April 1, 2021
We’re finally at a point where we can buy Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Barrel Strength Tennessee Whiskey and Old Forester Single Barrel Barrel Strength Bourbon, both from Brown Forman. While there are a lot of differences, primarily distillery location and mashbill, one common factor is Brown Forman’s signature love it or hate it banana note (I think from the yeast).
With these 2 barrel strength single barrel whiskeys from the same parent company (thematically similar to my Stagg Jr vs 1792 Full Proof Bourbon Sazerac comparison), I want to explore two questions. First, with this common banana note, how have Old Forester and Jack Daniel’s crafted two distinct whiskeys? Second, if you can’t find Old Forester Barrel Strength given its somewhat limited availability, is Jack Daniels’ Barrel Proof a good substitute?
Put on your helmet because we’re going headfirst into this Old Forester Barrel Strength vs Jack Daniel’s Barrel Strength whiskey comparison.
The below table outlines key facts and figures for what I am comparing.
Old Forester Single Barrel Barrel Strength Bourbon and Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Barrel Proof Tennessee Whiskey are very different, so one is not a good substitute for the other. I personally prefer Old Forester because it’s more rich and varied, likely from the added rye content and higher age. I wouldn’t say that Jack Daniel’s Barrel Proof is “worse”, I just don’t prefer it.
While both have that Brown Forman banana note, it’s less intense in Old Forester because it has more earthy and vegetal caraway seed, rosemary, thyme, and black tea notes while Jack Daniel’s is more banana-forward in part because there’s less depth elsewhere to compete with it. Old Forester is also darker, in part from the aforementioned earthiness, but also from more oak, roasted spices (cinnamon, nutmeg), and hints of smoke. Old Forester has a lot more body and oiliness, similar in that way to EH Taylor Barrel Proof. On the other hand, Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel has a distinct dry and sweet peanutiness, a lot like Bamba (a puffed peanut-flavored snack) that’s completely absent in Old Forester. These whiskeys are worlds apart and I’m glad to have learned that firsthand.