Friday, October 1, 2010

Whiskey review: Jack Daniel's Single Barrel

Tennessee whiskey is a denomination of American whiskey that I don't think most people understand is different from bourbon. Yes, it's made with the same mashbill composition (at least 51% corn) and aged in new charred oak barrels, among other requirements. But the difference is that it must pass through charcoal filtration, in a procedure called the Lincoln County Process (named after the county in which the Jack Daniel's distillery originally resided). The charcoal filtration process is supposed to mellow the whiskey and add additional sugars.

There are only two Tennessee whiskey distilleries - Jack Daniel's and George Dickel. You'll see a lot more of the former than the latter when you head to the store.

Here, I try the Jack Daniel's Single Barrel - this bottle has been taken from a barrel that was matured in the upper reaches of the Jack Daniel's warehouse, where temperature fluctuations between summer and winter are greatest (compared to lower parts of the warehouse). This imparts more flavor from the barrel to the whiskey as the barrel "breathes" more and gets the whiskey to move in and out of the wood's pores. Don't worry, it's all science-y.

And if you REALLY like this stuff, you can buy a whole barrel of it from the distillery. I mean REALLY like it.

Jack Daniel's Single Barrel, 47% ABV
Tennessee whiskey, rick no. L-25, barrel no. 9-3719, bottled 9/11/09

Appearance: Red-brown, and gold around the edges.

Nose: Reminds me of the sweet, pungent smell of large-grit sandpaper glue (which I like). Maybe something's wrong with me; didn't I just write a post about using common descriptors for whiskey? Other than sandpaper glue, I get molasses, charred wood, and lots of young fruit. And red licorice.

Palate: Quite the zing at first! Mellows a bit to reveal brown sugar. Faint char, like a honey barbecued piece of meat. And more red licorice.

Finish: Brown sugar, char, and bright fruit all the way.

Rating (of 100): 84. I like that it's very mellow (except on palate entry), compared to the mainstream Jack Daniel's Old No. 7. A bit on the sweet side for me, though - I can buy red licorice at the grocery store, and I don't.

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