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  1. #1
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    Why is Jack Daniel Woody?

    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

  2. #2
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    Re: Why is Jack Daniel Woody?

    I have no idea as to why, but I agree with you. JDSB is definitely a woody whiskey........ and I like it!

  3. #3
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    Re: Why is Jack Daniel Woody?

    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.

  4. #4
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    Re: Why is Jack Daniel Woody?

    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.
    Thad

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  5. #5
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    Re: Why is Jack Daniel Woody?

    I'm gonna add my two cents, or possibly a nickels worth here.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    Cheers! Joe

    Now I'm gonna go have a pour or two of some Jack Daniels.
    Last edited by fishnbowljoe; 08-26-2012 at 19:20.
    " I never met a Weller I didn't like"

  6. #6
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    Re: Why is Jack Daniel Woody?

    Quote Originally Posted by fishnbowljoe View Post
    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/...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.
    Thad

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  7. #7
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    Re: Why is Jack Daniel Woody?

    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
    Last edited by Gillman; 08-25-2012 at 06:13.

  8. #8
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    Re: Why is Jack Daniel Woody?

    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

  9. #9
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    Re: Why is Jack Daniel Woody?

    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.

  10. #10
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    Re: Why is Jack Daniel Woody?

    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
    Last edited by Gillman; 08-28-2012 at 08:54.

 

 

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