Editor’s Note: These whiskeys were provided to us as review samples 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 links towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
Jack Daniel’s recently released #8 and #9 of the Distillery Series, a line that gives the distillery’s Master Tasters and other employees a chance to explore new or unusual types of finishing barrels and wood treatments. These unique, experimental whiskeys are made in small quantities and exclusively released in Tennessee.
In a press release announcing these releases, Master Distiller Chris Fletcher explained how having their own barrel-making program gives them the flexibility to experiment with different wood types and treatments, allowing them “to see how different materials and techniques can impart new flavors and aromas.”
The Jack Daniel’s Distillery Series Toasted Maple Barrel Rye, the eighth, was aged for about four years in charred, new white oak barrels and finished in high-toast, no-char maple barrels for about a year. The ninth in the series, the Jack Daniel’s Distillery Series Toasted Barrel Finished Rye, was aged for five years in charred, new white oak barrels and finished for about three years in high-toast, no-char oak barrels.
Assistant Distiller Lexie Phillips crafted the ninth selection, and her husband, Josh, who also works at Jack Daniel’s, selected the eighth.
Past selections in this series have included a hickory-smoked whiskey and a whiskey finished with Jamaican allspice (pimento) wood. It’s thrilling to see what will come next, and encouraging to see a company so rooted in history have a little fun.
Tasting Notes: Jack Daniel’s Distillery Series Toasted Maple Barrel Rye
Appearance: This is golden brown in color with a yellow undertone.
Nose: This rye opens up with deep notes of blood orange zest, crème brûlée, and rose oil. There’s no hiding the fact that this is the maple barrel finished whiskey of the pair. There’s a bit of breakfast-y notes of Cheerios, orange marmalade, and white bread toast.
Palate: On the palate, the rose and grains note are stronger on the back than at the start. I think the high proof mutes the aromatics; hinting that this really needs water to open up. The body is full and creamy with very fine tannins. The finish has notes of brewed black tea, toasted walnuts, gingerbread cookies, and yellow banana. A dash of water brings this all together, with notes of sultana raisins, fresh mint, and maple nut fudge. This is tasty, though the maple character and texture becomes a bit cloying. I very much prefer it with water or over ice.
Tasting Notes: Jack Daniel’s Distillery Series Toasted Barrel Finished Rye
Appearance: This rye is deep mahogany in color.
Nose: There’s a note of hot metal and burnt tire at first sniff. It’s a rather curmudgeonly nose, with herbal notes like Ricola. With time, the vanilla blossoms, becoming pungent, unleashing notes of toasted pumpernickel bread and angel food cake.
Palate: I pick up fiery notes of cinnamon candies and lush notes of vanilla like frosted sugar cookies. There’s a more savory character and a lighter body than its partner, though it also has some persistent, fine-grained tannins. The alcohol gives it a powerful impact but great balance.
I especially enjoyed the Jack Daniel’s Distillery Series Toasted Maple Barrel Rye at first, but its maple and nut notes seemed a little overbearing and tiresome after a few sips. It has a feel of a good dessert whiskey, or perhaps something to pair with fall and winter desserts. The strictly oak-aged release felt better composed, with a lifted note to its body and aromatics.