Jack Daniel’s is the best-selling whiskey brand in the world and Jameson is the third best-selling whiskey brand in the world. But apart from that difference – which is probably not that important to you and me, there are several other ones that set these two brands apart. So here are 12 (more relevant) differences between Jack Daniel’s and Jameson whiskeys.
1. Type of Whiskey – Tennessee / Irish
The first difference between Jack Daniel’s and Jameson is that they’re different types of whiskey. Jack Daniel’s is a Tennessee whiskey whereas Jameson is an Irish whiskey.
This may seem unimportant but it’s not. Whiskey types are defined by law and many of the conditions a whiskey must meet to be defined as a particular type of whiskey have to do with how it’s made, which (and this is where it’s important) effects its flavor.
Tennessee whiskey must be:
- Made in the US state of Tennessee
- Made from at least 51% corn
- Distilled to no more than 80%ABV
- Undergo the Lincoln County Process (filtering through charcoal)
- Aged in new, charred oak barrels
- Placed in the barrel at no more than 62.5%ABV
- Bottled at a minimum of 40%ABV
Irish whiskey must be:
- Made in Ireland
- Distilled to no more than 94.8%ABV
- Matured for at least three years in wooden casks
- Bottled at a minimum of 40%ABV
2. The Grains Used to Make Them
Although, with regard to the legal definitions these are the differences between Tennessee and Irish whiskey, there’s still plenty of room for many other differences between Jack Daniel’s and Jameson whiskeys. And one of them is the grains used to make them.
Jack Daniel’s whiskeys are made from a mash bill of 80% corn, 8% rye and 12% malted barley (except the rye whiskeys which are made from a mash bill of 70% rye, 18% corn and 12% malted barley).
Jameson is a blend (more on that in two minutes) of pot still whiskey (more on that in one minute) and grain whiskey. The pot still whiskey is made from malted and unmalted barley, and the grain whiskey is made from maize (corn), although the percentages of each are unknown.
3. Pot Still Whiskey
As mentioned, Jameson is a blend (more on that in one minute) of pot still and grain whiskey, and Jack Daniel’s is not.
Pot still whiskey is only made in Ireland and is whiskey made from malted and unmalted barley, that was distilled in a pot still. Since whiskey made from malted barley only and distilled in a pot still is called malt whiskey, and unmalted barley as well as other grains are usually distilled in a column still, this unusual combination of unmalted barley and pot still distillation is called pot still whiskey.
This means that Jameson is a blend of whiskey distilled in a pot still and whiskey distilled in a column still, whereas all Jack Daniel’s whiskey is distilled in a column still.
This difference between the two is important because pot still distillation is done in batches where the taste of each run is slightly different. That means that in order for Jameson whiskeys to have a consistent taste they have to be blended from the different whiskeys of different runs, different casks and different ages until it tastes the same as previous versions.
This is not what is usually meant by a blended whiskey because we’re not talking about blending different whiskeys but different versions of the same whiskey. Although, as we shall see in less than a minute, it is that too.
4. Blended Whiskey
As mentioned, Jameson is a blend (more on that here) of pot still and grain whiskey and Jack Daniel’s is not.
Once again, this means that the pot still and grain whiskeys need to be blended using the best combinations and proportions of each in order to produce a whiskey that tastes the same as its previous versions.
5. Number of Distillations – One / Three
Distillation separates the alcohol from the water so it can be concentrated but at the same time it also separates out many unpleasant tasting impurities from the grain or the by-products created by the yeast during the fermentation process.
This means that the more times a spirit is distilled the more unwanted flavor compounds are removed and the smoother the whiskey will be. Jameson, like many Irish whiskeys, distills their whiskey three times – which is why Jameson whiskeys are known for being smooth.
Jack Daniel’s on the other hand, only distills their whiskeys once. Ironically, for the same reason that Jameson distills their whiskey three times. You see, while distillation removes unwanted flavor compounds, it also removes wanted flavor compounds. This means that the more times a spirit is distilled the more wanted flavor compounds are removed.
Since Jack Daniel’s has a high percentage of corn in its mash bill, it doesn’t want to lose too much of the sweet flavor that comes from it, so they only distill their whiskeys once.
6. Charcoal Filtration
While this difference has already been mentioned as part of what makes Jack Daniel’s a Tennessee whiskey and Jameson an Irish whiskey, Jack Daniel’s has its own variation on the process which makes it uniquely different.
First, they make their own charcoal by dousing pallets of hard sugar maple with raw, unaged Jack Daniel’s distillate (so that no petroleum contaminates the taste of the whiskey) and setting it on fire. Then they grind down the resulting charcoal into smaller pieces to increase the surface area for the off-flavor molecules that are being filtered out, to stick to.
Finally, the charcoal is placed into 10-foot-deep tanks and the distillate is poured in and works its way to the bottom over three to five days. By the end of the process many impurities in the distillate will have been filtered out so it’s already soft and mellow, even before being placed into the barrels for aging. This is why Jack Daniel’s whiskeys are also known for being smooth.
One of their whiskeys (Gentleman Jack) is charcoal filtered twice, so it’s even smoother than the regular Jack Daniel’s smoothness.
7. The Length of Time Spent Maturing
Although as seen above, there’s no legal minimum aging period for Tennessee whiskey whereas there is for Irish whiskey (3 years), the standard expressions of both Jack Daniel’s and Jameson are aged for at least four years.
However, there is one difference between the two in terms of the length of time their standard expressions are matured, because Jack Daniel’s uses taste as well as time to determine when their whiskeys are ready. Once Jack Daniel’s whiskeys have reached four years old, they will be sampled every few months by one of their tasters, who will determine based on its flavor if the whiskey has matured and is ready to be bottled.
When it comes to the length of time their more complex expressions are matured, there’s far more difference between Jack Daniel’s and Jameson. The more complex Jack Daniel’s whiskeys are aged from anywhere between four and seven years. The Jameson Whiskey Makers Series are aged between five to 12 years but their two 18 year old expressions are aged for … well 18 years.
8. Number And Type of Casks Used For Maturation
Jack Daniel’s and Jameson whiskeys are matured in a different number and type of casks.
Jack Daniel’s whiskeys are matured in new, charred, American white oak barrels. Jameson whiskeys, however, are matured in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry barrels. Which is why you find sherry and fruity flavors in Jameson whiskeys.
Jameson also has two whiskeys (the Caskmates series) that are aged in barrels that were previously used to age beer. This creates whiskeys with some stout or IPA influence. It’s a bit more complicated than that because the previously aged beer now influencing the Jameson whiskey, was itself influenced by what had been aged in the barrels before it, which was – Jameson whiskey.
9. The Different Whiskeys Within Each Brand
There are ten current Jack Daniel’s whiskeys and nine current Jameson whiskeys.
The following table shows the different whiskeys Jack Daniel’s make and their unique characteristics.
|Old No. 7||Standard expression|
|Tennessee Rye||Standard rye expression|
|Tennessee Honey||Combination of whiskey and honey liqueur|
|Tennessee Fire||Combination of whiskey and cinnamon liqueur|
|Tennessee Apple||Combination of whiskey and apple liqueur|
|Gentleman Jack||Charcoal filtered twice|
|Sinatra Select||Aged in barrels with deep grooves carved into their staves|
|Single Barrel Select||Comes from barrels stored in the uppermost part of the warehouse|
|Single Barrel Rye||Comes from barrels stored in the uppermost part of the warehouse|
|Single Barrel Barrel Proof||Comes from barrels stored in the uppermost part of the warehouse and bottled at cask strength|
As you can see, Jack Daniel’s make a standard expression, a standard rye expression, and three drinks that are not technically whiskeys (due to being less than 40%ABV and containing additives) but a combination of whiskey and liqueurs of different flavors.
They also make several more complex whiskeys. Gentleman Jack is charcoal filtered twice. Sinatra Select has deep grooves carved in the staves of the barrels so that the whiskey has more exposure to the oak and can acquire more flavor. The single barrel expressions come from barrels stored in the uppermost part of the Jack Daniel’s warehouse, where increased changes in temperature cause the whiskey’s flavors to become more intense.
The following table shows the different whiskeys Jameson make and their unique characteristics.
|Jameson Irish||Standard expression|
|Black Barrel||Aged in barrels that are charred twice|
|Bow Street 18 Years||Bottled at cask strength|
|Caskmates Stout Edition||Aged in barrels that previously held stout beer|
|Caskmates IPA Edition||Aged in barrels that previously held IPA|
|Cooper’s Croze||Blend of whiskeys from four different barrels|
The Black Barrel is charred twice to give it more intense flavors. Charring barrels breaks down parts of the oak which creates flavor compounds for the whiskey to pick up and absorb, makes it easier for the whiskey to seep further into the wood to pick them up and creates a layer of charcoal that filters out unwanted flavors. Charring barrels twice does all that only even more.
The Caskmates whiskeys are aged in barrels that were previously used to age beer. Distiller’s Safe, Cooper’s Croze and Blender’s Dog are from Jameson’s Whiskey Makers Series, which highlights the effect different parts of the whiskey making process have on the final flavor. Cooper’s Croze highlights the effect of the barrel, which is why so many are used to make it.
10. Alcohol Content
There’s a fair bit of difference between Jack Daniel’s and Jameson in terms of the alcohol content of their whiskeys, as shown in the following table.
|Old No. 7||40%||Jameson Irish||40%|
|Tennessee Rye||45%||Black Barrel||40%|
|Tennessee Honey||35%||18 Years||40%|
|Tennessee Fire||35%||Bow Street 18 Years||54.5% – 55.3%|
|Tennessee Apple||35%||Caskmates Stout Edition||40%|
|Gentleman Jack||40%||Caskmates IPA Edition||40%|
|Sinatra Select||45%||Distiller’s Safe||43%|
|Single Barrel Select||47% & 45%||Cooper’s Croze||43%|
|Single Barrel Rye||45%||Blender’s Dog||43%|
|Single Barrel Barrel Proof||62.5% – 70%|
As you can see, most Jameson whiskeys are 40%ABV. The three whiskeys in the Whiskey Makers Series are all 43%ABV and the different expressions of the cask strength whiskey are between 54.5% – 55.3%ABV.
Jack Daniel’s standard expression is 40%ABV, but the standard rye expression is 45%ABV, and their more complex whiskeys are 45% or 47%ABV which is slightly higher than the ABVs of Jameson’s more complex whiskeys. And the different expressions of the Jack Daniel’s cask strength whiskey are between 62.5% – 70%ABV, which is much higher than any of the Jameson cask strength whiskey expressions.
There’s even more difference between Jack Daniel’s and Jameson whiskeys when it comes to price. The following table shows the approximate price for 750ml bottles (unless otherwise indicated):
|Old No. 7||$25.99||Jameson Irish||$29.99|
|Tennessee Rye||$26.88||Black Barrel||$40.99|
|Tennessee Honey||$37.99||18 Years||$156.46|
|Tennessee Fire||$24.99||Bow Street 18 Years||$179.99|
|Tennessee Apple||$25.29||Caskmates Stout Edition||$34.79|
|Gentleman Jack||$33.99||Caskmates IPA Edition||$34.99|
|Sinatra Select||$172.99 (1L)||Distiller’s Safe||$73.91|
|Single Barrel Select||$54.99||Cooper’s Croze||$71.99|
|Single Barrel Rye||$54.99||Blender’s Dog||$70.90|
|Single Barrel Barrel Proof||$62.99|
As you can see, with the exception of Sinatra Select because it’s a special commemorative whiskey, Jack Daniel’s whiskeys are cheaper than Jameson whiskeys. The standard expressions are cheaper, as are the more combplex ones, although it’s understandable that the two 18 year old Jameson whiskeys are significantly more expensive.
And this is despite the fact that many people think Jack Daniel’s is overpriced.
The last difference between Jack Daniel’s and Jameson whiskeys is also the most important. After all, lots of delicious flavors is (usually) the reason why you’re drinking whiskey in the first place.
The most common flavors in Jack Daniel’s whiskeys are:
Vanilla, oak, banana, honey, pepper, caramel and cinnamon
The most common flavors in Jameson whiskeys are:
Vanilla, honey, caramel, spices, fruit, cinnamon, pepper and oak
As you can see both brands have many flavors in common. This is not surprising when you consider that despite their differences, Jack Daniel’s and Jameson also have many similarities, especially when it comes to things that affect flavor. They’re both:
- Made from (partially) corn and malted barley
- Aged for at least four years
- Aged in new, charred, American white oak barrels (Jack Daniel’s) or ex-bourbon barrels that are essentially old, charred, American white oak barrels (Jameson)
However, there is one important difference between the two brands when it comes to flavor. Jack Daniel’s has a relatively prominent banana flavor and Jameson has a more overall fruitiness and some sherry sweetness. If you prefer one profile over the other or dislike one of them in particular, then for you, this will be the only difference between Jack Daniel’s and Jameson whiskeys that matters.
You can buy any of these whiskeys at drizly.com here.