Jack Daniels Single Barrel Whiskey Review

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By Richard Thomas

Rating: C+

Jack Daniels Single Barrel WhiskeyThanks in large part to it’s use of the maple charcoal-filtering Lincoln County Process, Tennessee whiskey enjoys a flavor profile all its own. This extra step is all that separates Tennessee whiskey from Kentucky bourbon (well, all excepting a little Volunteer State pride over their homebrew), but it’s a big step.

The single barrel idea, on the other hand, is a Kentucky original. Blanton’s was the first commercial whiskey in modern times to embrace the notion of a regular, unblended product drawn from single, selected casks. The idea soon caught on, and it wasn’t long before the neighbors in Tennessee were up to the same thing. Single barrel whiskey is, by its very nature of coming from specially chosen casks, supposed to represent the very best of a given whiskey.

Keeping these two ideas in mind, the Lincoln County Process and the single barrel philosophy, I approached Jack Daniels Single Barrel for the first time.

The Whiskey
Jack Daniels Single Barrel Tennessee Whiskey comes in an understated, squat and squared clear glass bottle, with a fine wood and cork stopper. The packaging is suggestive of nothing so much as a decanter. In fact, if you want a decanter and own a bottle of JD single barrel, I recommend scrubbing the labels off and recycling this bottle. The whiskey is bottled at 47% alcohol (94 proof).

The single barrel has the signature full-bodied, mid-toned amber of Jack Daniels. When you give this stuff a swirl in the glass, the color is so rich that even the coating left behind has a little body on it. The nose is powerfully loaded with sweet, syrupy flavors: corn and maple sweetness by the spoonful, a hefty dash of oaky vanilla, plus a little bit of a minty, spicy note. That last part gives a slightly crisp texture to what would otherwise be something akin to Vermont grade A maple syrup.

The flavor is just as thick as the aroma, and just as sweet, with strong notes of caramel and vanilla. Some hints of charcoal and woody astringency are in there, just enough to give the whiskey a little character. The finish is a middling affair: mid-length, mid-bodied, mid-warmth.

I found the Jack Daniels Single Barrel a little underwhelming, especially considering that Jack Daniels Black Label is one of the best mass market American whiskeys out there. The whiskey is certainly more of what the standard label is: stronger, sweeter, and heavier.

Yet despite all that, the whiskey is only slightly complex, and shows no balance. A sip of this stuff smothers your palate. It’s a little better than Jack Daniels Black Label, but only slightly. Given how much it costs (see below), anyone but a diehard Jack Daniels fan should skip it.

The Price
Jack Daniels Single Barrel Tennessee Whiskey retails for between $40 and $45, depending on where you do your shopping.

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4 comments

  1. Wow, that’s harsh… I don’t like JD, but I found the single barrel very rich and interesting, with a unique intense mintiness that sizzles on the tongue, like a tic-tac. Well, after all, single barrels will differ from each other…

  2. You have a point, but single barrels in regular production are chosen to stay within certain flavor parameters. JD is no exception. There is some variation, but not a wide variation.

  3. Agree that seems a bit harsh, but tastes differ. I had an opportunity to taste “single barrel” Jack from a not quite empty barrel purchased off the cooperage dock in Louisville some 25 years ago. One might acquire a barrel like this for decorative use, as they were returned from Lynchburg to Louisville to be shooked for transport to Scotland. Granted it needed to be run through a coffee filter to remove the barrel bits, but it was dark, rich, smooth and flavorful.

    I’m not much of a fan of the curent JD Black Label, but the single barrel honestly surprised me by being as smooth as I remember. I think it tastes like it was intended. I inherited an old unopened bottle of 90 proof JD Black. I may have to open it and compare. Let me also say Knob Creek is my current affordable favorite, but my palate prefers slightly sweeter bourbons.

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