all of the above.

On the other hand, I don't think this jerky is trying to win taste tests anyways. It won awards for its marketing brilliance, not for being a better jerky. Maybe it's time that Jim Beam made a beef jerky-flavored bourbon.

I'd recommend a barley wine ale instead.

Rating: Average

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