Everyone has more than likely heard of this brand. It can sometimes be considered an icon in the drinks world, with many consumers coming across it at some point in their lives. It can also divide opinion, with more varieties coming out and Jack Daniel’s seen as more the mixing whisky instead of being sipped on its own. But Jack Daniel’s is well-known for a reason, and if it was disliked for nearly 140 years, I sincerely doubt I would be mentioning it in any way, shape or form.
So let’s have a look at Mr. Daniel’s.
Founder Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel was born in September 1846. Seemingly no one knows the exact date because the birth records were destroyed in a courthouse fire however some records list his birth date as September 5, 1846. Jack was one of twelve children fathered by Calaway Daniel. Jack’s mother, Lucinda Cook Daniel, died in 1847, after which his father remarried and had several more children. Jack Daniel’s grandfather, Joseph “Job” Daniel emigrated from Wales to the United States.
Jack died in 1911 from blood poisoning which started from an infection. The infection allegedly began in one of his toes, which Jack injured one morning at work by kicking his safe in anger when he could not get it open. Jack Daniel never married and did not have any children, however, he took his nephew Lem Motlow under his wing. Lem was very skilled with numbers, and was soon doing all of the distillery’s bookkeeping. In 1907, due to failing health, Jack Daniel gave the distillery to Lem, who then bequeathed the distillery to his children, Robert, Reagor, Dan, Conner, and Mary, upon his death in 1947.
Tennessee passed a state-wide prohibition law in 1910, preventing the legal distillation of Jack Daniel’s in the state, and as a result Lem Motlow began distilling operations in St Louis, Missouri and Birmingham, Alabama, though none of the production from these locations was ever sold due to quality problems. The introduction of prohibition in 1920 (until 1933) stopped production in St Louis; production in Alabama having been stopped earlier by that state’s prohibition laws. All production then ceased. Even the enactment in 1933 repealing federal prohibition did not allow production in Lynchburg to restart, as the Tennessee state prohibition laws were still in effect. Motlow, as a Tennessee state senator, helped repeal these laws, allowing production to restart in 1938. The five-year gap between national repeal and Tennessee repeal was commemorated in 2008 with a gift pack of two bottles, one for the 75th anniversary of the end of prohibition and a second commemorating the 70th anniversary of the reopening of the distillery. The U.S. government banned the manufacture of whiskey during World War II and a little beyond, from 1942 to 1946.
Motlow resumed production of Jack Daniel’s only in 1947 after good quality corn was again available.
When the company was later incorporated, it was incorporated as “Jack Daniel Distillery, Lem Motlow, Prop., Inc.” This has allowed the company to continue to include Lem Motlow, who died in 1947, in its marketing, since mentioning him in the advertising is technically just citing the full corporate name. Likewise, the advertisements continue to say that Lynchburg has only 361 people, though the 2000 census reports 5,740. This is allowable because the entire label was trademarked in the early 1960’s when this figure was the actual population cited by the Census Bureau; changing the label would require applying for a new trademark or forfeiting trademark protection.
Moore County, where the Jack Daniel’s distillery is located, is one of the state’s many dry counties. Therefore, while it is legal to distill the product within the county, it is illegal to purchase it there. However, a state law has provided one exception: a distillery may sell one commemorative product, regardless of county statutes. With this, Jack Daniel’s now sells Gentleman Jack, Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel, the original No. 7 blend, and a seasonal blend at the distillery’s White Rabbit Bottle Shop.
To create such a range, Jack Daniel’s whiskey (made of at least 51% of single grain) is filtered through sugar maple charcoal (named the Lincoln County Process) in large wooden vats prior to aging, which is an extra step that is not used in making most Bourbon whiskey. Because of this, the company claims that this makes the product different from Bourbon. However, Tennessee whiskey is required to be “a straight Bourbon Whiskey” under terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement and Canadian law, and there is no other legal definition of the term “Tennessee whiskey”.
So Jack Daniel’s does things a little different in that the Lincoln County Process is used to create a heavier flavour, so with this in mind, how does the range fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes on each –
Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 – 40%
Light nose with a distinct sweetness dominating. A smooth offering on the palate with a slight spice and vanilla flavour. Charcoal notes with burn sugar after-taste. Lingers.
Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel – 45%
Bottled from a single barrel from the Jack Daniel distillery. On the nose it gave off a subtle vanilla aroma with a slight oak lingering behind. Smooth vanilla extracts with cereal and hints of citrus on the palate create a long finish.
Jack Daniel’s Gentleman Jack – 40%
Charcoal-mellowed twice, before and after the ageing process. On the nose, a very strong vanilla and honey aroma with burnt sugar dominating. The palate enjoys a very smooth offering though with the vanilla and honey combining well. Short with a hint of spice at the end.
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey – 35%
Made with a mix of rich spices and honey. Dominant caramel on the nose with hints of subtle oak. Light vanilla flavours start, but the caramel takes over with a rich, lingering sweetness.
A special edition winter drink, originally made for the German market. A punch with JD, apple, cinnamon and cloves. Light green apple aromas on the nose with a subtle spice end. Instant freshness of apple on the palate with a dry cinnamon flavour following that creates a short offering.
Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select – 45%
This release is not only bottled at a stronger 45%, but is also partly matured in ‘Sinatra barrels’, grooved on the inside to allow more wood/spirit interaction.
Smooth grain nose with a soft corn aroma with a following of dry wood notes. A developing smoke on the palate, wit h a soft, slight spice flavour on the tongue. Creates a long wood finish with a mouth watering experience.
Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Century – 50%
A limited-edition bottling, celebrating the life of Frank Sinatra, who would have turned 100 in 2015. Bottled at 100 proof from 100 casks specially selected by master distiller Jeff Arnett.
Heavy fudge notes on the nose, with rich, thick vanilla and caramel aromas a-plenty. The aromas carry onto the palate, with the thick fudge, soft charcoal and dry wood notes coming through. A very long, warm note of walnut and almond offer a fantastic finish.
Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel ‘Manchester Select’ #1 – 45%
Exclusive to The Britons Protection in Manchester.
Light caramel and vanilla on the nose, with hints of butter and wax combined with oak. Very smooth upon the palate, a slight sharpness from the oak but it mellows with honeycomb. A lively finish on the tongue with dry spice battling toffee and oak flavours.
Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel ‘Manchester Select’ #2 – 45%
Plenty of soft vanilla and honeycomb upon the nose, offering a subtle yet smooth aroma. The honey travels onto the palate well, with dry spice hints coming through alongside flavours of clotted fudge and vanilla which offers a slightly dry finish.
Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel ‘Manchester Select’ #3 – 45%
Walnut notes upon the nose, with subtle dry oak and hints of cedar coming through. A soft corn profile on the palate, with small kicks of vanilla moving into a dry spice finish that lingers.
A great selection, with some great recipes to choose from too –
Jam Jar or Highball
25 ml Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7
25 ml Triple sec
25 ml Sour mix
100 ml Lemon-lime soda
Combine and stir. Garnish with a lemon slice and cherry.
Hot Tennessee Toddy
25 ml Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7
Spoonful of honey
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Pour Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 into a heavy mug. Add a spoonful of honey, cinnamon stick and lemon juice. Top with boiling water and stir.
Jack Daniel’s is great on its own and shouldn’t be underestimated or consigned to the market of mixers. It is the most versatile out of the range true, but so are most other bourbon and whiskies. Give it a go, or indeed another go, try it over ice and if not preferred, try one of the recipes above or simply enjoy a Jack & Coke. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.