Jack Daniels Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey
Review: Jack Daniel’s (Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey) 76/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (AKA Arctic Wolf)
Posted May 4, 2014
Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 is produced in Lynchburg, Tennessee, by the Jack Daniel Distillery (currently owned by the Brown-Forman Corporation). Interestingly enough, the Jack Daniel’s Distillery is located in Moore County which has remained dry dating back to the passing of the state’s prohibition laws in the early 20th century. Even though prohibition ended federally in 1933 when the Eighteenth Amendment was repealed, the Tennessee State prohibition laws have remained in effect; and hence, all counties in the state remained dry after prohibition ended. Counties may individually repeal the local state law by passing a “local option” referendum; however, Moore County has not done so. This has given rise to the curious situation in which the county which produces the best-selling American Whiskey in the world does not allow this whiskey to be sold in the stores or the restaurants within its own boundaries.
Jack Daniels Old No. 7 is produced in much the same manner as bourbon, from a corn heavy mash and aged in new charred white oak barrels. However, the Jack Daniel’s distillery has always resisted the use of the bourbon classification, and instead prefers to label their spirit as Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey. In the advertising and upon their website, the company highlights the fact that Jack Daniels Whiskey undergoes a filtering process (not typically used by bourbon producers) known as the The Lincoln County Process. This Process involves filtering the whiskey through a column of charcoal (or steeping the whiskey in charcoal chips) to remove unwanted flavours and contaminants prior to cask aging. The Jack Daniel’s Distillery produces its own charcoal pellets for the Lincoln County Process from sugar maple timbers. These charcoal pellets are packed into 10-foot (3.0 m) vats, where they are used to remove the impurities from the distilled Jack Daniel’s whiskey.
Note: The process is named for Lincoln County, Tennessee which, based upon the boundaries at the time, was the County where the Jack Daniel’s distillery was located at the time the Lincoln County Process was developed.
In the Bottle 4.5/5
Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 arrives in the tall rectangular bottle shown to the left. The bottle has angled corners which give the bottle a solid masculine look. The black label features large white lettering which stands out well adding to the overall appeal of the presentation. The combination of a strong bottle and label design gives the whiskey a substantive presence on the bar shelf.
In the Glass 8/10
The whiskey has a pleasing deep amber colour. When I tilted and twirled my first sample glass I saw that the spirit left a thickened sheen on the inside of my glen cairn which held its crest for about five seconds before releasing a multitude of slow-moving leggy drooplets which ambled back into the whiskey. The initial nose was full of corn syrup, the spiciness of wood sap, and a very apparent dankness which reminded me of damp autumn leaves. The wood sap reminded me of both fresh-cut oak and cedar logs, and some vanilla accents seemed to be wrapped up in the corn and the wood spices. There was also an indistinct a clay-like earthiness in the breezes above the glass with perhaps a touch of cigarette smoke as well.
I let the glass sit to see what evolved, and I was disappointed that the nose did not seem to grow or develop further. Although the initial nose seemed pleasant and moderately complex, the whiskey did not display the additional depth and character I was hoping for.
On the Mouth 44.5/60
When I took my first sip I was struck by two contrasting impressions. First, the flavour of corn syrup was strong which made the whiskey quite a bit sweeter than I was expecting. However, there was also a firm bitterness running throughout the flavour of the whiskey which seemed unaffected by the strong sweetness. This made sipping the spirit rather difficult to enjoy.
Those damp fall leaves I sensed on the nose seem to be connected in a negative manner with the bitterness I taste within the Jack Daniel’s. I found it strange that the sweetness of corn syrup which is so obvious in the whiskey does not blend in and temper this leafy bitterness; but dual impressions of sweetness and bitterness remain separate as I sip. There are of course other flavours within the whiskey, impressions of vanilla, oak and cedar spice and a touch of sap and tobacco in the flavour as well; but the undercurrents of bitter and sweet left me reaching for a little cola to mix. Unfortunately the cola brings out even more of the corn sweetness and the resulting mixed drink is rather cloying and hard for me to adjust to. I switched gears and mixed with a little ginger-ale, and the result was much better, and in fact enjoyable.
In the Throat 11.5/15
The finish was rather short with flavours of charcoal, cigarette ash, and corn syrup doing an odd tango down the throat. There was a welcome spicy dryness which develops after the whiskey is swallowed, and fortunately the bitterness within the delivery dissipated quickly.
The Afterburn 7.5/10
I suspect that those who have been raised on Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Whiskey are going to disagree with my review and my scoring. It is probably a fact that the odd combination of sweet corn syrup and bitter damp leaves which run through the whiskey would begin to grow on a person over time. However, it was not just this odd flavour combination which kept my scores down. There seemed to be no melding of these two dominate aspects of flavour which gave me the impression that the whiskey lacked depth and balance.
I did find a few nice ways nice way to enjoy the rest of my sample bottle. Jack and Ginger is a good combination and I also discovered the whiskey worked well as the base for a Slammer (see recipe down below). Those cocktail combinations helped to save the score somewhat.
My Score of 76/100 places the Jack Daniel’s Whiskey firmly in the mixer category. You may read some of my other Whiskey Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.
Here is a Slammer variation made with Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7.
1/2 oz Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7
1/2 oz Southern Comfort
1/2 oz Amaretto
1/2 oz Sloe Gin
Fill an 6 to 8 oz glass with ice
Add the first four ingredients
Fill with Orange Juice
Stir until well mixed
Garnish with an Orange slice if desired
Note: If you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!
I am always asked what my numbers actually mean. In order to provide clarification, you may (loosely) interpret the scores as follows.
0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.
Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:
70 – 79.5 Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5 Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)