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Gillman
08-24-2012, 15:32
Sipping on an excellent SB of Jack recently, I was reminded that this whiskey is a notably woody one. All iterations I've had have that top-note. Michael Jackson noted the characteristic, referring also to earthy notes, in his 1987 World Guide To Whiskey and other books I've read.

Why is this? Jack carries no age statement and from all reports is not more than 4-5 years old.

Why would it acquire this characteristic at a relatively young age?

Can it be that the aging atmosphere in Tennessee is different than Kentucky and imparts this quality? I don't think so since too Dickel doesn't seem unusually woody.

I think perhaps the reason is, the whiskey is relatively "lean" due to the preliminary charcoal filtering. This (I infer) strips out a lot of the oils and higher alcohols that give body to bourbon and would balance off the wood character gained after 4-5 years. Yet, Dickel must lose the same elements and doesn't again seem that woody.

Any ideas?

Gary

ebo
08-24-2012, 18:29
I have no idea as to why, but I agree with you. JDSB is definitely a woody whiskey........ and I like it!

sailor22
08-24-2012, 19:14
It could be the wood used for the barrels in conjunction with rick houses that are warmer than typical. We know placing a barrel up high (warmer) in the rick house pulls wood taste from the barrel faster and that the grain of the wood used to make the barrel has a part to play in how fast the woody taste appears. Also how long the wood was dried and how it was dried before the barrel was made will play a large part in the nature of the flavors the barrel imparts.

T Comp
08-24-2012, 19:23
Great observation and question Gary. It's more sooty than woody to me...at least the SB but it really does have what you'd expect from something with even up to 10 years age. Juxtaposing it with Dickel makes it more of a mystery. The Brown-Forman cooperage video emphasizes the toasting of their barrels so I'll throw that out as a possible cause too.

Gillman
08-25-2012, 05:53
Thanks Thad and I agree about the sooty quality, it's tied up in the question I asked since by wood I meant a barrel wood (aged whiskey) quality which indeed has that character or partly. So does bourbon of course but much less so at the same age, IMO.

Any particular barrel treatment they do - something in the seasoning or charring perhaps - might explain it. I don't think it's the maple charcoal vat since again Dickel's whiskey doesn't seem notably woody/sooty. Looking back at Jackson's 1988 World Guide To Whiskey, he doesn't quite use the word woody but refers to a smokiness and dry, aromatic quality, which, combined with other remarks of his I've read elsewhere, amounts to the same thing in my view. He does state that Jack is not an oily whiskey - the oils being removed by the prolonged Lincoln County process - and so what is dry and aromatic but smoky wood, surely?

It's ironic though since as Chuck discussed some time ago, Jack is also known for a certain fuselly character - the yellow fruit quality noted by many (one diminished in recent years but still a characteristic of Jack IMO). I would think that whatever quality explains that, it is a fusel that is not trapped in the millions of tiny apertures in the ground maple charcoal as the whiskey goes through.

It's been said Jack may issue a rye one day and it will be interesting to see if this woody/smoky quality is in that too.

I wonder what JD would taste like sans the maple leaching? But I guess that will never be seen since it would take away the raison d'etre of Jack Daniels!

Gary

Gillman
08-25-2012, 05:59
Just another thought is the classic woody/smoky taste of Jack is probably ideal with cola since the dryness cuts and "matches" the sweetness perfectly. Any well-aged bourbon would do similar, but in the era when Jack-and-Coke became a national icon, something about that whiskey seemed unique to make the combo a classic one. Of course, the yellow fruit quality of Jack - banana, papaya, call it what you will - is part of it since it seems to blend well with a cola taste.

It would be interesting to do a comparative tasting of different whiskeys with Coke, I may propose this for a corner of the Gazebo table if I can get there in a few weeks. :)

Gary

Leopold
08-25-2012, 14:26
I would think that it's the Lincoln Country process. Recall that Dickel steeps their sugar maple char, and JD trickles the new make through the char. We obviously don't know now many kilograms of char per liter that Dickel and JD uses, so I'd suspect that either the amount of char is more for Jack Daniels, or the actually movement through that char bed is pulling out more of that wood flavor--- maple rather than the oak in barrels----and that's what's making the difference you note. Also, doesn't Dickel steep the new make in the char in colder temperatures? That'll have an effect.

I can tell you that in my experience in making Tennessee style whiskey (we steep the char), the char puts far more in that new make than in takes out. It seems that people think that the exact opposite happens. Of course, it completely depends on how many kg per liter of maple char you use, and the method of contact, but still.....

T Comp
08-25-2012, 15:11
I would think that it's the Lincoln Country process. Recall that Dickel steeps their sugar maple char, and JD trickles the new make through the char. We obviously don't know now many kilograms of char per liter that Dickel and JD uses, so I'd suspect that either the amount of char is more for Jack Daniels, or the actually movement through that char bed is pulling out more of that wood flavor--- maple rather than the oak in barrels----and that's what's making the difference you note. Also, doesn't Dickel steep the new make in the char in colder temperatures? That'll have an effect.

I can tell you that in my experience in making Tennessee style whiskey (we steep the char), the char puts far more in that new make than in takes out. It seems that people think that the exact opposite happens. Of course, it completely depends on how many kg per liter of maple char you use, and the method of contact, but still.....

I think we have a winner! Excellent information/explanation especially on your own experience. And that explains why the Jack woody flavors, imparted from the sugar maple char, tend to lack the tannins and vanilla you'd get from longer barrel wood influence and are more sooty/smoky.

smokinjoe
08-25-2012, 16:00
Todd's opinion that it's the LCP would also mirror what Chuck has always contended over the years. That it in fact, kickstarts the aging process.

Gillman
08-25-2012, 16:04
Very interesting, thanks guys. I thought of the fact that Diageo uses chilled maple charcoal for Dickel - the chilling may perhaps impart less of a wood quality than "warm" wood, I agree - but I didn't know they steep as opposed to a dripping process. I thought the white dog is dropped down through a vat lasting some days in both cases.

As a Canadian familiar with maple, I must say too I don't really get a maple quality in Jack but of course that maplewood is well-barbequed by the time the whiskey touches it, so the nature of the wood quality may change.

It may well be that, thanks Todd.

Gary

P.S. Good point about the vanilla, Thad - the one thing I don't get with Jack.

Leopold
08-26-2012, 10:34
Well, I've never been inside the Dickel plant, but to my knowledge they steep the char. I may be incorrect, of course.

I would also think that the proof of the new make would have an effect as it related to extracting wood compounds. Do JD and Dickel introduce the whiskey to the char at the same proof?

It is one of my favorite spirits to make. The white dog, to my taste, is simply awful and out of balance. But if you let those phenols that come from charring the maple oxidize and blend with the barrel sugars, you've really got an interesting whiskey.

Not surprisingly, I'm quite fond of JD and Dickel. There's more going on in those whiskies than some give credit, IMHO.

Lazer
08-26-2012, 11:29
In my opinion its the mashbill and the toasting of the barrel before charring, and the relative youth. According to the "whiskey tree" JD is 80% corn in the mash. Corn is basically a neutral grain which gives way to more barrel influence. Also, it isn't old which means the woody flavors will come through first before the sweet barrel flavors.

I just finished a bottle of JDSB and I loved it. It did have that strong wood note at first but after a couple of weeks and half the bottle gone, it gave way to more balance with the sweet. Overall I thought it was great and I'm keeping on my "buy again" list. :cool:

camduncan
08-26-2012, 17:22
I'd have to go back through my notes to verify, but I thought I heard Jeff Arnett state that the SB barrels sit highest in the warehouse and so, due to the greater variations in temperature exposure, moves in and out of the wood the most of all of the JD products. If what I remember is true, could that also be contributing to the woody taste?

fishnbowljoe
08-26-2012, 20:18
I'm gonna add my two cents, or possibly a nickels worth here. :rolleyes:

As far as barrels go, Brown Foreman has it's own cooperage. Do they use the same barrels for all the different whiskeys in their lineup, or do they age the wood differently and/or use different chars for their different whiskeys? Might make a difference.

I agree that the "charcoal mellowing" process does impart flavors in JD. I've heard many descriptors of JD flavors. Most have already been mentioned. Banana is a one often associated with JD. I readily agree with the exception of a bottle of JDSS I recently acquired. No banana flavor, but there was a definite taste like maple syrup to me. I think the Lincoln County process is one of the reasons for the wood, banana and maple flavors people describe.

I also agree that placement of barrels in the rick houses also has an affect. I'm a Tennessee Squire and I receive news, updates and all kinds of information from Jack Daniel's from time to time. I can't remember if I read it in one of their communications or somewhere else, but barrel placement does have a bearing on whether the barrels will be regular Jack Daniel's, Gentleman Jack or their Single Barrel. I may be wrong, but IIRC, barrels for regular Jack Daniel's are selected from the middle floors, Gentleman Jack from the lower floors, and Single Barrel from the upper floors. Or, at least something to that effect. I do have CRS, so I sometimes have a tendency to forget things or get them mixed up from time to time. :lol:

Climate and age. Nothing to say here that hasn't been brought up already.

The one thing I think everyone might have missed here is water. Yes, water. I think we all know that when water is added to a whiskey, it changes the taste. Sometimes it can be dramatic. I've tasted things that I thought were pretty good, but when water was added, they became terrible. Conversely, I've had things I thought were just mediocre, but when water was added, they blossomed into something great. Now, Jack Daniel's and Gentleman Jack are both 80 proof, (the Gentleman Jack is charcoal mellowed twice, thus imparting it with another different flavor) Jack Daniels Single Barrel is 94 proof, and Single Barrel Select is 100 proof. I believe that the amount of water added to Jack Daniels (as with all whiskeys) to bring it down to it's bottling proof changes the flavor. Just my opinion, but what can I say? Case in point FWIW, I recently found some semi dusty 86 proof Jack. I bought a couple of bottles for some bowling buddies of mine that just love their Jack. Even though they drink Jack and Coke, they all swore that there was a difference, and that the 86 proofer was a lot better. I was skeptical, but all three of them could pick out the difference in a blind Jack and Coke taste test. Sure surprised me. :bigeyes:

So to close out my long winded reply to this thread, I think that the combination of all the factors listed above (and as suggested by others) are what gives Jack it's unique, oft considered woody flavor. So as not to create the wrong impression, part of my answers are fact, part are opinion, and part some semi-educated conjecture. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. :grin:

Cheers! Joe

Now I'm gonna go have a pour or two of some Jack Daniels. :woohoo:

Gillman
08-27-2012, 06:03
Interesting and barrel placement is important of course especially for SB but I must say I get the woody taste in all JD even Gentleman.

The point about water is interesting too and reminds me that Jack Daniels uses as a part of its reducing water water used under pressure to rinse out whiskey from inside the barrel after normal dumping. I wonder if that is a factor as well.

Gary

sailor22
08-27-2012, 06:57
Gary - can you describe the woody taste your referring to? I assume your not talking about the maple sweetness but about a woody tingly effect.

T Comp
08-27-2012, 07:17
As far as barrels go, Brown Foreman has it's own cooperage. Do they use the same barrels for all the different whiskeys in their lineup, or do they age the wood differently and/or use different chars for their different whiskeys? Might make a difference.



I've reviewed several videos and web site references on Brown-Forman cooperage and there is no talk of a different char level than #3 for all the barrels. But there is specific mention on this site that there is a difference for each whiskey in how long the wood planks are dried and aged. Woodford Reserve is stated to be nine months but nothing about Jack. This site also talks about the first step "toasting" and that the amount of time it is done is a trade secret.

http://www.drinkspirits.com/whiskey/jack-daniels-barrel-making/

As always an interesting thread started by Gary that once again highlights all the complexities, nuances and mysteries of each different whiskey even the often maligned Jack Daniels. Of all the factors discussed, Todd's own experience with the white dog and flavors the charred sugar maple imparts to it still seem the most significant in that woody flavor, to my mind.

Gillman
08-27-2012, 09:57
That toasting may be part of it, e.g. if the process is prolonged for Jack Daniels beyond what they do for the bourbons, that could be a factor.

Steve, by woody I mean a slightly smoky taste of wood fibre, not the aromatics I'd associate with maple syrup, say, although that seems part of the palate as well (plus yellow fruit flavors as a by-product of yeast fermentation IMO).

It's like a fresh forest scent where you can sense some smoke in the air from a wood fire somewhere. (Sometimes some earth is wrapped up in it: I find this more with regular Jack than with SB. I agree with Joe too some Jack has very little if any banana, even Black Label sometimes, but generally it does I think).

I don't get that same taste in any bourbon, but then Dickel - which has some of the maple sweetness - doesn't really have it either. My best guess, which is all that it can be, is that some aspect of the barrel treatment is the reason.

The only other factor I can think of (not mentioned) is the microclimate around Lynchburg. Is all Jack Daniels aged there or is some aged in barrelhouses in different parts of the State?

Gary

P.S. It has been a while since I've had Green Label Jack but generally it seemed younger than Black Label, or less complex anyway. To my best recollection, the woody note I get in Jack is lesser there: this may point to an effect imparted by the barrel the longer it is stored and/or is "active" through placement high in the ricks.

Gillman
08-27-2012, 10:12
Just another point to pick up on Thad's last comment about Todd's post: is the maple charcoal completely carbonized in the firing of the logs? If not, i.e., if white or darkened wood survives and it isn't all carbon, that would go a long way to arguing that the charcoal imparts a certain wood taste. (With Dickel, the method of making the charcoal or subjecting it to the whiskey, not to mention considerations of the volume of white dog exposed to the charcoal as mentioned by Todd, would presumably explain why the effect is different for that whiskey).

Gary

sailor22
08-27-2012, 11:04
But there is specific mention on this site that there is a difference for each whiskey in how long the wood planks are dried and aged. Woodford Reserve is stated to be nine months but nothing about Jack.

Reference the Woodford Seasoned Oak that seems to have a lot of extra wood flavor. Along with all the variables mentioned, the length of time the wood used for the barrel is seasoned will play a part.

Gillman
08-27-2012, 13:35
Good point, and I need to try that.

Gary

fishnbowljoe
08-27-2012, 15:52
P.S. It has been a while since I've had Green Label Jack but generally it seemed younger than Black Label, or less complex anyway. To my best recollection, the woody note I get in Jack is lesser there: this may point to an effect imparted by the barrel the longer it is stored and/or is "active" through placement high in the ricks.

I believe that the Jack Daniels Green Labels is from barrels that don't quite meet the taste profile of the regular Old No. 7. I remember a funny story about the Green Label. Not sure if it's true or not, but I seem to recall this happened in New York. When the Green Label first appeared on shelves there, the rumor was that it was a new "special" bottling. Folks flocked to the liquors stores, and the stuff just flew off the shelves. :lol:

camduncan
08-27-2012, 17:11
I'll follow Thad's example and go back through my video library looking for clues. I've got several interviews and tasting clips featuring Jeff Arnett, as well as the Nat Geo Megafactories documentary. There might be some info there (that I can't remember) that gives us clues. Even if there's not, it'll be a fun way to spend my lunch hour :D

T Comp
08-27-2012, 21:28
And as long as we are talking Jack Daniels I though some may be interested reading (or rereading what they posted) this Jack Daniels thread started back in 2000 and bumped then by Gary in 2004. Though the "why" of its woodiness wasn't directly at issue it was lurking in the background. I recall reading other whiskey reviewers refer to the SB being the Islay of American Whiskeys and I'm now thinking they read it here first and were plagiarizing Gary :shocked: :grin:.

http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/showthread.php?280-Jack-Daniels

tmckenzie
08-28-2012, 05:19
I think that the green label is what is stored on the first few floors of the warehouses. I prefer the green label myself.

Gillman
08-28-2012, 09:35
Thad, thanks for the "look back", I tend to forget myself some of the previous discussions on Jack in which I participated and as you saw, discussions were ongoing before I joined the board.

I feel my comments at the time still largely apply with an important exception: I no longer get a "shellac" taste in some Jack. I've mentioned a number of times recently that I feel Jack has improved in recent years, and the absence of such notes is an example again IMO.

I forgot that maple syrup test with KC, I'll have to try that again, and many here would agree I think on a mapley note in Jack. Probably it comes from part of the charcoal that is uncarbonised as would the wood taste proper unless the latter is from a particular method of seasoning barrels used for Jack. Toasting itself is a kind of (mild) carbonization after all...

As for charring barrels and Islay analogies, I've felt for some time that Scots and Scots-Irish immigrants might have missed the phenolic tang of Scots and Irish whiskeys - at the time Irish whiskey used peated malt. And so charred barrels and/or leaching white whiskey through wood charcoal might have been used in Pennsylvania and the South to impart a similar quality.

In the case of charcoal leaching (and indeed barrel aging), it seems undeniable that this was a rectification technique - a way to take something objectionable out of the whiskey, oils and other congeners. But there could have been multiple reasons for using these techniques, perhaps the smoky taste of Jack and indeed bourbon to a degree reminded people of Scots and Irish whiskey - denoted whiskey to them in a word - but the spirit also tasted better through removal of objectionable congeners, the "hog tracks".

More power to anyone who wants to try to develop that or thought of it on their own, but it's one of those things that really can't be proved or disproved and the history is too far back to find anything new, unfortunately!

Gary

mrt
09-15-2012, 10:49
Very interesting thread and my special thanks to T Comp for the informative insight. For my part, I like JD and that's it! With or without Coke depends on my mood :)