Jack Daniel's Suite
By Eric Schmalz -August 28, 2019
Being the biggest can be tough. Hundreds of competetors viaing for your spot, fighting to hold on to what's yours, and taking criticism from every direction. But in the liquor world, one producer has managed to hold onto one of the top spots for over 150 years.
Believed to be born September 5, 1846, Jasper Newton "Jack" Daniel had a bit of a rocky childhood. Losing his parents at an early age Daniels set out to find his way in the world and ended up being taken in by Reverend Dan Call. Call was many things, Lutheran preacher, general store owner, but he was also an amatuer distiller, selling his product to his store patrons. It was here the Jack learned the craft himself.
There is some dispute as to when Daniels actually opened a distillery. Their website would suggest, as do many rumors, that the distillery was established in 1866. However, this would put Daniels at a boyish age of 19, a prodigy in distilling. Some other, sources say that Daniels founded his prodigious business in 1875, at a more appropriate age of 27.
In either case Daniels began distilling and make his product widely available, in packaging very similar to what it is today. In 1904 Old No. 7 won it's first award, a gold medal at the Missouri World's Fair. Unfortunately Daniels passed away just seven years later, leaving his business and land to his nephew Lem Motlow.
It was Lem and his brother Jess who carried Jack Daniel's through prohibition, with Jess becoming master distiller.
Since then much has changed, copy cats were introduced, signers and rock stars embraced the brand, and new products have been released, but at heart Old No. 7 has remained unchanged since the begining.
I was never really a huge fan of the classic black label beverage, which in some people's eyes is akin to blasphemy. However, their robust single barrel program and special releases have since drawn my tastes and provided countless rounds of flavorful enjoyment. Let's take a look at some of these releases.
Jack Daniel's Heritage Barrel Select, Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Barrel Proof (image via Ray's Wine and Spirits)
Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Select: Ray's Wine and Spirits
Nose - The proof is forward on the nose. Beyond this is bananas, vanilla, almonds. Shortbread cookies and some nutmeg. Brown sugar oatmeal, some honey, a slight breakfast whiskey.
Palate - Oak forward, banana cream, brown sugar. This tastes a lot like a brown sugar pop tart. Buttered popcorn and baked apples, almonds, walnuts, and pecans.
Finish - Fairly oaky, nutmeg, shortbread, brown sugar, and oatmeal. Pretty dry and astringent, also a little hot, but not overwhelmingly so.
Overall: 6/10 Very Good
Jack Daniel's Heritage Barrel Select
Nose - Creme brulee, deep toasted oak, a lot of brown sugar. This is a super rich dessert nose. Figs, pralines, and raisins all come to mind, heavy on the stone fruits. There is also a very interesting pine and mint coming through.
Palate - Very full mouthfeel, there is a lot of brown sugar again coming through with caramel. There is a cornbread like savory component. A peanut butter nutty quality, along with bakers chocolate. The alcohol is there but in an appropriate amount. Hints of the herbal notes from the nose are there, but not distinct.
Finish - A cola like aftertaste. Very much cherry and ginger aspects. Pine and peanuts. Allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon all show up as well, much more indicators of rye.
Overall: 8/10 Excellent
Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Barrel Proof
Nose - Huge waves of vanilla, caramel, and banana. There is also a sasparilla aspect, combined with the vanilla reminds me of a root beer float. There are hints of cardamom and cinnamon, an oat like dryness. The alcohol is there, but remains in the background.
Palate - Banana, an almost rum like funk, savory raisin bread, corn bread. Caramel and brown sugar richness. Marzipan, pecan pie, boiled peanuts. It almost has a savory meat like quality, but I can’t place the flavor, perhaps a combination of rich fruit and oak.
Finish - A good amount of burn from the alcohol, raisins, pecans, almonds, peaches, and cherries. A banana cream pie quality as well that plays nice with the nuts.
Overall: 8/10 Excellent
Jack Daniel's isn't my favorite producer, and I don't find myself reaching for it as often as I do other products, but they make some really interesting things and with a distillery of their size, I predict they will be putting out more and more unique things in the years to come.
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