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Jack Daniel’s 10 and 12 Year Old

“It is not how old you are but how you are old.” – Jules Renard

Jack Daniel’s is a 157 year old brand that certainly needs no introduction, but their new – and now, annual – Aged Series could use one. For those who are unaware, what began in 2022 with the release of Jack Daniel’s 10-Year-Old Tennessee Whiskey has now been made into a yearly series where the brand aims to showcase their famed distillate in a more mature (and higher proof) form than the Old No. 7 most of us are familiar with. As perhaps the most recognizable American whiskey on the planet that should be immediately appealing to a large swath of the imbibing public, but none more so than whiskey enthusiasts.

If you want to know why, look no further than the full-throated response to their Special Release series, which has grown in popularity each year. This reached a fever pitch with 2021’s Coy Hill High Proof expression. Long overlooked by aficionados due to their ubiquity and, frankly, their disinclination to experiment it seems Jack Daniel’s has turned over a new leaf.

In recently speaking with Master Distiller Chris Fletcher, he said “I think about my granddad being in this role – literally in this office – and he would have never dreamed to be able to do a 12-year-old whiskey right? Because at 5, 6 years old, they were struggling to keep it at that age during the allocation, which is what Old Number 7 was almost his entire career. It was completely allocated in the U.S. and we didn’t ship hardly anything overseas.” Chris continued by saying, “Jeff Arnett empowered me to be extremely active in innovation and Larry Combs – our previous general manager here – also pushed me to see what we can do and try new things. I mean that, as a whiskey maker, that’s what you dream of.”

It’s those calls to innovate which directly lead to the creation of both the Special Release series, along with Jack Daniel’s Aged Series. One can assume that the experimentation will continue into the future based on the response both series have been seeing, but it’s also a part of the brand’s heritage to embrace these increasing age statements. Jack Daniel himself had whiskey aged up to 21 years in his heyday, and it will be curious to see just how far the brand’s contemporary stewards will seek to push these older releases.

Returning to the present: what we have in Jack Daniel’s 2023 Aged Series expressions is distillate that shares the exact same mash bill and production process as Old No. 7, with the only difference being the age and aging location. Both of these expressions began their journey with the expectation that they would be a part of the single barrel program – which is stored on the top floor in 60-or-so different locations throughout Jack Daniel’s 96 barrel houses – before they were moved and earmarked for this newly inaugurated series.

With regards to the first expression we’ll be trying today – Jack Daniel’s 10-Year-Old Tennessee Whiskey – it comes from different barrel houses and is thus a completely different batch than 2022’s well-received offering. With a bottle count hovering around 35,000, this year’s release will slightly eclipse 2022’s (which produced only 24,000 bottles); that’s partially due to Jack Daniel’s converting from 750ml to 700ml bottles for this expression.

As for the final germane details: Jack Daniel’s 10-Year-Old Tennessee Whiskey Batch 2 clocks in at 97 proof (48.5% ABV) and carries a suggested retail price of $70. This is typically where whiskey fans the world over begin grumbling things to the effect of “good luck finding it at that price!” One can only hope the increase in cases available will assuage those concerns this year. To that point I’d like to note that these two samples were provided to me at no cost. That will not affect my scoring, and I will be judging them as though I paid the full retail price for each of them.

Jack Daniel’s 10-Year-Old Tennessee Whiskey – Review

Color: A medium amber.

On the nose: Immediately there are lush butterscotch hard candy notes which are buoyed by faint hints of barrel char, the more pronounced aroma of apple chips, and some prominent dried ginger. There’s some semblance of leather, cocoa powder, and bread pudding as well, and the aromas belie a depth that one wouldn’t normally expect from a 97 proof whiskey.

In the mouth: On first pass, the apple chips from the nosing experience are coupled with some banana chips that skew closer to Jack Daniel’s classic profile. The baking spice is well featured on the turn from midpalate to finish, and is comprised primarily of the aforementioned ginger along with some star anise, and a bit of cinnamon-in-herbal-tea. At 97 proof the mouthfeel is significant, though it doesn’t at any point risk being considered “oily” or overly rich. Finally, the finish is fairly lingering and showcases the oak presence this whiskey picked up after 10 long years. It’s slightly drying and, though the spice blossoms causing the periphery of the tongue to salivate, the middle of the tongue remains obstinately arid.

Conclusions:

A surprisingly rich nosing experience is seen through on the palate, which carries a rewarding complexity in lockstep with an overall approachable profile. There is a funky bit of char, or what might be described as ashen flakes, that pop up and threaten to disrupt straightforward sipping, but they dissipate as quickly as they appear. All told, this is a great showcase of Jack Daniel’s classic flavor profile, but with enough interesting hitchhikers in tow on the journey to a 10 year age statement to make it worth the while.

Score: 6/10

Now for the second release in 2023’s Aged Series, we have Jack Daniel’s 12-Year-Old Tennessee Whiskey which is bottled at 107 proof (53.5% ABV) and carries a suggested retail price of $80.

Jack Daniel’s 12-Year-Old Tennessee Whiskey – Review

Color: A slightly darker amber.

On the nose: The nose is strikingly darker than the 10 year, and it’s truly a surprise to take them in side by side. Jack Daniel’s 12-year-old has a much more resplendent leather and tobacco leaf backbone, which is joined by the aroma of pralines, brandied raisins, and brown sugar. After a few swirls the brandied raisins become more of blackberry-and-molasses medley that fits well within the overall aroma profile. Oak is again a featured player, though it’s the scent of leather that provides most of the earthy presence.

In the mouth: Blackberry and caramel candy immediately coat the palate, but what’s most remarkable about this on the first sip is just how heavy the mouthfeel is. This whiskey is viscous and that texture is really a treat on the tongue as it seeps in slowly to deliver some rising heat that patiently transitions from sweet to spice-laden. At 107 proof this delivers a bit more flavor than the 10-year and that comes coupled with an impressive balance.

Conclusions:

This whiskey knows what it is. It knows that it is hyper-aged, it knows to lean into its darker nature, and it’s clear the blending team knew not to eschew those traits by proofing it lower than it needed to be. Where Batch 2 of the 10 year offers butterscotch and a faint hint of the banana note Jack Daniel’s is famous for, this 12-year Tennessee whiskey has turned the corner to become something different entirely, offering dark berries and date syrup, rich leather with barrel char, and sweet drops of singed caramel.

All of this to say: Jack Daniel’s 12-year-old Tennessee Whiskey takes the DNA of Old No. 7 and displays a development that’s almost unimaginable. While those who prefer that classic flavor profile will be taken by surprise, an open mind will find a whiskey that is self assured in daring to be different. I’m a fan of classic Jack, but this alluring glimpse into what can become of their distillate in its old age holds my intrigue a bit more. Chris Fletcher, assistant distiller Lexie Phillips, and the entire Jack Daniel’s team clearly know how to showcase their well aged whiskey, and I can’t wait to see more in the future.

Score: 7/10

Lead image courtesy of Jack Daniel’s, as were the samples, though this does not affect our notes or scores.

CategoriesAmerican
Frank

Calling New Jersey “home” isn’t just reserved for Frank’s less handsome contemporary, Michael B. Jordan. Born and raised in the Garden State, he developed an enthusiasm for bourbon, a respect for wood, and a penchant for proclaiming things are “pretty, pretty, good.”

  1. Florin Bogdan says:

    For me there is peated malt and there is Jack
    Looking forward to drink the10 and the 12 when they will be available in my part of Europe.
    I was thinking that I really enjoy the rye Jack makes- a 10 or 12 yo rye would be the next best thing.
    Cheers

  2. Greg B. says:

    These, especially the 12 y-o, might make me want to invest in a bottle should it ever arrive here. Our liquor board has no shortage of regular variations of JD, all of which I consider rather swill-ish, so maybe that history will allow a few cases to be imported. I shudder to think about the price point here though, where the Sinatra version was getting close to $300 a bottle.

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