Ah, Jack Daniel’s. The memories we’ve shared. Going to college a mere forty minutes from the distillery Jack Daniel’s figured large during my college days. My freshman year my biology for liberal arts majors class took a class trip to the distillery ostensibly to watch the yeast work. I bought a black Jack Daniel’s Field Tester cap that was a standard fixture on my head on casual occasions for the next four years.
A local liquor store had a card board box with sections for each fraternity on campus. Fraternity members and girlfriends would have their receipts deposited in the appropriate section after purchasing hard liquor or wine; Tennessee law prohibited the sale of beer in such establishments. In any event, at the end of each academic year Jim Oliver’s would total up the receipts and the fraternity with the most booze purchased would receive a case of twelve bottles of Jack Daniel’s during finals week. Beta Theta Pi, the house where I served as Pledge Trainer, Rush Chairman, and President, won the case my freshman and sophomore years. I had to slow down after that so I could get into law school, but never mind.
The other thing folks would do at Sewanee was to purchase used barrels from Jack Daniel’s and put five to ten gallons or so of water in them, bung it back up and roll it around every few days for a couple of weeks to extract the devil’s cut out of the barrel. This whiskey like substance with charcoal flecks in it was then put into a cooler or garbage can with ice and dry country time lemonade mix, stirred and served. After that the barrel would be cut to serve as either a receptacle to cool a keg with ice or a planter. You could get a whole lot of fun out of a used Jack Daniel’s barrel in those days.
So, it’s safe to say I have a little history with Jack Daniel’s.
After law school I pretty much got over Jack Daniel’s and started drinking bourbon and scotch and never looked back. Why? Because I realized Jack Daniel’s black label was not good in comparison to other whiskies despite having consumed so much over a seven year period. It’s not aged very long. Not complex. It begs for a mixer; they have a glass they sell at the distillery where you put mixer in the bottom of the hour glass and float Jack on top and then chug it. Bought one at the gift shop freshman year on the biology trip. We called it a snarkle glass, not sure why.
But, I have this thing about cask strength whiskey. The way I figure it, if a distiller is willing to put uncut product on the market, then that is likely their best stuff because there is nothing to hide. So, I decided to take the plunge on Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Cask Strength offering.
128.8 proof Single Barrel Jack Daniel’s. No screwing around, this is Jack Daniel’s that could hit you so hard your dog would bleed, right? An overproof concoction that can get you wasted big time, and the flavor is whatever because who cares, right?
I am as shocked as I could possibly be. This whiskey is really really good. No snarkle glass for this. I put it in a Glencairn but it’s Waterford worthy.
Color is a beautiful mahogany amber. The nose is delightful; I couldn’t stop smelling it. Very floral with wonderful oak and corn syrup notes. On the palate, lovely desert baking spice with huge oak spice. Creamy. Like a French toast bread pudding. Great mouthfeel. Lingering oak spice finish.
I would pit this whiskey against the cask strength bourbon offerings from Barrell and Heaven Hill in a blind taste test and I bet a lot of folks would be surprised at how this whiskey could very well come out on top.
Jack Daniel’s has made a triumphant return to my bar. I am as shocked as anyone. And, I am glad to know that the used barrels aren’t being sold to crazy college kids but are leased from and are sent after their usage to Glenmorangie in Scotland to age one of the best scotches in the world.
You can still get a whole lot of fun out of a used barrel of Jack Daniel’s even now. That, and their honey barrels are indeed that.