I don’t drink a lot of Jack Daniels. By that, I mean, I don’t drink any. I had a glass of Gentleman Jack awhile back and didn’t hate it, but something about Jack reminds me of a different type of drinking. The “cringing-through-a-round-of-shots and then mixing with anything and everything just to get it down” type of drinking. When I’m enjoying a glass of whiskey nowadays, I’m not trying to get drunk. I’m not in my 20s anymore.
So when a generous reader sent me a sample of Jack Daniels Barrel Proof Rye (Tennessee Tasters’ Selection) from his recent distillery visit, I thought “oh, it’s Jack.” Then I tasted it and I remembered why it’s never a good idea to dismiss an entire distillery because of their lowest common denominator expression.
This is a distillery-exclusive (plus a handful of Tennessee retailers) bottling of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee rye at barrel proof (in this case, a whopping 63.8% ABV). It’s bottled from barrels located on the highest floors of the Jack Daniel’s rickhouses, and since heat rises that means the barrels at the top experience the highest temperature fluctuations and thus age the fastest. The rye in this case is distilled from a mash bill of 70% rye, 18% corn, and 12% malted barley. There is no age statement. Jack has released a number of these “Tennessee Tasters” bottlings over the years, each with a different (often experimental) characteristic. They only come in 375ml bottles for around $40, and they tend to sell out fast.
Thanks to the aforementioned generous reader for the sample!
Nose: Deep, dense, dark rye. Oh yeah. Nutty, with a ton of heavily caramelized sugars. Peanut brittle. Nougat. Reminds me of high-proof Beam, except there’s a hearty dose of cherry pie filling.
Palate: Thin body. Hearty tongue burn, of course, at 63.8% ABV. Dry wood up front, with notes of birch bark, charcoal, and maple sugar candies. After the burn subsides and my eyes stop watering, there is a continuation of the cherry pie flavor, plus a bevy of oak sugars, cola, and chunky charcoal. Very Jack, even though it’s rye.
Finish: Long. Drying. Some slightly-bitter barrel char, more nougat, and a fading note of cinnamon. Remains well-balanced and rounded.
With Water: A few drops of water awaken a lot of nose tickle – let it rest in the glass for a bit. The water does bring out a lot of sweetness: vanilla cream soda and chewy butterscotch. The palate seems more tannic (oaky, drying), and the burn is just as rough. You’d have to proof it down substantially to avoid that. I highly suggest a few drops of water here – the balance is more on point and you don’t sacrifice an ounce of concentrated goodness.
Overall: A damn fine rye, and one that reminds you why Jack Daniel’s is still in the game despite its reputation for bottom-shelf and lowest-common-denominator whiskey.
If you like Jack and you live close enough to one of the Tennessee retailers that carries the Tasters’ Selection bottlings… and it hasn’t sold out… you will probably enjoy this. $40 really isn’t bad for a half-bottle of high-proof experimental whiskey.