Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Have just tried ... Jack Daniel's Old No.7

jack daniel's old no.7 bottlesJack Daniel's is one of the most famous American whiskies and brand names in the world. The distillery can be found close to the town of Lynchburg in the state of Tennessee. It was established in 1866 by Jack Daniel and during his lifetime he grew his brand rapidly, which helped Tennessee whiskey become a major player in the American distilling industry. The distillery remained in Jack's family until 1956 when it was sold to Brown Forman, a Kentucky distilling company.

Tennessee whiskey is different from bourbon, which is produced in the state of Kentucky. The ingredients are the same but Tennessee whiskey is filtered through charcoal prior to maturation. This process is lengthy (taking up to 10 days per batch) as the whiskey is dripped throught the charcoal, which by law must come from the sugar maple tree.

The state of Tennessee is a 'dry' state. This means that the sale of alcohol is prohibited, although there are a few small areas where it is allowed. The state once had a proud whiskey heritage but now only two distilleries remain - Jack Daniel's and George Dickel. The industry was savaged by Prohibition between 1920-1933 as everything to do with whiskey production and consumption was banned. Tennessee governors decided to form its own rules as it was a deeply religious state. A form of Prohibition was imposed in 1910, a decade before it happened nationally, and distillation did not become legal again in the state until 1938 - 5 years after national Prohibition finished.

The Old No.7 forms the foundation upon which the Jack Daniel's fortune is built. It is available worldwide and is one of the top selling American whiskies. The origin of the name is unclear as Jack Daniel took the explanation with him to his grave. The colour is a bright amber and the nose is fresh and packed with vanilla and coconut. These are backed up by a sweetness (think of maple syrup), some citrus (orange especially) and a hint of burnt charred smoke (maybe from the charcoal?). The palate has an initial impactful sweetness (imagine sugary caramel), then hits you with vanilla and finally it becomes very woody. This bitterness is actually quite pleasant and balances the sweetness. The finish is dry with some burnt sugar and toasted nuts (coconut again) present.

Jack Daniel's Old No.7 suffers from a poor reputation and for this reason people tend to turn their noses up at it. This reputation comes as it is considered as a mass produced whiskey for mixing. Jack Daniel's and coke is one of the world's favourite drinks, which helps with its popularity. Can that many people be wrong? The argument is this - just because something is popular or mass produced or both, doesn't mean that it cannot be good also. Surely, something has to be good to achieve good sales to the greater worldwide audience. This whiskey does lend itself to be drunk with a mixer or in a cocktail as it gives you powerful flavours up front and is enjoyable but fairly simple after that. The sweetness of coke, for example, balances perfectly the dry and slightly bitter quality that Old No.7 has. It would be good as an occasionally dram on its own, although people may want more complexity. Old No.7 is widely available around the world and a bottle should cost around £15-20.

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