I’m about the furthest thing there is from an expert on American whiskey or bourbon. I’ve never particularly liked bourbon. In fact, my dislike for bourbon was the reason I hadn’t even tried Scotch until I was 26. Whiskey is Whisky, right? Not at all. One of the bewildering (and enchanting) facets of so-called ‘brown spirits’ is the vast array of flavors and types, and the huge differential in apparent quality available today. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a bourbon (or any spirit made in the U.S.) which rivals any single Scotch in my cabinet. This is not an indictment of the US whiskey industry, but rather a failing on my part to seek out and taste anything pricier than a bottle of Evan Williams. I fear that my innate bias against bourbon has ruined me for life from my native country’s indigenous whiskey, but I hope to someday be redeemed. Until then, I will continue to post my impressions of every spirit I taste, à la minute, good or bad.
But you’re the “Scotch Noob”, right? What gives? I considered “The Whisk(e)y Noob” when starting my blog, but it didn’t have the same ring. Frankly, the whole whiskey/whisky terminology thing bums me out anyway. So while I focus on the whisky of Scotland on this blog, I will continue to post my experiences with any of its ilk: whiskey, whisky, bourbon, rye, new make (white dog), whatever. Call me egalitarian.
So when I see a 50ml sample of Jack Daniel’s “Single Barrel” at the local Beverages & More, it sets me back on my heels. My impression of Jack Daniel’s is rooted in my college party days, and the concept of drinking “Jack” out of anything but a shooter or a glass of Coca Cola is foreign to me. The product is just what it sounds like: Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey (not bourbon, as kindly pointed out by James K. in the comments), from hand-picked barrels (generally those higher up in the warehouse, where they supposedly get a more ‘intense’ maturation, if you can believe the marketing line). Filled into bottles at 47% ABV, without vatting. Like any Single-Barrel product, the quality and characteristics will vary from one bottling run to the next (each barrel yields approximately 240 bottles). At its heart, though, this is the exact same whiskey that goes into those ubiquitous black bottles. Is it worth the *gasp* $45 price tag? Let’s find out.
Nose: Corn syrup, candy corn, almonds or peach pit, brash alcohol, turpentine, green apple.
Palate: Initial rush is sweet, cake-y. Body is thin and the burn is moderate. On the tongue there is sweet corn, some ash and wood char. A dash of water opens up the flavor a little, yielding more toasted oats, malted milk, and brown sugar.
Finish: Longer than expected, with some butterscotch or caramel notes and a lot of dark brown sugar or molasses, with a lingering hint of marshmallow and spun sugar that lasts several minutes. Unfortunately, it is accompanied by that “impure spirits” aftertaste you get with cheap vodkas, like mineral oil and cough syrup.
Overall not as harsh and young-tasting as the principal Jack Daniel’s bottling. Whatever happens to those barrels up in the upper floors of the warehouse, it makes for a better product in the bottle. However, in my totally biased opinion, this is not $45 worth of whiskey. It also doesn’t change my mind about American whiskey or bourbon. Oh well. More to come when I find a way to taste some!