Jack Daniel’s whiskeys are certainly good – you don’t get to be the best-selling whiskey brand in the world without a decent product … and millions spent in great marketing, but I wanted to know the reasons why. After some thorough research, I have six reasons why Jack Daniel’s whiskeys are so good but sadly and completely connectedly, no bottles of Jack Daniel’s whiskey left.
1. They Have Great Flavors
The first reason why Jack Daniel’s whiskeys are so good is also the most important – they have great flavors. Yes, some Jack Daniel’s expressions have more flavors, bolder flavors and more intense flavors than others, but since with one exception they all start out as Old No. 7, they all have the same basic – and great tasting flavor profile which is:
Vanilla, oak, banana, honey, pepper, caramel and cinnamon
And the reasons why Jack Daniel’s whiskeys have great flavors is because:
- They’re made (with one exception) from 80% corn, 8% rye and 12% malted barley. The high corn content – which is higher than many other whiskeys, gives it some of its sweet flavors.
- They’re made with natural spring water that comes from a two-mile deep limestone cave on the distillery’s site. The water is clean and pure because it has passed through many layers of limestone.
- They’re distilled just once and not twice like most whiskeys, so that they can retain more flavors from the grain. There’s no point having a mash bill of 80% corn and then distilling all the sweet flavors from it.
- They’re aged in new, charred, American white oak barrels for a minimum of four years, after which they’re sampled every few months until a taster decides based on its flavors, that it’s ready.
2. They’re Smooth
The second reason why Jack Daniel’s whiskeys are so good is because they’re smooth, and they’re smooth because after they’re distilled they’re then charcoal filtered, which removes many of its unpleasant compounds and impurities.
Legally, all Tennessee whiskeys have to be charcoal filtered before being aged but there are some unique aspects to Jack Daniel’s version of the process.
- They make their own charcoal by dousing pallets of hard sugar maple with raw, unaged Jack Daniel’s whiskey and setting it on fire. That way petroleum isn’t used as fuel and won’t add it’s taste to the whiskey.
- They grind the charcoal down into small pieces to increase the surface area for the off-flavor molecules that are being filtered out, to stick to.
- They use 10-foot-deep tanks / vats and enough charcoal to fill them. It actually takes the distillate three to five days to reach the bottom.
It’s no wonder then that Jack Daniel’s whiskeys are so smooth. In fact, one of their expressions (Gentleman Jack) is charcoal filtered twice – once before going into the barrels and once after being matured, to remove any remaining impurities. This particular expression is even smoother than the smooth Jack Daniel’s is known for.
3. They Have a Wide Appeal
Jack Daniel’s whiskeys are good because some of them (Old No. 7, Tennessee Rye and Gentleman Jack) are simple and easy to drink, which gives them a wider appeal as they’re accessible not only to the connoisseur who likes to spend time nosing the whiskey and exploring its flavors, but also to the casual whiskey drinker who has no idea what all that means.
It also gives them a wide appeal because simpler and easier to drink whiskeys are more versatile than complex ones.
Complex whiskeys are supposed to be sipped neat over a long time so that all the flavors can be detected and enjoyed. For the same reason they’re not used that much in cocktails as many of its flavors would be lost when mixed with something else. And they certainly wouldn’t be used for whiskey shots where you barely have time to taste anything.
It probably also has something to do with the fact that complex whiskeys are usually more expensive and so would be considered wasted if drunk in any way other than neat.
On the other hand, the simpler Jack Daniel’s whiskeys have enough flavors to be enjoyed neat by the casual whiskey drinker, but not so many that they wouldn’t want to mix them in a cocktail or drink them in a shot.
4. They Mix Well with Other Drinks
Jack Daniel’s whiskeys taste great in cocktails and mixed drinks, which is another reason why they’re so good. Some popular whiskey cocktails that taste great with Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 include:
- Old fashioned
- Whiskey sour
- Hot toddy
Some drinks that go well with Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 are:
- Apple juice
- Ginger ale
- Soda water
And most famously coca cola.
Jack Daniel’s make three whiskey liqueurs (which are not technically whiskeys because they’re only 35%ABV and contain caramel coloring) that are a blend of Old No. 7 and honey, cinnamon or apple liqueur. The Jack Daniel’s whiskey goes really well with these flavors.
5. They Can Be Complex
Some Jack Daniel’s whiskeys are (relatively) complex and have more flavors that are bolder and more intense. If good flavors make the simpler Jack Daniel’s whiskeys good, then better flavors make the more complex Jack Daniel’s whiskeys … better than good.
There are three (relatively) complex Jack Daniel’s whiskeys.
The Sinatra Select
This expression is (obviously) named after Frank Sinatra who was a big fan of Jack Daniel’s. It gets its complexity from being aged in special ‘Sinatra Barrels’ that have deep grooves carved into their staves, which means the whiskey has more exposure to the oak and can therefore acquire more flavors.
The Single Barrel Whiskeys
The Single Barrel Jack Daniel’s whiskeys get their extra complexity from being matured in barrels stored in the uppermost part of the Jack Daniel’s warehouse. That way they’re exposed to more changes in temperature than barrels stored elsewhere, which causes the whiskey they contain to pick up more flavors.
The Barrel Proof Whiskeys
The Barrel Proof Jack Daniel’s whiskeys get their extra complexity from being single barrel whiskeys that are also bottled straight from the barrel at its full proof and not diluted. Since alcohol carries flavor compounds, the higher ABV gives these whiskeys more intense and concentrated flavors.
6. They’re Relatively Cheap
The last reason why Jack Daniel’s whiskeys are good is because they’re relatively cheap.
I say relatively cheap because in comparison to other brands, although some similar-level-of-quality-whiskeys are more expensive than Jack Daniel’s, some are less expensive. You can also get a better whiskey for the same price as a lower quality Jack Daniel’s whiskey. In other words, some Jack Daniel’s whiskeys are too expensive for what they are.
On the other hand, at approximately $26 for Old No. 7, too expensive for what it is can’t be that far off the mark. And at the end of the day, Jack Daniel’s whiskeys (with one or two exceptions) are certainly at the cheaper end of the spectrum, so you can’t go terribly wrong if you do buy a bottle.
Additionally, while some Jack Daniel’s whiskeys are far too expensive for what they are, some are actually well priced. The Sinatra Select is approximately $173 and even though that’s for a 1L bottle and not a 750ml bottle, it’s clear that you’re actually paying for the history and lore that comes with this commemorative bottle, rather than the quality of the whiskey.
On the other hand, the Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel whiskeys are approximately $55, and the Barrel Proof whiskeys are approximately $63 which, considering these are single barrel and barrel proof whiskeys, is very good value for money.