Nowhere to Hide: Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel

I was briefly delayed from continuing the Jack Daniel’s sequence with a cold that fired up after the review of the standard offering. The server moves that prompted this vertical run have been going well and are over halfway complete; things are generally coming together. Soon it’ll be time to move from “the hard stuff” to “the good stuff”. Maybe today’s the day?

After a ho-hum Green Label and the black labeled Old #7, I was curious about Single Barrel. The first thing I noticed was that it was barreled at a higher proof – interesting though not entirely an indicator of quality. I’ve had plenty of bogus high-ABV whiskies. I was also curious which Jack would emerge – the earthy, woody and vegetal green label, or #7′s top-note heavy profile. Being a single barrel product, there’s always going to be some variance and it’s entirely possible that some barrels are drastically better than others. Whatever the case, this is a pretty pure experience and hopefully a good indicator of what Jack can be before blending and dilution.

I’m no stranger to single-barrel offerings and know that’s part of the fun of the game. So what is this Jack?

The nose presented itself initially with the familiar corn note and then some grains that weren’t present in the other expressions. The familiar caramel and toffee from #7 showed up, but then the differences began: a little malt (dry malt, e.g. malt powder, versus a sweet beery malt) was faintly evident as well as some vanilla. Well, an interesting enough nose.

The palate was light initially – unsurprising, this is Jack’s thing. Slightly warm initially, no doubt to the higher ABV, with some earthy claylike notes as well as some vanilla. Caramel and toffee showed up shortly thereafter, as did a bit of the elusive marshmallow note I catch on some bourbon. Corn and grain show up later, as do some moderate but definitely not overpowering wood notes. It’s lightly tannic; there’s a definite note of black tea late in the palate.

The finish continues with some black tea and tannins which gives way momentarily to faint cherry notes. The earthiness and marshmallow notes are faintly present, which fades to corn. It slowly dries to the woody notes, and then dries further to a root vegetable sort of bitterness. The finish is nicely lasting.

I can’t lie: this whiskey surprised me. I was expecting a slightly tarted up version of black label and I got absolutely everything I’ve been missing in Jack so far – very close to what I’d imagine a mixing of green label (sans the youth) and the black label to be. I was pretty much ready to write off Jack, but this is far and away the best whiskey I’ve tasted with the Jack Daniel’s name on it. It’s really close to my preferred bourbon profile, just needing a bit more push and a slight dialing down on the sweetness to be a real star in my mind. However, my profile isn’t for everyone and this might be perfect for a lot of people. Honestly, this bottle is what Jack should aspire to as the general profile for Jack Daniel’s – I know I’d buy it if it were.

That said, it’s a single barrel and as much as I liked this, it must mean there are barrels out there that are average to downright crummy. Don’t say you weren’t warned if you buy one and it tastes like Grandma’s perfume and rosewater.

Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel (Rick L-4, Barrel 11-5368, Bottled 10-19-11) – 47% ABV
Corn and a fair amount of grains as well as a fairly strong wood influence. Caramel, toffee, and just the faintest hint of maltiness (more like dry malt than a sweet beer malt). A touch of vanilla on the top end. 
Light mouthfeel, initially somewhat warm, with a bit of an earthy note and some vanilla, some caramel and toffee, a faint marshmallow kind of note. Heat builds slowly. A little bit of corn and grain later. Some moderate but not hugely substantial wood notes. Lightly tannic; a definite black tea note.
Initially leads with a bit of black tea and tannins. Some faint cherry notes, the earthy and marshmallow notes faintly present early, fading to corn and then drying further to wood. Over time it dries even more and there’s a slight root vegetable note. 
I can’t lie. This is pretty good. Has all of the balance I’ve missed in Jack. However, as a single barrel, who’s to say what the next barrel is like? 

7 thoughts on “Nowhere to Hide: Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel”

  1. Nice review Tim, and I agree with you.  I said pretty much the same thing: this is everything I like about Old No. 7 and nothing that I don’t, all put into a nicely presented whisky.  I would be pretty surprised though if some of the single barrel offerings were “downright crummy.”  Average maybe, but I think they have a big enough stock, and probably sell little enough single barrel, to avoid “downright crummy.”

  2. I do enjoy JD Single Barrel!

    I did pick up a bottle of Dickel btw! I enjoyed it; but it was a bit harsh to me. I’ve honestly not branched out all that much, but Dickel is in the same general ballpark as what I’m used to. I think I’ll be able to articulate things better with more experience tasting different things. I’ll probably go back and have Jack straight and try to compare/contrast.

    1. I was really surprised, I have to be honest. JDSB is dangerously close to what I like in a bourbon (yes, I know it’s a Tennessee whiskey) and had a ton of complexity that just doesn’t exist in #7 or Green. It’s really well balanced and — at least the bottle I’ve got — I’d be happy to pour to a friend and say “I think this is a pretty good whiskey”. If the sweetness was in check it’d be into B+ territory I think. But I know some people like that sweetness – hey, great! 

      Yeah, it’s worth trying Dickel against Jack. It’s been so long since I’ve had Dickel that I don’t have anything I’d call vaguely accurate as a taste memory. More experience helps develop the palate and I’m a big fan of it because you can articulate what you like more (and thus look for it in tasting notes). At some point here I’ll review Dickel. 

      One thing you might be getting vis a vis harshness is that Dickel is bottled at 45% ABV. Sometimes that extra proof can really add extra kick. Other things can contribute to that harshness and heat, but all things being equal it’ll definitely get a little more punchy at higher proof…

      All that said, I really did enjoy this JDSB. 

  3. Single Barrel is good but I find the Silver Select to be well above average.  At a 100 pf and as a single barrel, to me it drinks better than their standard single barrel (at least those that I’ve had).

  4. JDSB is great! I found the sweetness to be an asset rather than a liability. I had quite a few bourbons where I just wished they were a tad sweeter – 1792 and Blanton’s come to mind. And I don’t have a sweet tooth! I recognize everything in your notes. The bottle I am applying myself to at the moment was quite woody in the beginning, but that woodiness got really well integrated now, 6 months later. It’s the Wintermint profile that makes the JDSB unique for me, I haven’t tasted that in any other bourbon. This goes quite well with the woody/sweetness/cherry rest of it. I’ll have another bottle!

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