Whiskey Review: Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Barrel Proof Tennessee Whiskey

The folks at Jack Daniel’s may be best known for their black labeled Old No. 7 whiskey, but these days the brand is branching out and trying new things. One of those newer releases is a single barrel bottling (at barrel strength, no less!) of their famous whiskey.

History

Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel was born around 1849 in Tennessee, the youngest of ten siblings. His birth mother died shortly after having him and his father remarried, having three more children before leaving to fight in the American Civil War. Jack never liked his stepmother and when news came that his father had been killed, he ran away from home.

Jack was taken in by a preacher and moonshine distiller named Dan Call, who was working with an enslaved African-American man named Nathan “Nearest” Green. The three continued to work together after emancipation. Throughout his teenage years, these two men taught Jack the art of distilling and producing whiskey.

Following a long fight with his siblings, Jack eventually received some of his father’s inheritance which in 1875 (not 1866, as sometimes claimed) he used to purchase the land where the Jack Daniel’s distillery now resides. Jack legally registered the distillery so that he could start selling his product and was assigned registration number seven in his district, which is the origin for the “Old No. 7” labeling on their bottles.

Jack never had any children of his own, but he was very fond of his nephews and worked with them to pass on the knowledge that he had gained. In 1907, Jack officially handed the distillery over to his nephews, and Lem Moltow would eventually buy out the other owners to become the sole owner of the facility.

Kentucky enacted their own version of prohibition 10 years earlier than the rest of the United States. Lem Moltow led the test case to challenge the constitutionality of the law but lost in court when the judge upheld the law. He tried to move production to neighboring states but none of the product made at those facilities was ever made available for sale due to issues with the quality of the product.

While federal prohibition ended in 1933, Tennessee’s law remained on the books. Lem Moltow, now elected as a Tennessee state senator, led the effort to repeal the state prohibition on alcohol and was instrumental in the passage of the 1938 repeal that allowed his distillery to reopen.

Lem Moltow died in 1947, leaving the distillery to his family. They sold the brand and the distillery in 1956 to the Brown-Forman corporation, a family owned business that is one of the largest producers of whiskey in the United States and also owns brands such as Woodford Reserve and Old Forester.

Originally sold as a 90 proof whiskey, the Brown-Forman company started lowering the alcohol content to 86 proof in 1987 and again to 80 proof in 2002 as an attempt to reduce the production cost and the taxes paid on each bottle.

Product

As with most whiskeys, Jack Daniel’s starts with a fermented mash consisting of 80% corn, 12% rye and 8% malted barley. As a “sour mash”, the yeast used in each batch is pulled from the previous batch, a process that maintains the lineage of the yeast and is said to maintain a more consistent product.

Once distilled, the spirit is filtered through a 10-foot stack of charcoal produced from sugar maple trees. This filtering process removes impurities and some of the harsher tasting elements from the spirit, and process that the company calls “mellowing” and is referred to as the Lincoln County Process.

This is where their whiskey lines diverge. Normally, their whiskey is aged somewhere between 4 and 7 years before being blended, proofed down, and bottled. For this specific bottling, Jack Daniel’s grabs the casks from the highest point in the rickhouse, the area that gets the most significant changes in temperature and typically produces the richest flavors. They then skip the blending and proofing down stages and place the spirit that comes out of the barrel directly into the bottles.

Because this is a true “cask strength” whiskey, there’s little to no consistency with what you get, either in terms of alcohol content or even flavor profile. But that variety is exactly why you would spend the extra cash for a whiskey like this one.

Our specific bottle comes from rickhouse L-10, specifically barrel 19-00264, and was bottled on January 17, 2019.

Packaging

This is a little different from the traditional Jack Daniel’s bottle, and I appreciate it.

Overall the bottle is still a square-ish shape, but instead of being tall and narrow, it’s short and fat. Much closer to the cognac bottles that inspired Maker’s Mark or a French perfume bottle. The glass bottle is topped with an oversized wood and cork stopper that feels solid and enjoyable to use.

The labeling is also significantly different. Instead of a wraparound label, this is a smaller and more specific label with only the bare essentials detailed on the front. There’s not a whole lot of wasted space, which means there’s plenty of spare room around the sides for the beautifully dark whiskey inside to show off its true colors.

Neat

The traditional Jack Daniel’s aroma is something close to sweet bananas, and I definitely get that aroma here as well. But in this case the sweetness and the fruity notes are more prominently accompanied by oaky richness that you don’t normally see.

As you might expect from a significantly higher alcohol content spirit (65.55% ABV in this bottle compared to the normal 40% ABV), the “weight” of the liquid is much higher. The consistency is something more like whole milk (compared to 2% milk like normal Jack Daniel’s). There’s absolutely a bit more alcohol burn accompanying that higher alcohol content but it’s not so strong as to be off-putting.

The flavors that I get here are much richer as well. For this specific barrel, I’m getting some darker notes of chocolate and coffee mixed in with some caramel and toffee. There’s the banana flavor hanging around in the background, but it’s much more of a bit player in this arena than in the normal bottling.

It’s a fine experience overall. There’s no bitterness and only a little extra alcohol burn.

On Ice

With a little bit of ice, the whiskey starts to mellow down and come a little closer to the well known Jack Daniel’s profile. But with some minor changes.

The banana flavor is more prominent here, but the chocolate and coffee flavors are still large and in charge. I’d almost say this was like having a Nutella and banana sandwich with a cup of black coffee for a flavor profile, which sounds (and is) delicious. There’s also a bit of the peppery spice from the 12% rye content making an appearance.

I’d almost call this an improvement on the neat version of this spirit. The water and ice do bring out some of the other flavors and tend to have an overall positive impact.

Cocktail (Old Fashioned)

This started out as a significantly richer and darker whiskey than any spirit I’m used to getting with the Jack Daniel’s name. Which, coincidentally, makes for a pretty well balanced Old Fashioned. All of those dark and rich notes could do with a bit of brightening up, and that’s what the orange essence and bitters help accomplish.

The only advice I’d have here is to make sure that you add some sugar to the cocktail. I’ll often try to get away with leaving the sugar behind, especially when I’m going hardcore on the keto diet, but this spirit really benefits from that little extra bit of sweetness to tie the whole thing together.

Fizz (Mule)

I’d say that this is closer to a Dark and Stormy than a Kentucky Mule. There’s some richness and darker flavors that shine through that bright and cheery ginger beer, and that adds something unique to the cocktail that you don’t normally see otherwise. Additionally, the rye content really does make a solid appearance and adds that peppery spice at the end.

We generally consider it to be a win when the spirit adds something to the cocktail and isn’t completely covered up by the strong flavors. So in that sense, I’d call this a win… but I don’t necessarily think that the flavors are all that complimentary. It’s a bit strange to me personally, but your opinions may vary.

Overall Rating

Definitely not for the novice drinker when taken neat, but the flavors are well worth the price of admission. It’s a solid experience and worth the markup that Jack Daniel’s is asking, but personally it’s not my favorite expression — even from their own lineup.

Jack Daniels Single Barrel Barrel Proof Tennessee Whiskey
Produced By: Jack Daniels
Owned By: Brown-Forman Corp.
Production Location: Tennessee, United States
Classification: Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 65.55% ABV
Price: $43.99 / 750 ml
Overall Rating:

Overall Rating: 3/5
Lock, stock, and one charred barrel.

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