Jack Daniel’s puts the Tennessee twist on single malt whiskey

Jack Daniel's Single Malt Whiskey
Jack Daniel’s American Single Malt Whiskey will be a permanent expression. | Courtesy

Jack Daniel’s is releasing the brand’s first-ever single malt whiskey (apart from the special single-barrel teaser from last year), and it’s a damn fine whiskey if I do say so myself. But unfortunately, you’ll only find it at the moment in select duty-free airport stores across the world.

I can hear the naysayers now. Why is Jack Daniel’s trying to make scotch? Why don’t they just stay in their lane? And to this I’d say, “Why not?” As Master Distiller Chris Fletcher told me yesterday during a media tasting, the goal wasn’t to make scotch but rather to create an interesting Tennessee twist on the spirit for the growing American single malt category.

“This is us putting our best foot forward in trying single malt,” he said. “It’s a different take on what people can experience with a single malt whiskey — in the style of Jack Daniel’s.”

And true to that style, they ran the distillate through 10 feet of charcoal mellowing vats before it entered the barrel, just like they do for most of their JD whiskeys.

Fletcher said they’ve been experimenting with a single malt expression since 2012 and learned many things in the process. Notably, a mash bill of 100% malt is perhaps the most difficult grain to cook and distill with — even trickier than the sticky rye.

Sherry cask vs. whiskey barrel
Sherry casks are about 2.5 times bigger than whiskey barrels. | Courtesy of The Barrel Store

They also realized fairly early on in the process that they’d need to use a different kind of malted barley from the bulk distillers barley they use for their flagship whiskey.

After tweaking a few things along the way, they finally put this single malt distillate into new charred and toasted barrels in 2015, and it aged gracefully in Lynchburg until about 2020.

While Jack’s process of making single-malt whiskey is vastly different than how it’s made in Scotland and Ireland, the next step is a common one: the finishing barrel.

In 2020, they put the whiskey into used Oloroso Sherry casks (also called butts, heehee) from Spain, where it sat another three years mingling with the leftover fortified wine that had been soaked up in the butt.

The result is this amazing and very flavorful and rich Jack Daniel’s American Single Malt Whiskey, which will be a permanent expression for the company. The color is a striking dark amber, and the whiskey wafts with savory notes of milk chocolate, raisin, plumb and oak. Upon first sip, I get more of those dark fruits like raisin and plumb, and Fletcher noted that the best description he could think of was a dried milk chocolate-covered cherry.

The whiskey is also quite viscous and coats your tongue with delightful memories of decadent desserts. I want to compare it to Woodford Double Oak for this very reason — it’s definitely an after-dinner sipper with its bursts of chocolate, caramel and baked cherries.

My only complaint is that it’s only being sold at airports. Guess I need to book a vacation.

Jack Daniel’s American Single Malt is bottled at 90 proof and retails for $99.99 (for a 1-liter bottle).

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