Jack Daniel’s

Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Rye Whiskey Review

Photo courtesy of Jack Daniel's.

Photo courtesy of Jack Daniel’s.

During the summer of 2014, I had a chance to talk to Jeff Arnett, the Master Distiller of Jack Daniel’s.  Towards the end of the brief interview he mentioned the upcoming rye whiskey release.  Fast forward a year and a half to March 2016, and Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Rye (JDSBR) begins hitting shelves.

This rye expression is the distillery’s first new mashbill in 100 years.  Like Arnett stated in that interview, the mashbill is broken down to 70% rye, 18% corn and 12% malted barley.  The high percentage of rye grain should show up in the nose and palate.  Considering their traditional mash bill is 80% corn, 12% malted barley and 8% rye, it’s apparent the company wants to showcase a big rye note in the final product.

JDSBR is bottled at 94 proof and is the newest addition to the Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel lineup.  It offers no age statement, which is consistent with every other offering from the distillery.  Arnett says, “You never want to over-barrel a rye whiskey so it was important for us to stay true to the style of grain forward character rather than barrel character while still allowing our barrels to interplay with the whiskey.”

There has been some talk online about wide barrel variation for Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Barrel Proof, the company’s last release.   Some folks claim their whiskey was not of quality, whereas I tasted whiskey from two different barrels and found both to be delicious.  I’m curious to see how this new offering will fare.

Although the mashbill has changed, the nose is unmistakably a member of the Jack Daniel’s family.  Rye grain leads off the nose, followed by familiar JD notes of sweet caramel, banana, and a little oak.  The entry is a mixture of sweet and spicy.  Rye grain is showcased nicely, providing that spiciness and a bit of sharpness.  Caramel and that JD banana note add sweetness and some richness.  The oak note comes in close to the medium-length finish, which is a touch astringent and leaves behind a sweet note.

You know, Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Rye is pretty darn good, especially for the suggested price of $49.99.  It’s pretty much what I expected from a JD rye whiskey.  It keeps the JD characteristics, but focuses on the rye grain.  Arnett and his team have not allowed the barrel influence to dominate the whiskey.  Assuming the whiskey makers are picking great barrels, I have a feeling this will be a hit for the company.

Give this one a chance.  I think you’ll like what you taste.

8/10
(Note: A small review sample was provided by Jack Daniel’s.)

Gentleman Jack Tennessee Whiskey Review

Next up in our series is Gentleman Jack.  Jack Daniel’s was the first whiskey I drank.  When I wanted to upgrade, I went to their Single Barrel.  Then it was off to bourbon.  In all these years, I never had the chance to try Gentleman Jack… until recently.  My buddy Rich nearly finished off a bottle and gave me the last couple of pours.

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Gentleman Jack gets the normal “Jack Daniel’s” charcoal filtration before aging in barrels.  Unlike Old No. 7, this also gets a second charcoal filtration after maturation.  It’s designed to be super-mellow.

I drank it neat in a glencairn glass, and it concentrated those classic Jack Daniel’s sweet vanilla and caramel aromas right up to my nose.  Sadly, it’s all downhill from here.  When I tasted it, I got what I can best describe as a thin, almost watered down Jack Daniels.  There’s no bite on this whatsoever.  The finish was quick and bittersweet.

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All my gripes about Gentleman Jack go against what the brand sees as it’s positives.  I tend to lean towards the richness in my whiskey.  I like a little bite, when it’s done right.  This particular whiskey is supposed to be super-mellow.  I know a lot of people who want just that.  Gentleman Jack has none of what I’m looking for in whiskey, but that’s a matter of personal taste.  I’d rather reach for a bottle of their Old No. 7 or their single barrel.

Smooth.  Maybe too smooth.

6.0/10

Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select Tennessee Whiskey Review

In the Jack Daniel’s family, there’s one ultra premium selection:  Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select Tennessee Whiskey.  It’s their tribune to a long and fruitful relationship with Frank Sinatra.  Before Sinatra, Jack Daniel’s was a small regional brand.  According to the company, Ol’ Blue Eyes held up a bottle of Jack Daniel’s onstage and called it the “nectar of the gods.”  That small Tennessee whiskey company was never the same again.  Sales went through the roof, and to this day it remains the best selling American whiskey in the world.  It’s well known Sinatra loved his Jack Daniels.  He drank it with a couple of ice cubes and a splash of water.  There is even a bottle of Jack Daniel’s buried with him.

Photo courtesy of Jack Daniel's Distillery.

Photo courtesy of Jack Daniel’s Distillery.

Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select starts off with whiskey aged in special grooved barrels, or Sinatra barrels.  They cut deep grooves in oak barrels, exposing the whiskey to more wood.  When it comes to maturation, these special grooved barrels are mixed with barrels from the upper floors of their warehouses usually reserved for Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel.  The intended result is a whiskey that’s bold and smooth – words usually associated with Frank Sinatra.

(Please note:  the Jack Daniel’s Distillery sent me a review sample.)  On the nose, there’s overwhelming oak and vanilla on top of the traditional Jack Daniel’s sweet nose.  Taste-wise, Jack’s always been a sweet whiskey, but here that sweetness is held in check by the oak.  I don’t find it overly oaky, but if you’re not a fan of oak in your whiskey you’re probably not going to like this one.  Look past the initial sweet oakiness and there’s a little fruit and spice.  The finish is no where near as rough as Old No. 7, but is about as sweet.  How should I describe this whiskey?  It’s almost like putting a tuxedo on Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7.  It’s definitely more refined than their standard black label.  However, it’s not a super-complex whiskey…but  I don’t think they were aiming to make a super-complex whiskey.  That being said, there’s lots more happening here than in a glass of their Old No. 7 black label.

Photo courtesy of Jack Daniel's Distillery.

Photo courtesy of Jack Daniel’s Distillery.

My only gripe is the price.  This 90 proof Sinatra Select will run you about $165 for a liter.  This seems unreasonably high to me.  Maybe you’re paying extra for the packaging (which is pretty classy) or the Sinatra name on the bottle.  I’d be willing to pay $75 or even a $100 if I’m feeling generous to myself, but $165 is hard to swallow.

The price sucks, but the whiskey is fantastic.

8.5/10