The famed Tennessee Whiskey company has been on a tear of late, dropping three different ryes in the last three months alone. Now it’s setting its sites on something entirely new: its first permanent edition American single malt — finished in oloroso sherry casks, no less.
Ready for the back story? Here’s the details from JD:
Jack Daniel’s American Single Malt is the latest innovation from the Jack Daniel Distillery, featuring a 100% malted barley mash bill that is ground, fermented and distilled in Lynchburg, Tennessee. The special whiskey is charcoal mellowed and then aged in new, charred American oak barrels before being finished in Oloroso Sherry Casks.
“When we began experimenting with a 100% malt grain bill back in 2012, we knew it would be critical to put our own stamp on timeless Single Malt traditions and craft something that was uniquely Jack Daniel’s,” said Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller Chris Fletcher. “There was a lot of excitement surrounding our limited edition American Single Malt Special Release last year, and we are thrilled to now offer Jack Daniel’s American Single Malt to our friends around the world.
We tasted the whiskey live over Zoom with JD master distiller Chris Fletcher, who says the company is not trying to recreate or compete with single malt Scotch. He adds that the single malt uses a different type of malt than what’s used in Old No. 7 and JD Rye (12% of the mashbill in both) — using a type of brewer’s malt instead of a distiller’s malt, which changed the flavor and mouthfeel of the product. The single malt also does get the full 10 feet of charcoal mellowing like JD’s Tennessee Whiskeys — and unlike the smaller 3 feet of mellowing that its ryes go through. The initial aging period of the whiskey in new oak is about 5 years, followed by a whopping 3 years of oloroso sherry finishing (though there are no age statements here). (Fletcher says that finishing time may decline over time, probably to about 2 years eventually.)
With that, let’s give it a try.
The nose here is mellow and nutty, offering gentle notes of shortbread cookies, almond biscotti, with a brown sugar crust. Milk chocolate — very light, almost like a waxy Easter bunny — and vanilla wafers build with time in glass, ultimately dominating.
On the palate, the whiskey shows off a surprisingly creamy mouthfeel. The chocolate notes up top soon reveal the impact of the wood, with quite a bit of char, almost running into green weeds at times. It remains nutty and a little seasonally appropriate with a light pumpkin spice note, but as it sits on the tongue, the oloroso impact really starts to dig in. There’s a rich, raisiny note here, but soon enough that oxidized, old wine quality really starts to dominate, the finish becoming sharp and a bit doughy. Notes of dried fruit do battle with a slight vegetal quality on the fadeout — wholly common with American malt whiskeys — which ultimately leaves the drinker with a light taste of burnt leaves lingering the tongue.
This is far, far from what you normally expect from Jack Daniel’s, a wildly different experience that will likely be love-it-or-hate-it divisive in the market — at least for those who manage to find it: It’s available now, exclusively in travel retail.