Recommended use: Neat
Malt Mileage Rating: ★★★★★
Type: Tennessee whiskey
Origin: Tennessee, United States
Price: AU$90 / US$50
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey is basically a bourbon (that is to say, whiskey that is made from at least 51% corn and aged in new charred oak barrels) that is filtered through hard sugar maple charcoal before it is aged in oak barrels. The iconic Jack Daniel’s Old No 7 (black label) is aged for an unspecified period of time in new charred oak barrels, during which time it draws out flavours from the oak – usually those flavours are vanilla, caramels, and some wood smoke (because the barrels are charred inside).
The Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel is whiskey which, in contrast to Old No 7, has been drawn from barrels which have sat maturing at the highest points of the Jack Daniel’s barrelhouses. At these higher points in the barrelhouses, just as in a second or third floor in a house, the temperature is likely to fluctuate more dramatically than at lower points. So, for example, during hot times (summer, the day) these higher points in the barrelhouses would likely be warmer than lower points, but during cold times (winter, night) these higher points in the barrelhouses would likely be colder than lower points. This means that barrels which sit at the highest points of the barrelhouses tend to be exposed to more extreme temperature changes.
Only one out of every 100 barrels are set aside to mature whiskey that becomes Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel.
These temperature changes are likely to affect the way that whiskey matures in oak barrels. When in hot environments the pores in oak expand to soak up whiskey, and when in cold environments those pores contract to squeeze out the whiskey back into the barrel. During this process, the whiskey interacts with the oak and draws out flavours from the oak. If a barrel matures in an environment in which there are extreme temperature changes, because the whiskey is soaked up by the oak and then squeezed back out into the barrel with more frequency, the whiskey should take on more wood flavours.
Tasting notes – Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select (Barrel No 15-2739)
Having tasted about half a dozen different bottles of Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel, it is clear that that the tasters at Jack Daniel’s strive to achieve (successfully, in my view) a whiskey that is sapid, robust, full-flavoured and bursting with rich deep wood driven flavours. That maturation of whiskey that becomes Single Barrel at the highest points of the barrelhouses (just discussed above) is not only good marketing, but it clearly makes a difference to the taste of the whiskey; and that taste is certainly much deeper and oaky than the Jack Daniel’s Old No 7. It is not quite the magic of Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select, but consistently exceptional nonetheless.
Before providing tasting notes for the Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel, it is important to note that each bottle of this whiskey is drawn from one specific barrel. The whiskey I am tasting comes from a bottle which has been drawn from barrel 15-2739, and it was bottled on 23 June 2015. Because each barrel is made up of different wood, whiskey which matures in different barrels can taste differently. This means that two Jack Daniel’s barrels, maturing side by side, can end up tasting differently. However, judging from the six different bottles of Single Barrel which I have tasted, Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel is consistently delicious even if it might taste slightly different from barrel to barrel. The below tasting notes are for whiskey that is drawn from barrel 15-2739.
The nose is luscious, sweet and inviting – find vanilla, caramel, ground coffee, dates, candied fresh orange segments, amaretto biscuits, spice (especially pepper), honey and soft toasted oak. The palate offers more zesty vibrant lemon than on the nose, intermixed with vanilla, crunchy toffee, deep charred oak, and wood spices which fade behind a thin veil of wood smoke. The finish offers lingering sweet filtered coffee with cream, lamington (sponge cake coated with chocolate and coconut) and caramel, with sugary golden honey. This whiskey has soaked up so much lovely American oak sweetness that it would satisfy the cravings of any sweet-tooth. That said, this particular bottling, from barrel 15-2739, seems to err to the sweeter spectrum of Jack Daniel’s whiskey.
In comparison with other Jack Daniel’s offerings, the Single Barrel seems to offer deeper and more vibrant wood flavours than the Old No 7 but less wood smoke and vanilla than the Sinatra Select. Compared with the Gentleman Jack, it has much less noticeable ethanol but much heavier oak flavours.
Together with the Sinatra Select, the Single Barrel has earned a permanent spot in my whisky cabinet. Unfortunately, that spot become vacant far too quickly – the whiskey is just too irresistible!