The final stop on the Jack Daniel’s tour are two special editions: The duty-free exclusive Silver Select and the recent Holiday Select 2011 are all that remain. Both are 100 proof. Is this turning up the dial a bit and getting more of a good thing, or is it just additional noise? We’ll see.
The Silver Select has a mix of sweet corn and wood. There’s an unexpected slightly dry, almost white wine quality to the nose that has some white pepper to balance it. There are also some can’t-miss notes for me: a little cherry, some light vanilla, and an earthy wet clay type note. There’s also a hint of cinnamon.
The palate is initially woody and has some cherry above it, with a touch of toffee in the background. Heat on the palate comes out of nowhere and builds, as does the wood. The wood doesn’t become overbearing or bitter, just omnipresent. The wet clay note from the nose comes through as well. Cinnamon and pepper provide a little spice. The finish shows a reemergence of the corn sweetness from the nose; wood and cherry are right behind it and it dries quickly, leaving some light woody notes and a slight celery root note. Wood takes center stage again at the end.
All in all, Silver Select isn’t bad. I think given the breadth of travel-exclusive offerings it might not be my first choice, but as far as Jack Daniel’s goes, it’s not bad and dare I say it’s even a cut above the standard issue. This is based heavily on the cherry and clay notes I got which are regular winning notes for me on a bourbon.
This leaves one to wonder – is the Holiday Select just a domestic release of the same thing? In a word, no.
Initially you might be forgiven thinking they’re similar. Holiday Select has the familiar Jack Daniel’s sweet corn notes as well as black cherry and some richer than usual wood. There’s light toffee and some caramel. However, it all goes sideways – there’s a peanut note on the nose (actually more satay sauce than straight peanuts) that takes this to an unwelcome and unflatteringly salty place.
The palate is distinctly woody and not in a good way – it’s young and bitter wood. It’s dry and somewhat salty again, reminding me of that dehydrating potato chip or popcorn level of saltiness. The heat comes on quick and strong, overrunning the light toffee and caramel influence. Pepper and cinnamon come with the heat; light cherries and the faintest trace of vanilla are there. However, the palate is really dominated by that green, young wood note. The finish brings the peanut and salt note front and center – why? The finish retains the heat from the palate; black cherries show up early but give way to bitter wood. Toffee and caramel are present throughout but never take a prominent place.
Holiday Select is, in short, an unbalanced wreck. The peanut note is one I’ve only found on a handful of Brown-Forman whiskeys, but it’s always overpowering and doesn’t tend to have an effective balance. Add to that a really overbearing wood note and you’ve got a real strikeout on your hands. While this may be lingering on shelves I can’t recommend it.
After all that, I need a drink…
It’s been pretty clear from this run through the Jack offerings that I’m not a fan. Some may have thought I did this strictly for the joy of taking shots at the biggest whiskey in the universe and beyond. Not in the least. Don’t forget, I drank all these — and none of them scored in the D or F range. That’s where the fun writing comes in because you have to get into superlative badness.
It was a pretty interesting exercise to run through the entire range. This, for me, is somewhat like the Woodford Reserve Master’s Series (again, a series of entries for another time – and hopefully not too soon): there’s a lot of variations that are slightly different versions of mediocre. That sort of thing over a longer period becomes dull because there’s not a lot of good whiskeys and nothing you can really look forward to. That said, the two that are the most interesting to me still are #7 and Green Label – they feel like different sides of the same coin. I still feel like if you took these together and tried to get the Jekyll & Hyde combo to work you might end up with something workable. Who knows? It’ll never happen.
Single Barrel is by far the best of the range – at least the one I had. Silver Select isn’t too far behind but doesn’t quite fire on all cylinders like my Single Barrel did. Angelo Lucchesi is definitely closest to the Jack I remember earlier, introducing a bit of sourness that wasn’t present else but was close to my memory of Jack. Gentleman Jack and Holiday 2011 are best forgotten, in my opinion.
I can’t say I have a lot of lasting interest nor do I hold much hope for Jack doing something for bigger whiskey nerds like myself and some of my friends. That’s OK – Jack Daniel’s is bought by the rest of the universe, so the couple hundred bottles we’d buy are about as close to “a drop in the ocean” as you can get. It’s a totally drinkable, fine and reasonable whiskey. There’s just nothing in it (in its many forms, less Single Barrel) that really grabs me.
If anyone’s interested in a bullet-point list of the order I’d buy these, it’d look like this
- Single Barrel
- Silver Select
- Angelo Lucchesi
- (tie): Green Label & #7
- Holiday Select 2011
- Gentleman Jack (hopefully and ideally never again)
Now that this Jack run is blessedly over, S&I will be returning to its regularly scheduled unpredictability.
If anyone buys me a drink in the next month and it’s Jack, I will punch you. Fair warning.
At a glance:
Jack Daniel’s Silver Select 50% ABV
Nose: A mix of sweet corn and wood. Has a slightly dry, almost white wine quality to it with some white pepper. Some cherry notes and light vanilla. Lightly influenced by cinnamon. A wet clay note provides some earthy balance.
Palate: Woody palate initially with some cherry sweetness above it, with a touch of toffee behind. Heat comes from nothing and slowly builds. Wood builds with the heat but it’s just a solid wood influence, not a painfully bitter one. Cinnamon and some light pepper. Has a slightly earthy, wet clay note tagging along as well.
Finish: Corn sweetness, wood and cherry which dries relatively quickly and leaves some light wood traces, some root vegetable notes and a touch of wood again at the end.
Comment: An interesting profile that’s less overtly sweet than most Jack Daniels I’ve had. Similar to the Single Barrel in ways but a bit bitter in comparison. The earthy and cherry notes being in balance raise this up a notch for me.
Jack Daniel’s Holiday Select 2011 50% ABV
Nose: An interesting mix of sweet corn notes and richer wood and black cherry notes. There’s a slightly nutty note – peanuts (actually, more satay than straight peanuts). A bit salty as well. Light toffee. Caramel fairly present.
Palate: Distinctly woody – kind of young wood and bitter too. Dry and somewhat salty – reminds me of potato chips or popcorn. Builds heat quickly. Light toffee but more caramel. Some pepper and cinnamon. Light cherries and the faintest trace of vanilla ever. Mostly dominated by the wood note that is just kind of green and young.
Finish: Leads with the peanut note and then the saltiness. Still quite warm on the finish. Black cherries early. A bit of slightly dry and bitter wood. Toffee and caramel dance around through the finish but never take prominence.
Comment: This is kind of a mess. I’ve encountered the peanut note on other BF whiskeys in the past and it hasn’t worked for me. The salty note goes hand in hand with it and it doesn’t have a solid counterbalance. The heat is out of balance and gets away from the whisky and it just doesn’t really pull together in any coherent way.