The recently-announced Jack Daniel’s Unaged Rye Whiskey is the company’s first new expression and grain recipe since before Prohibition. And it was never meant to be released. Originally, Jack Daniel’s was planning to release a traditional, aged rye whiskey. And in 2011, they distilled 800 barrels worth, setting them in their Lynchburg warehouses to mature. However, the tasters liked the unaged rye whiskey coming off the still so much that they decided it was also worth releasing. So, behold: Jack Daniel’s Unaged Rye.
This clear whiskey is sweet and fruity on the nose, with a cereal-like background of rye grains. Take a sip to find more fruit, plus some warm spices. It’s surprisingly crisp and clean, and unlike the harsh mouthfeel found in many unaged spirits, this one remains soft and round from sweet start to dry finish. With a mashbill of 70 percent rye, 18 percent corn and 12 percent malted barley, the rye really dominates. You get some sweetness from the corn and a malty hint from the barley, but overall, this expression marries the fruit and spice you’d expect from a traditional rye with the easy-drinking mellowness people expect from Jack Daniel’s.
To echo some sentiments from DrinkSpirits.com, this is a pretty huge release. Not because it will ever gain serious inroads itself (though it certainly could, if JD decides to make more), but because it helps to legitimize the unaged whiskey category. Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 is the best selling whiskey in the world. For Jack to be playing in this space at all means something. It shows that the spirit category isn’t just for fringe players who cannot afford to let their whiskeys sit in barrels for upwards of four years. But a category worth the interest of the industry’s biggest brands. (Buffalo Trace is another notable brand who’s experimented with unaged whiskey, and Jim Beam’s got one in the works.)
That said, we hope this doesn’t hurt the micro distillers. Companies like Death’s Door, Finger Lakes and Woodinville each make a fine unaged whiskey. But with Jack Daniel’s and others on the playing field, it could raise interest and visibility of the category as a whole, thereby helping the small guys gain a better foothold. Either way, it’s something worth watching.
Jack Daniel’s Unaged Rye Whiskey will become available this December at select outlets in Tennessee. And in January 2013, you can find it in other select markets throughout the country.