March 19, 2019
Distillery: Jack Daniel’s (Brown Forman)
Type & Region: Tennessee Whiskey, Tennessee, USA
Composition: 80% corn, 8% rye, 12% malted barley
Aged: NAS, aged in virgin American white oak
Price: $40-50 MSRP (750mL)
From the Jack Daniel’s website:
“Bottled at 94-proof, Single Barrel Select layers subtle notes of caramel and spice with bright fruit notes and sweet aromatics for a Tennessee Whiskey with one-of-a-kind flavor.”
Jack Daniel’s, probably the world’s most well-known Tennessee Whiskey, gets a bad rap for not being very good, but we often forget (me included) that there’s a full product line dedicated to more “premium” expressions. Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select is one of those higher-end expressions that is not a single product, but a line ranging from this 94-proof, 100-proof, and cask strength versions. While made from the same high-corn mash and filtered through maple charcoal to enhance and mellow the whiskey, specially selecting barrels with a little extra character (and maybe age) helps highlight what Jack Daniel’s can really be. Offering a single barrel is like an acapella solo, you can’t hide behind anything.
This bottle comes from barrel 14-0551 that was aged for an unknown amount of time on rick #10. I let it sit for 30 minutes before trying it, so here we go.
Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel kindly welcomes me with a warm blanket of caramel, citrus, and apple. Immediately after, I smell much darker scents such as Coca-Cola or root beer with a little cherry, but not as intensely sweet. I also smell a light Tootsie Roll-type chocolate scent, the type that is a little processed and soggy, not the drier and brighter cocoa powder or milk chocolate. I’m not saying that “soggy” Tootsie Rolls are a bad thing, it’s just my observation. Old Line American Whiskey has a very similar chocolate smell as well. A tiny bit of dough follows the scents, and the alcohol always stays nice and calm. This is a huge step up from Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7, which doesn’t offer much.
Swirling releases more of the same scents. I smell the same Cola-type scent of caramel, cherries, and vanilla with Tootsie Roll chocolate and maple syrup with just a little cinnamon and nutmeg. Flan also comes to mind because of the slightly burnt caramel and custard, with little alcohol to take away from the experience. Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select is quite complex and deep, I like it a lot.
My mouth is greeted with woody chocolate and honey sweetness wrapped up in a light corn blanket. It’s pleasant but not as strong and rich as what the nose hints that it could be. It’s a strong showing for a whiskey under 50%, and the alcohol is docile enough to not fight with the sweetness. Strong “chewing” brings out the Tootsie Roll chocolatey flavors with honey, vanilla, and wood. Dashes of cinnamon and nutmeg add some kick to contrast the sweetness. Grain and bready maltiness come last with a little mint and spice immediately appearing after I swallow. It’s not too hot yet not completely absent, and that works for me.
The sweetness continues into the finish, leaving traces of alcohol tingle, chocolate, and wood tannins. Chewing makes the finish a little spicier and woodier but also leaves a longer lasting maple syrup sweetness mixed with Red Hots candy and a sliver of chocolate. Could that be from the maple charcoal filtering? Overall, Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel is very pleasant and delicious, but not quite as rich and intense as I thought it would be based on the nose.
Whoa, Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select is an enormous step up from regular Jack Daniel’s. It’s especially noticeable because I took my notes for this review shortly after doing the ones for regular Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7. My previous experiences with the Single Barrel Select were unmemorable but sitting down and taking the time to study and appreciate it really changed my mind.
This is a high-quality whiskey / bourbon / Tennessee whiskey with a lot of rich and balanced scents and flavors that skew just a little more sweet. I just wish that the flavors matched the smells. I wonder if the 100 proof or cask strength versions might address my main qualm, but that’s for another time. Regardless, I would gladly drink this again and is now my Jack Daniel’s drink of choice.