“Rock ‘n’ roll accepted me and paid me, even though I loved the big bands. I went that way because I wanted a home of my own. I had a family. I had to raise them. Let’s don’t leave out the economics.” – Chuck Berry
Whiskey enthusiasts in increasing numbers have embraced Jack Daniel’s. Sure, Old No. 7 is one of the most ubiquitous bottles of alcohol in the entire world, but ubiquity alone doesn’t build a cult following. It’s the quirks and curiosities that draw people in like Chuck Berry playing country tunes to an all-black audience in 1950s Nashville. Or, perhaps like a Lynchburg distillery producing critical darlings like Coy Hill or Twice-Barreled American Single Malt finished in Oloroso Sherry casks. Oddities like those have bolstered Jack Daniel’s bonafides among the cognoscenti because not only are they willing to take risks, but more often than not they deliver remarkable results that are a far cry from the quotidian Tennessee whiskey they’re most famous for.
With such recent hits under its belt, Jack Daniel’s has pivoted to reproducing similar results with more readily available expressions. 2022 saw the brand debut two bottled-in-bond expressions – a 100-proof take on their standard Tennessee whiskey and Triple Mash which was a portentous blend of rye, Tennessee whiskey, and American malt whiskey. The initial two offerings in the Bonded Series saw a fair bit of success and so for 2023 Jack Daniel’s is expanding the lineup and introducing the subject of today’s review: Jack Daniel’s Bonded Rye Whiskey.
To get down to brass tacks, Jack Daniel’s Bonded Rye features a mash bill of 70% rye, 18% corn, and 12% malted barley. After being twice distilled back in 2016 on Jack Daniel’s massive column still, the distillate was filtered through 3 feet of sugar maple charcoal before going into new American oak barrels for aging. One should note here that though the Bottled-in-Bond Act requires only 4 years of aging, this whiskey spent nearly 7 years maturing before being bottled. On that note, Jack Daniel’s Bonded Tennessee Rye comes in both 700ml and 1L bottles, with the 700ml size presented at an MSRP of $32.
With such an approachable price point, it seems clear that Jack Daniel’s has set their sights on two vital classes of consumers: on-premise accounts (as a cocktail base) and everyday drinkers. Frankly, introducing a bottled-in-bond rye during the contemporary rye renaissance makes a lot of sense for the brand. Despite the fact that roughly 90% of their production goes to Old No. 7, it would be unwise to rest on their laurels while the domestic market is looking at the industry stalwart with new eyes and the international market seems poised for an American whiskey explosion. New expressions like Triple Mash, Bonded Rye, and the recently announced Jack Daniel’s American Single Malt, could very well represent a ton of growth potential for the brand, making it an exciting time to witness such innovations.
I was fortunate enough to visit Jack Daniel’s distillery prior to the release of this whiskey and not only was it an instant hit, it even stole some of the shine from Jack Daniel’s 2023 Special Release, a Twice Barreled Heritage Barrel Rye Whiskey. Upstaging a bottle that’s currently sitting on the secondary market in the $400 range is no small feat, but that it’s far more readily available is the cherry on top.
Before we get into the review, it should be noted that I will be scoring this whiskey as though I paid the modest sum of $32 retail for it, however, this bottle was sent to me with no strings attached by the brand. That will in no way affect my score and I hope my transparency will in no way affect your impression of my score. With that out of the way, let’s try the whiskey!
Jack Daniel’s Bonded Rye – Frank’s Review
Color: Deep amber.
On the nose: It’s nowhere near as prominent as it is on other Jack Daniel’s releases, but there’s a gentle flambéed banana aroma in conjunction with cracked pepper and sweet blackberries to start. In time, the aromas of wood chips, a hint of vinegar, honey, and tobacco leaves begin to emerge. Overall, Jack Daniel’s Bonded Rye has a very well-balanced and enticing medley of aromas.
In the mouth: Banana chips, squid ink, black pepper, and a touch of honey roll over the palate at first, making for an intriguing – but altogether incredibly lovely – introduction. Given a chance to settle, those notes allow space for dark chocolate and a floral dose of jasmine to grow in prominence. What I find most striking is the balance coupled with the restrained sweetness and the peculiar but pleasant surprises (looking at you, squid ink). This is a damn rich rye whiskey – considering the paltry price point – and I’m left wanting more after every sip.
Jack Daniel’s Bonded Rye is a total game-changer. With its approachable price point, balanced and beguiling flavor profile, and perfect proof this is going to be a rye whiskey that bartenders, casual fans, and hardcore enthusiasts will all be flocking to. If you’re unsure of what to expect when it comes to Tennessee rye, this isn’t your standard fare. Jack Daniel’s just released a rye that can hold its own against both more expensive whiskeys and your most formidable cocktail ingredients. Versatile, delicious, and affordable, Jack Daniel’s Bonded Rye belongs in your whiskey collection right now.
Editor’s note: working independently, Matt Kusek also sent in his tasting notes and score for this rye. Here they are, for your consideration.
Jack Daniel’s Bonded Rye – Matt’s Review
Color: Deep amber.
On the nose: Pine and fresh cut grass over power on deep inhales. Notes of herbal tea and green apples, which are a transformation on the pine note. At times you get a subtle whiff of wood that wants to be as sweet as maple, but the refreshing pine clears it away.
In the mouth: Pine needles and mint rush to mind. As they give way there is a wrestling between barrel char and toffee. Clove and black pepper give the sip a finish. Rewarding sippers with additional waves of rye spice at the end.
Jack Daniel’s has been quietly dominating the whiskey scene these last few years. High proof Coy Hill has been a delight to those that crave to singe their taste buds. The Bonded and Triple Mash debuted at less than $40 and offered beautiful variations on that beloved Jack Daniels profile. After years of more expensive collaborations and releases, it seems they want to put the craft world on notice. Stop charging a lot when we are giving the consumer a lot.
The Rye world wasn’t in need of such a hero. I think the rye scene is a very interesting one where the best options are finished or reasonably priced options from bigger distillers. Remember when Old Forester debuted their rye at a reasonable price? It was celebrated, and this one deserves fanfare as well. I’m not granting this one an extra point for price as we are allowed on the Malt scale, because I feel it offers the right amount of value for the flavors it delivers. It’s a worth minty and piney foe to others in this category and the previously mentioned value of Old Forester.