Jim Beam Devil's Cut
A showpiece guitar for promotional purposes. Not likely to be a good / playable instrument without some work. Poor build quality and very little attention to detail.
If you can pick one up in reasonable condition for a few hundred dollars, it could be worth spending a little time and money to set it up properly. Otherwise, it could be a nice wall hanging in your man-cave - if you are into that sort of thing.
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Review and Description
Important! - This Jim Beam promotional guitar is not connected to Gibson in any way, other than the guitar style approximates that of a Gibson ES-335.
The Jim Beam Devil's Cut ES 335 Chinese clone hollow body 6 string electric guitar is not the worst build quality that I have ever seen, but it sure as Hell comes real close. While I'm fond of an occasional whisky, as a musician, you would need to down at least half a bottle before this guitar would start looking (or sounding) any good. Even the application of the Devil's Cut decal artwork (in my estimation, the very best part of the whole guitar), is as rough as three day old moonshine.
If you really think that was a little too scathing, you might not want to read any further. I now look out for these promo guitars to see if this one really was just a one-off shocker. Sadly, that's not the case. I've seen a Les Paul Copy (also in cream) and probably of a similar age, that exhibits many of the same quality control issues that you will find documented below.
That's not to say the Devil's Cut hollow body isn't salvageable as a musical instrument. The one that was brought to me for repair and setup, was turned into a fully functional and playable electric guitar. It's just that the effort to make that happen probably exceeds the worthiness and monetary value of these particular instruments.
The Jim Beam Devil's Cut hollow body 335 style guitar clones are unbranded guitars with no serial number. Perhaps the manufacturer does not want to cop the blame for this travesty of guitar making. They are absolutely not made by or under licence from Gibson.
The cardboard box label shown at right is all the information that comes with these guitars. Unlike some previous promotional guitars that were badged as Gibson and came provided with full documentation and proof of authenticity.
Powersource Global Pty. Ltd. is an Australian marketing agency that specialises in objectifying product marketing. They have developed a long term relationship with Jim Beam that includes a substantial range and variety of promotional products.
The Devil's Cut guitar promotion appears to have begun, not surprisingly with the introduction of the Devil's Cut whisky in 2011. That sets the earliest manufacture date for these guitars at between 2010 and 2011.
I think it is fair to assume that the carton info [carton 666 of 800] is strictly for show and there are quite likely to be thousands of these cheap and nasty guitars haunting their owners across the world.
There are already many different promotional guitars out there, including ones for rival whisky maker Jack Daniels from Tennessee. Some of the promotional instruments are branded, fully documented and highly collectible. Others like this one are just, well, interesting.
There are at least two Jim Beam Devil's Cut promo guitars, the 335 style and the Les Paul Junior style - there might even be others that I haven't seen. If you have any 'real' information that might be useful and/or interesting here please email me.
I've been told that this guitar may dates back to 2011, however there are still bulletin board posts referencing the Devil's Cut guitars being used in promotions as late as 2016.
Various other Jim Beam electric guitar related
promotions appear to be an on-going concern.
Jim Beam has been involved with these kinds of promotions at least as far back as the early 1990's when they had name-brand manufacturers like Epiphone and Gibson building certified high quality guitars for them (in much smaller quantities).
Please Note: Promotional guitars come up for sale from time to time on ebay. Sometimes these are wrongly advertised as name-brand guitars (e.g. Epiphone or Gibson), which they may not be. Like this little beauty, they may just be a cheap clone. The seller may innocently assume the branding, based on style. However it's still incorrect and illegal in the USA to advertise a guitar where the stated brand cannot be reasonably proven. Gibson in particular are very stern on this point and apparently keen to litigate.
So while some promotional guitars are likely to be clones and probably originate somewhere in China, they are still valid promotional issues. They are just not worth as much as a real Gibson for example. Also if they are cheapies, they will probably be knocked out by the thousands as well, reducing their individual value even further.
The give-away with clones will most notably be the lack of identification, such as a manufacturer's logo and serial number (for Gibsons and Epihones the serial # will be on the back of the headstock). Any branded guitar should also have documentation, so it pays to ask or check before purchasing one.
Worth noting is that even clones may still be worth a couple of hundred dollars (or whatever someone is prepared to pay), they just should not be advertised as a "Insert Brand Here" guitar. And of course, in the world of guitars like anywhere else there is a buck to be made, there are also the true frauds complete with faked logos and serial numbers. Gibson seem to be a popular target for these.
The Devil is in The Detail
When the Devil's Cut guitar being reviewed first arrived it was instantly obvious that the guitar had been messed with by someone who knew just enough to be dangerous and not enough to actually fix it.
Fortunately the new owner, who brought it to me, did have a ready to go 'Plan B' and was perfectly happy to turn it into a wall hanging if it couldn't be redeemed as a playable instrument. In fact his wife had her eye on it for just such a purpose. However, since it is the 'Devil's Cut' guitar, I guess it really is all about redemption ;-)
So - off the shelf (and definitely nowhere near the top shelf) - this guitar was not really playable (by anyone in a sober state).
So let's catalogue the litany of little catastrophes:
- The neck (properly glued in, not a bolt on) was bent forward like a banana and the guitar arrived strung, but not tuned. Honestly, I've never seen something that bad, that could be fixed. But the neck did come back with some careful and gradual adjustment while allowing some time for the timbers to settle.
The truss rod adjustment is bi-directional, smooth and thankfully effective. My guess is that the previous owner did not understand how the bi-directional truss rod worked and simply made a bad situation worse - then sold the guitar ;-)
- The fretwork was rough, with many jagged edges. The badly applied binding on the neck is cracked in several places where the frets had been bullied into the fretboard.
- There are many parts of the guitar where gaps can be seen around the binding, which are essentially just filled over by the clear lacquer.
- The specks in the lacquer suggest that the spray job may not have been done in a proper spray booth with appropriate dust removal and air filtration.
- The chrome plating on some parts (e.g. PU covers) is rough (textured), which suggests that debris was not cleaned off the parts prior to plating.
- There is a buzzing sound coming from (it appears) the region of the bridge pickup which sometimes indicates that the pickups may not have been properly potted (dipped/soaked in hot wax).
Another guitarist thought this was fret buzz, because it only happens when certain notes are played (notably F# 1st string). But actually, this happens at several locations (including F# in the 2nd position and an open D string) which indicates the problem is harmonic in nature. Tracking down mystery buzzes can be a real pain!
- Lastly the nut was broken/split close to where the 5th (A) string passed over. Probably damaged in transit at some point. The broken nut was made of soft junky plastic and was already showing signs of string gouging even though the guitar shows very little evidence of having been played.
- While the quality of the running gear is ordinary at best, the machine heads at least do seem to work smoothly and hold tuning.
- The truss rod works exactly as it should - in both directions.
- The fretboard itself (though roughly finished) and the fret heights were actually ok (major sigh of relief ;-)
- The passive electronics are serviceable, the pickups are lack lustre, but functional.
Playing the Jim Beam Devil's Cut Hollow Body Electric Guitar
This guitar was not at all playable when I received it. Having corrected the neck curvature, filing/sanding down some sharp fret edges, making a new bone nut and then adjusting the action to be nice and low - this guitar is now quite pleasing to play. Once the neck stabilised, the guitar remains nicely in tune between playings.
For specifications see Jim Beam Devil's Cut Hollow Body specifications below.
Jim Beam Devil's Cut Hollow Body Sound
The passive electronics and pickups are Chinese clones and while they are functional, the output sound is fairly ordinary. I have played the Jim Beam Devil's Cut Hollow Body through my Ceriatone valve amp and there is no hint of any classic 335 sweetness from this guitar. It doesn't sound terrible, it's just relatively ordinary. I can't honestly say whether spending money on better or more appropriate pickups and passive electronics (if you were up for the job) could be justified - unless of course you have plenty of time and desperately need a project.
Build Quality / Workmanship / Reliability
As mentioned earlier - The build quality and workmanship for this, now year old guitar, is simply abysmal. The various parts are cheap, borderline functional and singularly unimpressive. I don't believe that reliability or durability can be counted on. If I was a guitar maker, I would have burnt this one before anybody got a look at it!
Just to fact-check myself, I got out my camera with macro lens attached and photo-documented some of the primary flaws and blemishes. There are about 20 that I could successfully photograph. Some colour blemishes are too subtle to get properly into focus.
It is probably expected that you might find a flaw or three on any cheap clone guitar. However, over 20 blemishes, some of which are really quite nasty, is fairly extreme in my opinion ... Click on the 'Flaws that will Floor You' image below for a larger view.
There is still 'stuff' rattling around inside this guitar. I have managed to get some of it out including: decal flakes, wood shavings and paper (with Chinese writing), but there is still more. Some is stuck to the inside of the body. Of course, the only way out is through the F holes - this could take a while.
Strings for the Jim Beam Devil's Cut Hollow Body
I am so tempted to just say 'Why bother?' ... but honestly, if one invested in some better pickups, it might make a world of difference. Noting that to upgrade the PUs would possibly cost as much as the guitar is presently worth. Therefore good strings are the go - and my preference would be D'Addario XL-120s. These have helped to modestly improve the sound. Slightly heavier jazz strings (as per a real ES-335) may squeeze some extra tone out of this guitar, but bear in mind that would quite likely also require a truss rod tweak. The neck seems to be quite sensitive.
Value for Money
If this guitar was gifted to you, or cost less than 4 to 5 bottles of good whiskey, then consider it 'almost' value for money - the 'almost' being added here because it is 'almost' certain that you will have to either work on it, spend money on it, or both - to end up with a truly playable guitar. The guitar looks - well, it looks ok from a distance. At any distance more than 1 metre (or for those who need glasses), it's a fine looking guitar ;-)
Repairs, Parts, Restoration
The only real likelihood of the Jim Beam Devil's Cut ES-335 clone not requiring some work, is if the work has already been done by a former owner or you intend to use it as a wall hanging. Whether the guitar is worth the effort will depend on the condition of the individual guitar. One should reasonably expect there will be some variance. For example, the one I have worked on could be the worst one they ever made - though, somehow I doubt it ;-)
This will really come down to how badly you want a guitar covered with Jim Beam Devil's Cut artwork. The current owner of the one I'm now tweaking is a country-rock singer and rhythm guitarist. This guitar has a look that suits the genre, while also making for an interesting conversation piece. Most importantly, it now also plays very nicely.
The Jim Beam Devil's Cut Hollow Body is essentially a Gibson ES-335 look-alike, without the (or perhaps even any) quality control. A great wall hanging for a man cave or perhaps an older teenager's bedroom. It could require quite a bit of effort to turn one of these clones into a well playing musical instrument - but - it is achievable. The only question is: How much do you want to spend?
So it's true - you know that now - these guitars are totally evil.
But seriously - If the Devil had actually been involved at any stage in the production of these Devil's Cut guitars, I'm certain they would be way more of a temptation than they currently are ;-)
Jim Beam Devil's Cut Hollow Body Specifications
There are other Devil's Cut guitars, these specs apply to the ES-335 clone only.
|Year(s) Sold:||NOT SOLD
Promotional Release Only
2011 - 2016+
|Estimated Value:||< AUD $350
|Neck Radius:||305mm (12")|
|Neck Type:||Glued Neck|
|Neck Material :||Not Known|
|Truss Rods :||Single Bi-directional|
|Body Material:||Not Known|
|Fretboard:||Not Known w Pearloid Spearhead Inlays|
|Frets:||22 Medium Jumbo Frets|
|Finish:||White with Jim Beam Devil's Cut decal|
|Machine Heads &
|Pickups x 2:
Humbucking - Passive
|Electronics:||2 Vol, 2 Tone,
3 Pos Sw
|Specs are close to current ES-335 measurements but definitely NOT the same.|
- Playability - 4 / 10
- Sound - 5 / 10
- Build Quality - 2 / 10 Almost the worst I've seen
- Durability & Reliability - 3 / 10 estimated
- Value for Money - 4 /10 Only if it is a gift
- Overall Average Score ... 3.6 / 10
Your comments and contributions have been greatly appreciated - many thanks!
210825 - (Very Good) - Given you a very good rating over useful, because you have certainly put a lot of effort into this article, regardless whether or not I agree on all points. Firstly, I read somewhere that the very first Jim Beam promo Les Paul's were were made in the Gibson custom shop and are numbered, 1 to 75 and are very much collector's items... I bought my Devil's Cut 335 style guitar (body is a bit deeper than Gibson) in brand new un-played condition for $175 at Cash Converters (bargain), took it home and lowered the action at the nut and bridge, polished the frets, strung it with 11 to 52, then set the harmonics. Maybe straightened the neck (can't remember) and plugged it in. Loved it straight away, it rocked, something that you can really pull back on, a real party animal. I now run 12 to 54 strings on it.
I've owned a lot of guitars over the last 45 years, from all brands such as. Martin, Maton, Cole Clark, Epiphone, Fender etc. etc. and also made a few, (solid body and acoustic) and a guitar is a guitar to me, some better than other's, sure!.. Never owned a Gibson, but played a few. I have 2 mates who own 335's, so I can compare ... One of the Gibson 335's is absolutely a beautiful sweet sounding unplugged and also plugged, a quality instrument in every department and really there is no real comparison up against my Beam guitar, but the other mate's Gibson 335 on the other hand is a guitar, no matter how many times I have a chance to play around with it, I simply just do not relate to it and do not like it.
I have often wondered where my Beam promo guitar came from. The nut spacing between strings is 3 or so mill narrower than any other guitar I have, which I found a little intriguingly unusual and also the dagger markers on the fret board. I stared wondering if possibly it was maybe made in the Gretsch Chinese plant ?? Whatever ?? ... I find this Beam guitar very easy to play and I take it off the wall and give it run every now and then and have gigged with it once or twice. I'm not that critical of it at all, because it cost next to nothing to buy and it is what it is, a fully functional rock guitar and for what it is I give it 7 out of 10.
I played it through a Fender Mustang amp (solid state) the other day and it sounded great on both pickups. I really have nothing to complain about. regarding this guitar. I am not a walking advertisement for Jim Beam and bought some stickers to cover over any writing that was on the body and head ... Just glad that you have shed some light on the origin of this axe. Thanks for your article.
And then a few hours later ...
Maybe, just maybe, mind! My promo guitar was an early one with the possibility that it was made in a different factory, or better quality control (or Jim Beam wanted to buy them cheaper and cheaper) to the one you so despise. Maybe quality control went out the door, who knows?... I mentioned my 2 mates each with Gibson 335's. One (1970's or thereabouts circa) is great and possibly the best thing I've ever had the privilege to play around on, whereas, the other mates Gibson (2010 circa), in my opinion, is a lemon.... Guitars are like women, if you get a good one, you're doin' OK.
Editor's Note: We humans are funny creatures when it comes to what we like and loyalties. Take the Dihatsu Terios (which I have owned). A vehicle that can be Lethal to drive on wet and dirt roads when unladen, has all manner of mechanical and motor issues, yet there are people who absolutely love this automobile (I don't number among them). Who almost worship the Terios and will happily spend vast amounts of time and no small amount of money to upgrade and tweak such a vehicle (which of course, should not be necessary) without ever dealing with it’s fundamental failings.
I believe that all musicians (even casaul ones) should be warned about shoddy workmanship on instruments (regardless of what factory builds them). Not everyone has the skills to upgrade a crappy instrument themselves or the financial resources to pay to have it to be done for them. Above opinion noted and published. Your honour, I rest my case.
And then a few hours later ... seriously?
While I’ve never been a guitar snob, I respect and acknowledge that Fender and Gibson have made ‘some’ excellent and even classic instruments (so have lesser known makers). I have played a few of each, but never liked them enough to want to own them. A friend of mine who ‘knows about this stuff’, can rattle-off all the models / years of Fender and Gibson guitars to avoid buying. Times when the quality and workmanship in those factories hit a low point. So of course, anyone can release mediocre guitars. That doesn’t make any given mediocre guitar any better.
While many instruments are built to a ‘Price Point’ these days, ALL guitar makers / manufacturers have occasional duds and lemons. What really seperates these makers is whether or not these lemons or dud guitars make it out the factory door, into the shop and end up in a guitarist’s hands.
With respect to these ‘pub give-away guitars’, I very much doubt whether quality was ever even a concern.
So really, I’m just stating the obvious in this regard - and therefore apologise if I have offended anybody’s intelligence in doing so. As I mentioned near the start - there have been high quality collectible promotional instruments released, with documents of authenticity to go with. That’s not these guitars.
I totally accept that not everyone will hold instrument manufacturers to my standards, and they don’t have to. What other folk chose to believe / think / do - or not, is (for the most part) not my problem. And I should add, as long as they don’t make it my problem, we’ll get on just fine
And lastly: “Guitars are like women, if you get a good one, you're doin' OK”
Sorry mate, I've had an elegant sufficiency of both and totally disagree - you can always sell a guitar!
This thread is now locked.
201119 - (Not Useful) - I own a promo devils cut guitar and its great sounds great and well made i think this article is putting a pro view on something that 90 percent of people would be very happy with just because its not for professional bands does not mean its not a great product, this article is very harsh on a perfectly fine guitar.
Editor's Note: If someone delivered a great looking car with square wheels and a pretend wooden motor, then suggested that the looks should make up for the fact that it is actually rusted out and will never leave the driveway, most people wood advise the seller where to shove it and demand their money back. I believe the expression is 'Not Fit for Purpose'. I can only say, you are entitled to your opinion ... and, in fairness, I believe I did mention that I wouldn't expect all promotional guitars from the same 'unknown' manufacturer, to be this bad. That could also be called optimism.
Some promotional instruments are extremely well made (even name brand) and come with provinence (paperwork to prove authenticity), to make them truly worthy of collecting. The piece of junk described above is absolutely NOT one of these - though now, thanks to some work, it is at least playable (and you won't risk getting tetanus from jagged fret ends).
And lastly ... I have no doubt that many owners will be pissed off with this review (particularly those wanting to sell one of these). Grow a chin and get over it, it's just a guitar with a clever marketing decal. There are much better guitars and way better decals available! Just have a look for guitar skins.
Incept Date: Wizard - 200420
Last Update: Wizard - 210825