The Super Bowl brought a lot of people to Dallas, including Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller Jeff Arnett. We met at a local pub for some whiskey tasting and booze-centric conversation.
Arnett noted that Jack Daniel was born around 1850 and worked at a general store as a young man, making whiskey for medicinal purposes. He took this knowledge and opened his own distillery in 1866 in Tennessee near Cave Spring, an iron-free water source. He began distilling Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 with a grain makeup of 80% corn, 12% malted barley and just 8% rye – the same recipe followed today. The low rye content creates the whiskey’s trademark sweet to oaky flavor and gives it that undeniably not-bourbon taste.
We nosed and sipped the black-labeled Old No. 7, plus Gentleman’s Jack and Single Barrel. I’ve drank all three plenty of times over the years, but have mostly stayed away from the spirit in recent years. Drinking under the watchful eye of the man who makes it was a good experience, and made me come to appreciate the whiskey more.
Arnett suggested we start with 80 proof Gentleman’s Jack, which is the gentlest of the three whiskeys. It’s sweet with lots of vanilla and caramel. It lingers on the front of the tongue and is very smooth on the palate with almost no oaky bite.
Next we tasted Single Barrel, which is bottled at 94 proof and is very oaky. During aging, it’s stored at the top of the warehouse, which increases the angel’s share. Less whiskey per barrel means more oak influence in the whiskey. As a result, it’s very dry and tannic, but still robust and creamy.
We tasted the black-labeled Jack last, as Arnett said it’s the flavor midpoint between the other two whiskeys. I have to say, it’s better than I remember. It’s an easy-drinking spirit, with some sweet vanilla and fruit (maybe banana), plus a toasted oak finish.
– Jack Daniel’s is the world’s best-selling whiskey
– It’s produced in the oldest registered distillery in the U.S.
– California drinks the most Jack, followed by Texas
– 25-30% of Jack Daniel’s drinkers are women