Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by the party behind it. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link in this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
Who among us never had a moment in our lives where our flirtation with Jack Daniel’s didn’t evolve (or devolve) into something a little more devoted and perhaps even…ahem, toxic? From country tinged jukebox hymns to urban legends about Old Blue Eyes himself’s fondness for the dram, to one of the greatest horror movies of all-time , to regular old Americans getting a little too worked up and conflating badassery with intolerance, there is something about the Old Number 7 that has become inextricably woven into the fabric of Americana.
This has been the case so much so that, despite branching out in recent years with new products, some genuinely interesting and others mere gimmicks, when one hears the name Jack Daniel’s it’s still the Old Number 7 we see in our mind’s eye.
But finally last year, after decades of relying on that iconic black & white labeled bottle as practically the sole face associated with the signature name (aside from a few strategically employed global marketing schemes ), Jack Daniel’s released a 10-year-aged Tennessee Whiskey.
After the success of last year’s release, dubbed ‘Batch 01,’ which itself was the first age-statement release since old Jack himself was alive, the company doubled down and released not only a second 10-year-aged expression, but their inaugural 12-Year-Old Tennessee Whiskey to boot.
The results thus far are, dare I say it, solid revitalizations of their classic high corn mash bill. The 12-Year-Old features an aromatic personality that feels like a more studious, almost aristocratic interpretation of the classic Jack Daniel’s nose. This one is much more tobacco and leather forward, with the recognizable sweet fruit character taking a welcome back seat. On the palate it’s much the same.
The maturation team really went and let their oak freak colors fly as, even at a robust 107 proof, you get distinctly dominant wood and tobacco notes.
Jack Daniel’s 12-Year-Old Tennessee Whiskey, like all their releases, relies on the classic mash bill of 80% corn, 12 % malted barley, and 8% rye, but this is the first release I’ve tasted where they really allowed the overall experience to be something other than a distinctly Jack Daniel’s experience.
While the results are mixed and a little unbalanced, it is nevertheless a welcome addition to their newly expanding catalog.
Tasting Notes: Jack Daniel’s 12-Year-Old Tennessee Whiskey
Vital Stats: 107 proof (53.5% ABV); 12 years old; mash bill: 80 % corn, 12% malted barley, 8% rye; 750ml; $80.
Appearance: Polished mahogany. Low viscosity and a brilliant clarity.
Nose: That extra two years in oak really kicked the strong banana notes of the 10 year into the background and gives the 12 year a much more classic tobacco, leather, and toffee aroma right up front. It’s a very pleasing aroma too, not super aggressive, and the banana notes gently intertwine themselves around the smoke and leather. Time in the glass gave way to more pure vanilla and a touch of candied strawberry and wet cement.
Palate: Aggressively oaky. Lots of very grippy tannin here and a little too much tannic astringency for my taste. (A touch of water softens that and releases some cherry and Kola nut flavors.) But there is lovely tobacco and leather all over the palate too (I haven’t wanted to smoke a cigar this bad in a long time). It’s hot, and the alcohol still comes on without the roundness I’d hope for after 12 years in the barrel but it does give way to nice cinnamon, caraway, and clove notes.
The finish has a decent length and really leaves that smokey touch sitting in your brain as though begging you to light a pipe, pick up an old William Faulkner book and relax against the night reclining in your favorite leather-bound chair.
Whiskey Review: Jack Daniel's 12-Year-Old Tennessee Whiskey
It’s kind of wonderful what an extra, unrestrained, two years of sitting in oak and heat can do to something you thought you knew so well. Yes, this is Jack Daniel’s but it’s a Jack Daniel who learned how to refine his exuberance into something that, while still forceful (sometimes overbearingly so) feels more like a world-travelled twin brother than merely the man himself dressed in new clothes.
It’s still a choppy, out-of-balance sipper, and while I like the ways in which the oak has relegated some of the sweeter, fruitier notes to the background, the oak itself is now being a bit of a bully in ways that aren’t always the most pleasant. All in all however, it is again a welcome addition to the Jack Daniel’s club and, amongst their current offerings, likely the one I would reach for first.
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Jason McBeth is a hospitality professional and consultant with nearly 15 years experience in fine dining beverage programs, including six different Michelin Star and/or James Beard award-winning restaurants. As a consultant he has developed and set up unique cocktail programs in markets from Los Angeles, to Lincoln, NE to Richmond,...