Price – 750 ml – $39.99 – (Costco. Gift set with two rocks glasses.)
Method – 2 ice cubes in 3 fingers
Rating – 89-100 – standard rating scale for wine and spirits
Let me start this review by saying that I’m fairly certain I was born with a small amount of Jack Daniel’s no. 7 in my blood. It was a favorite of both of my parents and my mother still talks about her glory days drinking “good ‘ol Jack”. (I should also note that my mother is now 23 years sober, congratulations Ma ) The first whiskey I ever drank was Jack, when I snuck a dram out of a friend of my mom’s bottle. It went down like water and I couldn’t believe how easy it was to drink. I don’t drink Jack much nowadays but my grandfather, before he passed, bought us a bottle of Gentlemen Jack which I seem to remember enjoying, and so as I began my recently renewed foray into the world of craft whiskeys, I knew I would have to visit both the Single Barrel and the Gentleman Jack sooner or later. So when I went to Costco and saw a bottle for 40 bucks that included a couple of fairly nice rocks glasses, I figured now was the time.
The bottle for the Single Barrel is a very nice one. It’s reminiscent of a decanter with a nice wooden cork topper embossed with the Single Barrel logo. It makes the whiskey, which is normally fairly pale compared to some of my usual drams, appear dark amber in the bottle, which is a nice illusion.
This whiskey is beautiful on the nose. Very bourbonesque with the hints of molasses and honey, with an oaky under current that made my mouth water when I first gave the cork a sniff.
On the dram this whiskey took me a bit by surprise. It’s bottled at 94 proof so it packs quite a bit more punch than the stuff that usually comes out of Lynchburg, but it’s no less smooth because of it. The first sip told me immediately that this was not the Jack Daniel’s I was used to, and in a very good way. It has a fair bit of burn on the tongue at first, but once I let it sit on my palate for a few seconds the honey and molasses flavors washed through my mouth like a beautiful sunrise. A few more seconds brought a bit of the tannin’s forward and then the mellowing of the Maple Charcoal washed away the wood flavor so it didn’t get too acidic. The finish, definitely strong on the oak and maple flavors, wasn’t as long as I have become accustomed to, about 20-25 seconds and a slightly bitter aftertaste, but overall a pleasant dram.
As an alternative to bourbon its a great choice, and one I will likely keep stocked as it drains. Like the Woodford Reserve I recently reviewed, its the bitter aftertaste that leaves this one out of the 90+ range for me. Still a great dram, just not quite where I’d like it to be.
This gives me a pretty good opportunity to talk about the difference between Tennessee Whiskey, Jack Daniels, and the other big American favorite, Bourbon. The mash bill (ingredients of the grain mash that is fermented to create the whiskey) is pretty much the same.
Wild Turkey: Kentucky Bourbon Jack Daniels: Tennessee Whiskey
Barley….12% (6-Row) Barley….10% (6-Row)
The mash-bills, while varying slightly, are nearly identical. The difference is that while bourbon is usually only filtered after the barrel aging, Tennessee Whiskey is charcoal filtered before barreling and after. And while certain bourbons, Evan Williams comes to mind, uses a similar charcoal filtering process, the double distillation is what sets Tennessee Whiskey, and JD in particular apart from bourbon. Jack Daniel’s has this to say about their signature charcoal filtering.
Jack Daniel believed “Every day we make it, we’ll make it the best we can.” For him, that meant mellowing his whiskey drop by drop through ten feet of sugar maple charcoal.
Seven generations later, we still mellow our whiskey just as Mr. Jack did. The reason is simple: it imparts a distinctive smoothness folks have come to expect from Jack Daniel’s. Charcoal Mellowing makes Jack Daniel’s what it is – a Tennessee Whiskey and not a Bourbon. It refines our whiskey’s rich flavor even before we fully mature it in barrels of our own making. Yes, it’s a painstaking process that demands extra attention and makes our whiskey a bit more costly to craft. But Mr. Jack wouldn’t have it any other way. Neither would we.
So there, we all learned something, and I got a little turvy while doing my reading, and I’ll call that a win win.