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What does everybody out there think of the higher-end Jack Daniels products: Gentlemen Jack and Barrel House 1 (think that's the name of it)? Recommended? Worth the money?

By way of context, let me say that I don't have a problem with the regular green and black-label Jack. It's not my favorite brand of whiskey, but it's drinkable enough. Between the two I think I prefer the green-label Jack. I don't usually like light whiskey, but that liquorice taste is pretty unusual, and I think it can be pretty overwhelming in the black-label Jack.

doug

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Hi Doug,

First of all, since J.D. is technically not a "bourbon" we need to remember that we can only keep this thread going as long as it's okay with Jim. There *is* a Canadian Whiskey thread going on in the Rye section, and I've been amazed that Jim allows so much discussion there. But then, I don't see that Rye is any more properly "bourbon" than Tennessee is. Anyway, if Jim doesn't mind, I'll jump in here...

Jack Daniel's gets a lot of abuse from bourbon-drinkers, not because there's anything wrong with it, but because it's considered to be basically a low-tier whiskey which has always appealed to the general populace (as does Budweiser & Miller beer). Add to that an agressive (and somewhat annoying) marketing policy (which dates all the way back to Lem Motlow and the original Jack Daniels himself), and it becomes an easy target for elitists of all kinds, especially bourbon drinkers. In reality, they make (and have always made) an excellent and VERY consistant product. And they take great pains (and spend a lot of time and money) to include all the extra steps needed to make the product just as fine today as it ever was. That can't be said for all the others. You may (as I do) disagree with Jimmy Bedford and his predecessors about the flavor, but know that they've made every effort to make sure that it tastes just that way and no other. And that it tastes just like it always has (I don't have any old bottles of J.D. to prove it, but I can verify that many bourbon whiskeys no longer taste the way they once did). And, of course, they haven't been America's leading maker of whiskey all these years 'cause no one likes their product.

Now Doug, have you ever tasted Baker's? Or Blanton's? Or Elijah Craig? Isn't it amazing that these fine beverages could be made by the same people (and from the same ingredients) as Jim Beam, Ancient Age, or Heaven Hill? In much the same way, if there is anyone out there who has passed up the chance to sample Jack Daniel's Single Barrel, I implore you, hesitate no longer. This is a world-class whiskey in any right. I can't believe the same people make it.

I have a bottle of Barrel House 1 (they don't make it any more), but I won't open it until I can get another full bottle. I believe it contains 90 proof whiskey, which is what the REAL Jack Daniels used to be before they diluted it to its current 86. Commemmorative bottlings and foreign exports are still bottled at 90. You wouldn't think a mere four proof points would make a difference but it does. The green label is not available everywhere, just in a few states. That's the one Jack Daniels would have recognized. The black label didn't exist in his lifetime -- it was created by Lem Motlow in tribute to Jack after he died.

By the way, if you like Tennessee whiskey, you absolutely, positively, must try a bottle of George Dickel (I prefer the No.12, but if you like JD Green Label you might choose the No. 8). The flavor is more pronounced in both products, and a third (a ten-year-old special reserve) is really fine.

-John Lipman-

http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

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I guess I will jump in here also. I visited the Jack Daniel's distillary in the 1980's and had a great time. Really nice people, nostalgic product, traditional ways. I asked the guide how many people worked there, and he replied "about half of them". You gotta love people like that. And I really wanted to love their whiskey also, but....... I consider the black label rough. I have tried to give it a chance on several occasions, but have come away severely disappointed each time. And the price, $ 18 + per 750 ml, the same as Makers Mark, come on. Based on John's comments I will try the green label sometime.

And now the good news. I received a bottle of Jack Daniel's 1904, 90 proof. It was not only drinkable, but enjoyable. I e-mailed the distillary, who were very prompt in their reply that it is the same 5 year old whiskey as the regular black jack, but bottled at the higher proof. This is hard for me to believe, it taste like they are hand selecting barrels, (but I do not know this). The bottle was real cool also, with the cork topped by a brass knob and the words "Jack Daniel's" written on the side of the cork. Somehow, the sour mash taste seems more prominate in the Tennessee whiskies.

Gentleman Jack is the same 4 to 6 year whiskey as the regular Jack Daniel's that has been through the charcoal filtering a second time. It is filtered this way both before it goes into the barrel and after it has aged in the barrel. Gentleman Jack is very smooth and enjoyable. I do find the regular bourbons quite a bit more interesting. For just sipping and smoothness, Gentleman Jack does make my short list of favorite whiskies. It does strike me a bit odd, though, that they would go to the trouble of aging the whiskey in oak barrels for years to pick up all of the oak flavors, and then run the whiskey through charcoal to take a bunch of this same taste out.

I agree that Jack Daniel's does go to a lot of expence and trouble to charcoal filter their product, even going to the trouble of burning their own maple. At one time I thought that this made Tennessee whiskey special. Then, when I discovered the better bourbons, who could get a better result, including smoothness, without the same charcoal filtering, I began to rethink this position. It must be more difficult to make a great bourbon by keeping the bad taste componets out of the mix from the start, rather than filtering them out with charcoal after distillation. I am thankful that we have such a rich whiskey heritage and craftmanship here in the United States, and that would be poorer without Jack Daniel's. But please, do try the others(Evan WIlliams Single Barrel and Elijah Craig 12 year old (a little smokey)are about the same price and much more satisifying). I meet so many people who drink Jack Daniel's on occasion because it is one of the few whiskies that they can name. (and most of the Jack Daniel's drinkers I know mix with something, usually Coke, where presumably it takes the strong rough Jack Daniel's taste to still be tasted through the Coke syrup).

I also want to second John's vote for George Dickle, much better thank Jack Daniel's, and the very product that got me started on American Whiskies. I like the number 8 and the number 12, but I must say that the George Dickle Special Reserve is not worth the extra money (about $ 33 Arkansas money) in my humble and uncultured opinion, of course.

Mark A. Mason, El Dorado, Arkansas

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John,

I allow and to some degree encourage divergent discourse in these forums. Foremost because it would be futile to attempt to contain it, and secondly because standards simply cannot kept if there is no comparative value by which to judge them.

That being said; carry on gentlemen, you have my rapt attention.

Regards,

Jim Butler

StraightBourbon.com

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I have always regarded the charcoal filtering process practiced by Daniel's and Dickel as an aging shortcut, much like the practice of periodically heating masonry warehouses in winter. Both are venerable techniques, just slightly less natural than simply letting time take its course. You might even look at barrel rotation the same way.

Since JD is the #1 seller, other makers like to take shots at them. One typical shot is that the charcoal filtering lets them get away with selling a relatively young whiskey ("Four years and a day," as one put it) for a premium price.

- chuck

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Thanks for all the input so far from everybody. I like to get comments on the higher-end stuff before I buy it, mainly 'cause I ain't got tons of money and want the investment to be worth it.

I have tried Dickel #8 and remember liking it a great deal. I agree that it's a better brand than Jack.

You know, in retrospect it's unusual that such a distinctive whiskey got to be so popular in this country. The more I think about it, that liquorice taste is strange. Not bad, really, but odd. I can't think of anything out there to compare it too, anyhow.

Why is the green label Jack only available in a few states?

Thanks again,

doug

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  • 4 weeks later...
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Just wanted to report back that I finally coughed up enough $$$ for Gentleman Jack and it's quite good -- easily the best of the Jack Daniels line I've tasted to date. Sweeter than the Green Label, but not disgustingly so -- the liquorice is still there but nowhere near so heavy as it is in JD Black. Recommended for anyone who wants to sample the Jack line but doesn't want it to be an unpleasant experience. When I'm feeling especially rich I'll try the Single Barrel.

doug

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  • 4 years later...

Yes but, having bought a bottle recently of Jack Daniel (the regular black label, now 80 proof) I must express admiration for the flavor and skill inherent in this product. The color (in this sample) is quite dark, about as dark as the Single Barrel version (I examined the colours of different bottles of the same brand - the black label - at the store and some seemed darker than others; I bought the darkest I could find). Flavour: charcoal, smoked wood, very balanced, there is the "candy"-like JD taste, the hint of dark fruit noted by Chuck in the Book, and the result is very drinkable, fine whiskey. I don't get in this sample any immature flavors, it all melds together well, with an oak backstop. This is very good, I prefer it to the Single Barrel because evidently the mingling of many barrels produces a complexity and balance the singleton, characterful as it is, cannot aspire to.

Gary

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Yes, I know. There is a trove of information on these boards, and sometimes there is nothing like a message of years past to prime a current thought or development. Chuck's comments I bumped on JD are very much in line with his comments in the Book, clearly he has thought about these matters for a while and is remarkably consistent. Perhaps one small area where I disagree is where the Book notes that JD can be unexciting (I think Chuck says boring). I don't find this although it is not a complex product, not even the Single Barrel expression. If anything the black label is more complex while the Single Barrel is more "out there", showing all the attributes in spades: charcoal, wood flavour, sweetness, candy-like, but not as melded as the black label. Anyway, JD is a distinctive product, probably (as the Book says too) consistent over the years and close to how it always was, a classic. It is a survivor of a bygone time, which despite, or maybe because of, its ownership by a large company remains an honest-to-goodness American original.

Gary

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I don't have a lot of experience drinking Jack outside of my college days grin.gif. However, I've read that JBeam Black has out ranked even JD single barrel in some tastings.

Considering the considerable price differences, it doesn't seem like a hard decision to make. Maybe I'm wrong...

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Gary - I feel validated by your tasting comments on JD, which are much more eloquently stated than my Big Mac/hamburger analogy!

After thinking about it, I think JD has captured a certain flavor with the charcoal filtering that I really like; GJ has it in spades, which I like even more. Dickel has a flavor that approaches it, but is not quite there for me.

In a way, could you liken it to McKendrick, the mesquite flavored whiskey? That flavor I did NOT like, but I could envision someone being drawn to it, as it is very distinctive.

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Dave, I have never tasted McKendrick but would like to. Personally, I like the burned wood taste that charcoal filtering can impart. It reminds me of the burned taste of Islay whiskey and (before I think you joined the board) I offered the theory that perhaps Craig and Crow, Scottish-Americans who are associated with developing (methodically) the aging of whiskey in charred barrels, may have been trying to emulate the peaty whisky they knew from back home. This might explain why new barrels were thus treated, for example. Last night I had a "dram" of JD Single Barrel and added a very little water, probably only enough to drop the proof to 85 or so. I found it improved the drink a lot, taking away a slight alcohol burn and deepening the lignin and smoky sweetness. It had a lot of depth, more than I would have thought possible, initially. Some Jacks (of either expression) are more smoky than others; I like the smoky ones and correlatively, like Dickels less which never really taste as smoky as JD can. Some bourbons aged much longer just don't get much smoke in them, e.g., Knob Creek; I like it still, for different reasons.

Gary

Nota bene: Maybe char and smoky flavors (including peat smoke) do not (chemically) alter the objectionable congeners but just cover them over.

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I like JD no7 a lot. I often think about how it would be received if it was a small batch product. Such a unique flavour. Now its a long long way from being my favourite whisky, but when I drink it I always enjoy it.

Cheers,

B.

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After a search, I found your earlier post. Interesting theory, which makes sense to me.

At the risk of belaboring this, I think those who dislike JD are just turned off by the "smoky" (great description) flavor you describe. I can't remember if it was LeNell or not, but someone in response to an earlier post of mine ranked GJ as their least favorite TN whiskey. This makes perfect sense to me, as I think GJ has the strongest smoky flavor.

Inspired by your post, I poured a GJ over ice last night and savored that smoky flavor. Then, for a change-up, I poured an Old Grand Dad 114 over ice. Apples and oranges, a completely different beverage. It was almost like going from...well, scotch to bourbon! Not exactly, but the contrast was huge.

I think those who grudgingly state preference for GD 12 if pressed probably do so because it tastes less like JD and more like bourbon than any of the TN whiskey choices. Once again, makes sense to me.

I guess the contingency from whom I don't recall hearing is those who LOVE GD over JD or bourbon. Jeff would probably argue that such a contingency should just buy some cheap bourbon and chew a mouthful of Flintstones vitamins before drinking to save some money. grin.gif

If I recall correctly, you mentioned that Chuck feels the charcoal is a short-cut for aging, a cheat of sorts. Maybe so. That criticism is a great illustration of the artistry of American whiskey making. Making your own charcoal, filtering the whiskey through it over three days, determining when to change it by trained tasting, and aging for four years...and you can still be VALIDLY (I feel) challenged by experts as using a short cut. In our pre-packaged/disposable/fast food age, hearing that criticism is refreshing.

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These very pertinent comments inspired me to do an experiment. I poured a small tot of regular Jack Daniel's. Then ditto of Knob Creek. I added a very small amount (literally two eyedrops) of maple syrup to the Knob Creek. Remarkable how it brought the taste much closer to that of JD. I infer that it is not just the charred (charcoal-influenced) taste that makes JD what it is. It is the MAPLE wood charred taste. It is easy to forget that the charcoal through which Jack is famously filtered prior to barreling is burned maple wood, not oak wood. The lightly maple sugar-dosed Knob Creek did not taste exactly like Jack, but it tasted much closer to it than it did before the maple sugar addition. I am sure the same would result from adding a smidgeon of maple sugar to Old Grandad 114. Clearly maple sap caramelised and scorched by fire leaches into the whiskey in the Tennessee process adding its particular savour. Adding maple syrup to finished whiskey (maple sap concentrated by heavy boiling) is not quite the same thing but there is a similarity of flavour to a point. This suggests the flavour of Jack Daniels depends a lot on caramelised maple sugars. In this sense, while broadly part of the bourbon family, Tennessee whiskey really does seem a breed apart.

Gary

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  • 1 month later...

Just an update on some work "vatting" Jack Daniels at home. I realise not everyone has the time or inclination to do these experiments, but I find the results quite interesting. This time, I used 50% Jack Black Label, 35% Jack Single Barrel, and 15% from a second bottle of Single Barrel. The Black Label was quite smoky tasting and rich, with the trademark aromatic quality of Jack. Some people call that taste "lacquer", or "liquorice", or "candy-like". The Single Barrel contributing the 35% was similarly aromatic but had less smoky character and less body. I liked it for its alcohol heft but it didn't otherwise match the flavor of the Black Label. The second Single Barrel was much bigger in body than the other one and had much less of the aromatic quality, it could almost pass for a bourbon. If tasted blind I think many people would think it was a bourbon. The combination of the three produced a blend different than each on its own. Very rich-tasting with good length and a backbone of alcohol bringing the brew to about 86% or so, maybe higher. It might even be better if I reversed the percentages of the Single Barrels. One might say why bother, since they are all from the same company and production method (more or less) and combining them is like ... going around in circles. smile.gif Well, not really. I found a noticeable difference when comparing the vatting to the three components on their own. Sure they are all similar but taste differences are evident and the results would interest some tasters, I believe.

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At an event last night, we were tasting Gentleman Jack. All of the tasting samples, in wine glasses, had been poured before we arrived and topped with paper lids to concentrate the nose. When we "opened" the Gentleman Jack, Terry Sullivan--who was sitting next to me--and I looked at each other and grimaced. I've always described that first blast of Jack as solventy, like shellac. Terry said "turpentine," which I agree is closer to the mark.

As I thought about it later, I realized that I feel embarassed for Brown-Forman everytime they try to present Jack Daniel's as a fine spirit. I'm sorry, it just isn't.

The other products we sampled, on the other hand, surely were:

<ul type="square"> [*]Appleton Estate Rum (One of the extra-aged expressions, I forget which). Very good; sweet, rich, with nice vanilla from the oak (refilled Jack Daniel's casks, by the way). [*]Woodford Reserve Distillers Select Bourbon. [*]Ardbeg Uigeadail Single Malt Scotch. Very smoky and flavorful, as unsubtle as a bourbon. [*]Amarula Cream Liqueur (from South Africa, made from the fruit of the Marula tree). Imagine Bailey's but instead of whiskey, something I can best describe as fig brandy for the underlying spirit.

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Chuck: Did anyone mention when the Ardbeg Uigeadail would be available? I've been awaiting its arrival for some time.

SpeedyJohn

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The shellac-like (I call it mint candy) scent surely must derive from maple charcoal leaching. What else could explain it if, as even B-F says, the product is made in every other way like Bourbon? I think combusted maple tree cellulose and sap must explain that taste. The fact that Gentleman shows even more of it than the other Jack Daniels suggests to me maple leaching explains the signature taste because as we know Gentleman gets a further filtration in the same substance even though it may not be as thorough as the pre-barreling leaching. I think though a second charcoal treatment may be too much of a good thing. The effect in the regular Jack and some of the Single Barrels is much less than in the Gentleman. I like Jack Daniel still, it is an acquired taste I think, especially when consumed neat. It is at its best in some of the Single Barrel bottlings. Some of those have much less of the candy-like scent and flavour than the Black Label and Gentleman and more, well, bourbon-like flavours. Also, the higher proof of the Single Barrel suits the taste profile of Jack Daniel (I am now coming to believe).

Gary

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Chuck: Did anyone mention when the Ardbeg Uigeadail would be available? I've been awaiting its arrival for some time.

I thought it already was. They've been promoting it since the Spring. What does your local whiskey monger tell you?

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SpeedyJohn: Ardbeg Uigeadail has been available at one store in my area (Western MA) since early April. Costs $66 per bottle. That store ran out about 2 months ago, but I have been assuming it would be restocked. I initially bought 3 bottles and was disappointed at first: too little peat, too much sherry. The Ardbeg TEN, in comparison, is just about perfect right out of the gate. Like Chuck said elsewhere, nice clean finish. But the Uigeadail is sneaky: it grows on you and I will probably lay in another bottle. First, though, the Hidden Malts (Caol Ila 12 and 18 and Clynelish 14) that I've been awaiting for years. And more Black maple Hill bourbons. And Stagg 2004 (I hope). And Laphroaig 10 cask strength (which is also great). Good luck getting the Uigeadail! Cheers, Ed V.

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It's been listed as a stock code in the PLCB's product catalog for a few months, but no bottles have ever reached the stores.

SpeedyJohn

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  • 11 months later...

It's always a pleasure to spend a few minutes one-on-one with one of the master distillers, as I enjoyed during a Festival gazebo gathering with Bill Friel, emeritus of Barton. We were tasting a '30s Glenmore mini, and he took a single whiff/taste and exclaimed, "Aldehydes!". I was tempted to say, "God Bless You!" because of his force of expression and twitch of nose, but instead had the presence of mind instead to respond, "Aldehydes?" You see, that's how I learn stuff.

Anyway, after that talk and some Googling, I had picked up some tidbits of info I figured were interesting, but generally inapplicable. Aldehydes can be formed by oxidizing a primary alcohol. Oxidating a secondary alcohol gives a ketone. (Nothing happens when we try to oxidize a tertiary alcohol, by the way.)

OK -- I told you that story to tell you this one: grin.gif

I've been reading about Gary Gillman's experiments with Jack Daniel's bottlings, and realized I hadn't bought one in quite a while -- since before, in fact, the change two years ago now to 80 proof. So, I picked up a couple of 100ml bottles (great size!) to 'play' with. I just opened one: "Aldehydes!"

Specifically, I think I'm identifying acetaldehyde, which imparts a pungent (think acetone/nail polish) nose of a somewhat nutty quality; and butyraldehyde, which puts off both an odor and taste of green bananas and green apples. (Yes, I looked up the names! searching.gif)

I've noticed the fruitiness in several young whiskeys before (that Glenmore was 23 months old), most prominently a very fine pear/apple quality to the original Michter's (Pennsylvania) Sour Mash Whiskey. As we repute here, Jack Daniel's is a youngish 4 years or so old.

So, thanks to Bill for the knowledge, and Gary for the inspiration. I still don't know what I'm going to vat to this JD, but at least I have some idea what I'm working with.

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When I nose or taste Jack Daniels, one thought has always come to my mind: paint thinner! Nail polish is close enough.

Tim

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