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: $2.29 (50mL), $22 (750mL)
From the Jack Daniel’s website:
“Mellowed drop by drop through 10-feet of sugar maple charcoal, then matured in handcrafted barrels of our own making. And our Tennessee Whiskey doesn’t follow a calendar. It’s only ready when our tasters say it is. We judge it by the way it looks. By its aroma. And of course, by the way it tastes. It’s how Jack Daniel himself did it over a century ago. And how we still do it today.”
Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 needs no introduction. It’s the Tennessee whiskey / bourbon that anyone who ever has had whiskey before has probably drank. Now I used the slash to separate Tennessee whiskey and bourbon because there’s disagreement around whether Tennessee whiskey is bourbon, and I don’t want to go anywhere near that debate. In terms of global reach and awareness, Jack Daniel’s on the same level as Four Roses and Maker’s Mark.
Fun fact: Jack Daniel’s is owned by Brown-Forman, also the owners of Old Forester and Woodford Reserve. The Jack Daniel’s product line is made up of a number of different products, including a Tennessee Rye and various single barrel expressions including the Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select 97 proof. For this review, I let the Old No. 7 rest for 20 minutes out of the freshly opened tiny bottle before getting into it. Here we go.
Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 doesn’t smell like much. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because at least it doesn’t reek like the Henry McKenna 10 Bottled in Bond I previously reviewed. Tangent aside, I get a little honey, dried nuts, and charred wood, sort of like a peanut butter and honey sandwich on burnt toast. Jack Daniel’s is nuttier than I expected, with dough, bread, mint, and a little alcohol rounding out the rest of the scents. It’s definitely a grain, malt, and wood-forward whiskey that makes me think that the blend skews very heavily towards younger whiskeys. Thankfully it’s not hot.
Swirling doesn’t change much. The corn and malt blend with dried wood creates a slightly burnt and woody unbuttered popcorn smell, like the smell you get at the bottom of a bag of microwaved popcorn with leftover unpopped kernels. The dough scent remains, mixed with some mint and caramel. It’s not particularly good, but also not terribly offensive.
Compared to the nose, Jack Daniel’s flavors are a little more amped up. Bread and malt are the most forward, but still fairly light, with some honey, caramel, wood, and nuts added to it. The mouthfeel is thin. “Chewing” brings out more of the corn and bread flavors with some honey sweetness and mint, like minty cornbread. There also are hints of charred nuts and wood with the faintest splash of vanilla, as well as a noticeable doughy characteristic also found in the nose. The alcohol stays very quiet and the flavors never clash, but they also never shine. Malt and honey sweetness linger on the finish with a slightly stronger black pepper poke, mint, nuts and woody dryness.
Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 is surprisingly not awful. My expectations were very low, and it somehow exceeded them. It’s pretty mellow and easy to drink, but still isn’t particularly good or interesting for sipping. Admittedly it is far from a drain pour, so I could see it being used well in cocktails.
Jack Daniel’s Old No.7 is not interesting, complex, or even good, but it’s surprisingly not terrible either. It squarely falls into that weird area of “pretty meh”. That alone disqualifies it from the “Don’t Even” rating, as well as from “Mid-shelf”, inhabited by solid bourbons such as Eagle Rare 10, Wild Turkey 101, and Maker’s Mark. Even though Jack Daniel’s is drinkable, I don’t recommend that you buy it. If you still want Jack Daniel’s, go with the Single Barrel Select, which is a huge step-up and very good.
If you’re going to spend money on whiskey, spend it on something better. The $20-30 range has a number of surprisingly good whiskeys. You may still be able to get Jim Beam Distiller’s Cut (a widely distributed 2017 limited edition), Elijah Craig Small Batch, or Sazerac 6 (rye whiskey).