Some say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In that case, Jack Daniel’s has a great number of ‘flatterers’. It is perhaps inevitable that such an insanely popular whiskey would result in others trying to ride that popularity, and Jack has a history of lawsuits dating back decades to try and fend off those imitators. Today we’re looking at one brand of Tennessee whiskey that Jack Daniel’s served with a lawsuit instead of a shot of whiskey: Lonehand Whiskey.
Dynasty Spirits, the holding company that owns the Lonehand Whiskey brand, was founded in Dallas, Texas in 2010 by local attorney Andrew Lee Siegel. Their first product was Nue Vodka, and they quickly expanded to also produce and distribute Vanguard Vodka as well.
Sometime around 2012, the investors who had partnered with Siegel to open this distilling and distribution enterprise suspected that something wasn’t quite right. An FBI investigation would later determine Siegel had used nearly half a million dollars from the business for “personal expenses” and then used $200k from other investors to try and make it seem like everything was fine. To top it all off, he committed wire fraud in the process of trying to cover his tracks. Those “personal expenses” he spent an embezzled $200k on? Well, they included an extravagant birthday party for his daughter and tuition to a private school in Dallas. He would plead guilty to those crimes in 2015, in addition to copyright infringement and other charges. After he was unable to raise the funds to repay the people he had defrauded, was sentenced to one year and one day behind bars.
All of this is great color for the history of the company… but more importantly, they may have been an early indicator of the future legal struggle with the whiskey goliath that is Jack Daniel’s.
The Lonehand Whiskey brand seems to have taken a page out of the Ezra Brooks playbook, creating a brand of Tennessee whiskey that looks remarkably similar to Jack Daniels in an attempt to ride some of their popularity to success. This wouldn’t go unnoticed however, and they were sued in 2018 by Brown-Forman, the makers of Jack Daniel’s, for copyright infringement. Dynasty and Brown-Forman eventually settled that lawsuit out of court in November 2018.
For all this information about the legal issues the company has faced, there’s remarkably little other information about this company online. Which, I guess, one might expect after having such bad press. It seems like they’re trying to keep their heads down and let their whiskey do the talking.
Some internet detectives have tried to track down the source of this spirit, but pretty much all of them have failed. The origins are a mystery, only able to pin down the state where the whiskey was produced and the place where it was eventually bottled.
As a Tennessee whiskey, this starts out life as a bourbon which means at least 51% of the grain bill needs to come from corn. Where the remainder comes from is undisclosed, so that’s the best we’ve got. The grains are mashed, fermented, and distilled before being put through the iconic Lincoln County Process.
This is what separates a bourbon from a Tennessee Whiskey, and how we know for sure that this was “made” in Tennessee. Legally, in order to qualify, the whiskey needs to be produced in that state and be filtered through charcoal rather than the more traditional chill filtration process to remove impurities. The whiskey also needs to be aged for a minimum of two years, which puts it in the same range as a straight bourbon only without the government oversight.
We’re fairly certain that all of that takes place at a “white label” facility: one that mass produces spirits for other companies to bottle and label. The logic behind that suspicion is the fact that the bottle claims that this spirit was bottled in Texas, conveniently obscuring the actual source. (And also, it makes sense for the Dallas, Texas based company.)
Ever seen a Jack Daniel’s bottle? If so, you’ll immediately recognize this. It’s like someone handed the designers a bottle of Jack and said “change it just enough so the teacher doesn’t know I copied their homework.”
Overall, the shape of the bottle is the same, sporting a square body with faceted edges and a medium length neck. There’s a black label on the bottle, but instead of white lettering like Jack, they went with reflective metallic gold in a similar (but legally distinct) font.
The whole thing is capped off with a plastic screw-on cap.
With a Tennessee whiskey, I usually expect an aroma coming off the glass that’s similar to the intoxicating aroma of my favorite firearm solvent Hoppes #9 (side note: before you go thinking I’m crazy, this is a smell so good they make it into air fresheners). Lonehand comes close, but seems a little richer and heavier on the caramel aspects than I normally expect. The banana aspects and crisp apple are certainly in there for the fruit, along with a good bit of brown sugar or molasses for sweetness and a larger than normal helping of caramel bringing it all together.
Taking a sip, the flavors start out promising. Those fruity notes are there again and, on the palate, its clear that the banana aroma is actually a bit closer to an apricot flavor than specifically banana. Either way, it’s a fruit-forward flavor with some rich caramel providing sweetness and a bit of depth.
The finish is where things kind of go off the rails a bit, with some noticeable bitterness developing and lingering into the aftertaste. It isn’t the worst bitterness I’ve ever experienced… but it is more than enough to ruin an otherwise enjoyable sipping whiskey.
There’s a damn good reason why whiskey on the rocks is a thing, specifically that the ice has a tendency to rescue an otherwise terrible spirit. In this case, I think it makes a valiant effort and gets close — but ultimately doesn’t quite become the knight in shining armor that this spirit needs.
The bitterness that was present at the end of the experience when taken neat is still there, but blessedly reduced. If you weren’t looking for it, you might even miss it thanks to the sweetness of the other flavors.
Unfortunately, while the bitterness is reduced, so are the other flavors. There’s still a bit of fruit lingering in the background, but really all I get at this point is a large chunk of charcoal with some traditional vanilla and caramel whiskey notes.
Cocktail (Old Fashioned)
Okay, this isn’t terrible.
To my surprise, there is enough sweetness in the caramel flavor which remains in the iced version of the spirit, and there’s plenty of earthy depth to the charcoal to balance the rest of the flavors in those angostura bitters. The addition of a bit of sugar cancels out whatever bitterness is left from the spirit, too.
That said, while it isn’t terrible… it also doesn’t have a lot of surprises. This is pretty much a bone stock old fashioned, and you really only get out of it what you put into it.
Here, I’m looking for the whiskey to bring something to the table that you don’t get in a Moscow Mule. There needs to be some uniqueness other than just alcohol content. And in this case, I think it meets the expectations, but it still doesn’t knock my socks off.
The biggest contribution is in the mingling of flavors between the ginger beer and the whiskey / charcoal flavor of the spirit. There are some interesting things going on here that make it drinkable, but there isn’t anything else it brings to the party. There’s no pepper spice finish or other flavors coming out; basically, its less than you’d expect from a bottle of basic Evan Williams.
It literally does leave a bad taste in your mouth, which is unfortunate. The initial flavors are on point for a Tennessee whiskey, but that bitterness that quickly follows leaves much to be desired.
That said, this is a full $10 cheaper than pretty much anything else we have reviewed in this category to date. So, if you absolutely positively need a Tennessee whiskey and you don’t want to spend much money, this might be an acceptable option. On the rocks.
But if you just want a cheap whiskey, there are plenty better — and cheaper– options out there.
|Lonehand Whiskey Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey|
Tennessee, United States
Classification: Tennessee Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $13.99 / 750 ml
Overall Rating: 2/5
Not my favorite Tennessee whiskey, but darn hard to argue with that price.