Whenever I hear or read "Jack Daniel's," I typically have a flashback to the 1980's Van Halen music video, "Panama," where the bassist, Michael Anthony, is thumping out some notes on a custom-made bass guitar in the shape and image of a bottle of Jack. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for Jack Daniels. I am thinking if Van Halen drink it, it must be the fast lane to intoxication and to hell with good taste.
click here). A pleasant American whiskey that surprisingly has no wicked bite or awful burn on the way down. In fact, for the price, it is a pleasant whiskey. Not overly complex and sipping it will not leave you in awe, but hey look at the price buster! It delivers a nice introduction to American whisky or more specifically Tennessee whiskey.
If I had a penny for everytime someone called Jack Daniel's a great 'bourbon' I would be a rich man. There is not a huge difference in the production methods of Tennessee whiskey and bourbon, but there is a difference you should be aware of, just so that at a party you won't embarrass yourself.
America is home to a number of different types of whiskey, but the most famous is it's bourbon. To be called bourbon, the whiskey must: (1) be made from a mash bill of at least 51% corn; (2) aged for at least 2 years in new charred oak barrels and; (3) not distilled to an alcohol by volume greater than 80%. So, technically, bourbon does not have to be made in Kentucky, which is the home to many of the great bourbons from the earliest beginnings.
Tennessee whiskey has only two examples: Jack Daniel's and George Dickel. These distilleries are classified as Tennessee whiskey because they meet the legal definition (yep pardner, there is a law saying what is Tennessee whiskey): (1) must be produced in the state of Tennessee, and; (2) the spirit must be filtered through sugar-maple charcoal. (There is some debate as to whether or not Jack Daniel's could label their whiskey as 'bourbon' because bourbon can be made anywhere in the US. Some say they could, by a tight reading of the law, but choose not to do so. We are not going to get into that debate here.)
Anyhow, below is a picture by Flickr member, ZosoNomad, of the Jack Daniel's distillery grounds where they burn the sugar-maple wood in order to make the requisite charcoal for filtration of the spirit. If you tour the distillery, this is always fun to watch.
Double Charcoal Filtration
Gentleman Jack is distinguished from his younger sibling (Ol' No. 7) by production process whereby the spirit is charcoal mellowed twice: once before aging in barrels, and again after aging.
|Gentleman Jack Rare Tennessee Whiskey
Bananna, oak, and a little strong note of alcohol when sniffed in a brandy snifter or Glencairn glass. In a tumbler, the nose is much more pleasant and floral.
Sweet entry of corn, vanilla and oak. Bananna too.
Dries with warming notes of tobacco and spice. A little too oakey.
I am a little underwhelmed by this whiskey. It is supposed to be a step up from the standard bottling of Jack Daniel's Old No. 7, but it really lacks anything that sets it apart and worthy of the higher price.
On the positive side, Gentleman Jack is certainly a smooth whiskey that will go down very easily without the need of ice, water or mix of any kind. In a word, this whiskey is smooth, big time, like a pane of glass. No sharp or biting flavors. There are no obvious flaws, other than it is very mainstream, taking no chances. We are not entering any intersections on a yellow light. This whiskey is purely mainstreet easy going drinking experience firmly in the proper lane of travel.
Frankly, it is a little boring. If you are seeking a smooth Tennessee whisky, the standard Jack Daniel's bottling is sufficient. No need to upgrade to Gentleman Jack. So, this begs the question: What does Gentleman Jack offer that is not attained by the Old No. 7? I suppose it is more flavorful, the flavors last longer once swallowed. But, again the earth did not move for me. I keep thinking I should be drinking Jim Beam Black, a bourbon that is in the same price point, but is a stellar bourbon. Another option would be to spend a bit more money and enjoy another great American whiskey, Maker's Mark. The makers of Gentleman Jack should study Maker's Mark and try to replicate the complexity of flavors that they have achieved.
|Gentleman Jack lacks the flavor complexity of Maker's Mark and Jim Beam Black
If you are a novice whiskey drinker, you will probably enjoy Gentleman Jack immensely because it is so smooth and inoffensive. For the more seriously whiskey obsessed like me, we require some complexity. The danger in making a whiskey so smooth is that there is a sacrifice of complexity of flavors. That is what happened here. A pleasant Tennessee whiskey that provides a very straight forward delivery of oak, vanilla and sweet corn. It's ok, but not great. You have to ask yourself about whether or not you are a novice or a whiskey nut. It needs to be spiced up. Maybe for inspiration the blenders at Jack Daniel's should listen to Van Halen's Panama:
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