An honest review of a first time non-alcoholic spirit drinker against the alcoholic alternative.

Having never tried non-alcoholic spirits, I have to admit Andrew and I were sceptical. Spirits are all about that complex flavour developing in your mouth and a strong aftertaste lingering on the palate. How was a non-alcoholic spirit going to work?

Look and smell

As I took the bottle of Lyre’s American Malt out of the box, I immediately loved its design.

The eye-catching label, in Prussian blue and copper brown colours, is a throwback to old times. You are promptly transported to a gentlemen’s club, lounging on a black leather chair, a cigar in your hand.

When pouring it, the non-alcoholic spirit has a honey golden hue and amber colour. By comparison, the Jim Beam looks even more golden yellow. Is this a good indication of what to expect in their taste? The first should be sweeter and fuller, the latter sharper and punchier…

The smells seem to confirm this intuition. While very similar, the Lyre’s American Malt has a sweeter scent.

Look winner: Draw

Both the non-alcoholic spirit and the full-strength version look tasty and inviting.

Taste and drinkability

So now, to answer the most important question, can a non-alcoholic spirit taste good? Yes, it can! 

Lyre’s American Malt successfully captures the flavour of a bourbon. The first sip is mellow and subtle but the spice builds slowly and nicely in your mouth. It has a not-too-sweet bouquet of vanilla and spice, balanced by charred oaky tones. Delicate flavours of honey, herbs and toasted nuts develop in the long, mellow finish. If you approach it thinking it will taste like a Jim Beam, you will be disappointed. If you keep your mind open and try a new bourbon-like drink, you will be delighted.

Lyre’s American Malt’s true value as a non-alcoholic bourbon substitute is clear when mixed in a cocktail. Have the non-alcoholic spirit with StrangeLove Smoked Cola and I dare you to find the difference with any full-strength bourbon and coke. It’s the same when mixed in a Manhattan or Old Fashioned.

A big difference, though, is how you feel after drinking them. You can add as much Lyre’s American Malt as you want to get a punchy bourbon and coke flavour without knocking your socks off like you would with Jim Beam. And what a difference it makes the morning after. We could still taste the Jim Beam in our mouth, not in a pleasant way.

Taste winner: Draw

If tasted straight, there is a definite difference between the Jim Beam and the Lyre’s American Malt. Two good spirits with different flavour profiles, that are almost indistinguishable in a cocktail.

Overall winner

So, which is better? If your mind is set on a Jim Beam, and you like drinking it straight, the non-alcoholic spirit Lyre’s American Malt won’t do it for you.

If you approach it like a new American Bourbon Malt, though, you will be able to appreciate its mellowed and rich flavour.

Neither of us is a bourbon lover but we would readily drink Lyre’s American Malt all night. We definitely wouldn’t have Jim Beam all night.

And if you are a bourbon and coke drinker you have found yourself an equivalent alternative that won’t put you under the table. 

Non-alcoholic Bourbon & Coke recipe:

  • 50 ML of Lyre’s American Malt
  • Ice
  • Top with StrangeLove Smoked Cola

Explore of range of non-alcoholic spirits here


Ever wondered how are non-alcoholic spirits made? Click here to know. 


Irene Falcone


Thanks for the clear honest review. I’m a sobriety/mindful drinking coach and love having options to suggest to clients. I just ordered the Lyre’s Coffee Originale (which had been highly recommended and tastes and smells delicious) and 2 others that I’ll be playing around with soon to make an espresso martini, mojito and more. I agree, packaging is very elegant.

— Martha