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  1. #1
    Bourbonian of the Year 2011
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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?

    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.

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

    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

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

    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.....

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Leopold View Post
    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.
    Thad

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

    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.
    JOE

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    "Every bottle is its own learning experience." -- Sensei Ox-sama

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

    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.
    Last edited by Gillman; 08-25-2012 at 15:07.

 

 

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