While not labeled bourbon, most Tennessee whiskeys meet the criteria required to be called bourbon. After distillation, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey undergoes what is referred to as the Lincoln County Process. In the case of Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel, it drips for six days in 10-foot vats, passing through charcoal that was made by burning maple wood that had been impregnated with 140 proof Jack Daniel’s whiskey before being put in new charred oak barrels and aged for an estimated 4-7 years.
I didn’t choose these expressions. Rather, they were chosen for me as parts of a three-half-bottle set that I found in the liquor aisle of Target. In the spectrum of Jack Daniel’s entire range, these Single Barrels sit somewhere around the midpoint. Above them, you’ve got the No. 27 Gold Tennessee Whiskey ($100 for 750 ml) and the Sinatra Select. Below, there is the Master Distiller Series ($33) and Gentleman Jack (roughly $30), before you reach Old No. 7, better known to the universe as simply “Jack.”
A combination of maple sugar candy and bananas lies on a bed of burnt wood. It has a somewhat smoky scent, and though the alcohol is noticeable, it’s not overpowering. It’s rich and inviting, yet uncharacteristic of what I’m used to in American whiskey.
Chocolatey sweet caramel and burnt wood hit first. Pipe tobacco follows, along with a good dose of bananas, some nuttiness, a bit of spice, and some of that maple sugar candy. While I can’t necessarily pinpoint any other specific flavors, the overall mix comes across as somewhat odd, albeit enjoyable. This odd mix of flavors is assertive, but not to the extent I would have expected for 130.6 proof, feeling closer to 100 proof on the palate. It coats the mouth nicely with a medium-weight mouthfeel.
The heat kicks in here, quickly ramping up to a spicy almost tannic burn giving evidence of the higher proof. I might go so far as to say it borders on overly hot. Culminating in the mouth and back of the throat, which might be a bit much for some. This makes for a bold and spicy finish, and though the intense heat dissipates quickly. It leaves ample amounts of burnt wood and maple sugar candy lingering in balance for quite some time.
I don’t intend to offend any die-hard Jack Daniel’s fans by saying this, but I have never held Jack Daniel’s in high esteem. In my mind, I’ve always associated the brand with mass-produced mixing whiskey. This is not necessarily a correct assertion but rather based strictly on my own limited personal experience.