Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Tennessee Whiskey

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.

Color: Amber

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!

Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Tennessee Whiskey
47% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $42 - $45
Acquired: (50 ml sample): Beverages & More in Folsom, CA BevMo Link

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  • Just fyi, JD is not Bourbon in the strict sense of the word, it’s Tennessee whiskey like George Dickel. I think finding a good bourbon is similar to finding a good blended scotch–they’re out there, but in general you have to pay more for it. My favorite bourbons are William Larue Weller, George T. Stagg, and Pappy Van Winkle 15 which run about $70-$80. However, there are some value Bourbons that are much better than any JD–George Dickel Number 12, Buffalo Trace, Elijah Craig 12, and High West Double Rye come to mind although there are definitely others. You should be able to find the first three for $20 or less, while the High West should be in the low $30’s. I’d give some of these a shot–or two!

    • For what it’s worth, calling Tennessee whiskey a type of bourbon isn’t necessarily wrong – the only legal definition of Tennessee Whiskey is that it is a “straight bourbon” that happens to be produced in Tennessee. Legally speaking, a drink has to be a bourbon in order to be a Tennessee whiskey. If Jack Daniels or George Dickel decided to call their products bourbon, there’d be no legal obstacle for them to do so.

      Personally, I think this is a purely semantic argument where neither side is really right or wrong – it all depends on whether you think the legal definition or the marketing definition is more important. But I do think it’s important to recognize that when people call Jack Daniels a bourbon, it’s not necessarily because their ignorant – they may just be following the legal definition.

      • What makes all Tennessee whisky bourbon is its made with 51% or more corn. In fact all whiskey made in US is made with 51% or more corn unless it specifies otherwise on the bottle thus most US whisky are bourbon.

  • Haha, my list should read American whiskey and not bourbon as I put George Dickel in there. But then again, I should probably write both spellings of whiskey (whiskey and whisky) since Dickel uses the “whisky” spelling–confused yet?? On second thought, I should have just eliminated Dickel from the list altogether to simply avoid the confusion–bourbon from American whiskey and Dickel’s whisky!

  • James – you make an excellent point. I had known at one point about the rules that define bourbon, and for some reason I never checked the bottle to see if JD was one! In the interests of not looking like a fool, I have updated my Review to replace ‘bourbon’ with ‘Tennessee whiskey’. Thanks for the suggestions, I will be checking out Buffalo Trace at my next opportunity, and I’ll look for the others too.

  • “Unfortunately, I have yet to find a bourbon (or any spirit made in the U.S.) which rivals any single Scotch in my cabinet.”

    My recommendation: rather than spend the money and time searching for limited release bourbons, go to a well stocked bar and try: george t stagg, william larue weller, pappy van winkle 15 and 20, and the parker heritage golden anniversary. i think you will find that they will easily rival or surpass most single malt scotches.

  • JWC, I’d love to do exactly that, but I haven’t found (yet) a bar with anything more sophisticated than Woodford Reserve. I’m still looking though, and I know there are some in San Francisco – just haven’t had enough opportunity yet.

  • As an Englishman from celtic origins I ‘should’ be a whiskey drink! However, my usual tipple is either an aged Cognac or Brandy.

    This was until I was introduced to JD Silver Select. which was a gift from my son. As my tastes quite often exceed my wallet I have moved onto JD Single Barrel which is readily available from my local American PX at a reasonable price.

    I have tried quite a few old and expensive scottish and irish whiskeys over the years, however none of them compare to either of the JD Single Barrel ‘whiskeys’ in my cabinet.

    I guess at the end of the day it comes down to taste and personal preference irrespective of price!

  • Toally agree single is not recommanded and a thin body. To me the vanilia notes in single came off like icing sugar andlacked any robustness in No 7. I think No 7 is just a tad flabby for me to keep buying it. I was hoping Single would have oak shaving like in Compass Box Peat Monster cause I read it uses selected 1st fill JD casks. I would recommand Dickel Barrel Select over JD single many times over for flavour concentration and explosion.

  • I hate JD No.7 because I see it as swill beneath anyone but frat boys and just on principle. Tonight we went out for drinks I had a wee bit to much, my 3rd and last was JDSB neat/straight up and was pleasently blown away, this is not the drink that I expected. It was spicy, woody, caramelly, sweet and it stuck with me for quite a while I would rate it as my 6th favorite whiskey next to Rowan’ Creek.

    My issue with scotch is that the smoothness wears on me, I can’t handle silk all the time.

  • my honest feel is you have been to long with one kind of drink, what bourbon drinkers look for and love you think of as a draw back. Most people i know who enjoy bourbon enjoy it for the brashness of it. Scotch is a different animal and must be enjoyed differently rather than expecting american whiskies to rival scotch try to find a bourbon that you will want when you decide a nice macallan 17 year is not what i am up for tonight and you want something brash.

    Just my 2 cents after seeing enough of your reviews and remember to each his own.

  • I truly enjoy JD on ice. Have for a long time. My buddy Jim and I would take his boat our on the lake and just sit and relax with our JD. Do a little fishing. Then back to the dock to have a couple steaks and JD. Life is good. Love to get a job at Jack Daniels. Seeing I’m retired. I own a plot in lynchburg
    Im a Squire. Lol.

  • just realized I am reading the rantings of not a scotch noob but a whiskey snob. are you a sommelier my friend or just a wannabe…purely being a pretentious snob, way beyond just being objective. well I rate you and your skills as “not recommended”, as a matter of fact “just dump” like shit whiskey.