Updated: Jun 19, 2020
Score: 8.8 / 10
Distillery: Jack Daniels
Type: Tennessee Whiskey
Is Jim Beam one of the best whiskey brands? I asked my Whiskey Club that exact question months ago. There were a few visible grimaces at the seminar and naturally a couple of people blurted out that it’s not. I think just mentioning Jim Beam brings a lot of people back to trying whiskey for the first time, overdoing it and ending up hugging a toilet for the rest of the night. I remember a long while back in 8th grade (circa 2002) I was at my friend’s house, let’s call him Greg and he had another friend over. They stole a bottle of Jim Beam from their dad and when he wasn’t home we all headed down to his unfinished basement in the middle of no-where Colorado where Greg and his buddy went shot for shot until they were plastered and threw up some gym equipment. I was a nerd and a generally straight edge kid so I didn’t partake, but I witnessed the whole spectacle; two buddies getting obliterated for the first time of a bottle of Jim Beam. So when I asked my club about the brand, those are the images I’m envisioning.
Flash forward about 18 years and I am much more knowledgeable about whiskey. Is Jim Beam a good brand? Hell yes it is – in fact its one of the best whiskey brands there is based on all the whiskies under its umbrella and its international recognition. Not only does Jim Beam offer its namesake core products, but they make Booker’s (barrel proofs) which is one of my absolute favorite whiskies that is released each quarter, along with owning a number of other brands like Knob Creek, Maker’s Mark, Basil Hayden’s and Baker’s. Furthermore Jim Beam was acquired by Suntory Holdings (Japan) in 2014 for 16 Billion dollars. So now you can include Suntory Whisky, Hakushu, Yamazaki and Hibiki under that umbrella. Now that’s an amazing lineup of whiskies.
Is Jack Daniel’s one of the best whiskey brands? I think if I were to ask my whiskey club that same question they might have a similar reaction, thoughts or memories as they do with Jim Beam. Now Jack doesn’t quite have the lineup behind them as Beam-Suntory, but they are under the Brown-Forman label which includes Woodford Reserve, Old Forester, Early times and some others. I don’t drink a lot of their core product (if ever), but a few friends of mine love it as a go-to for mixers and when I saw their single barrel and barrel proof expressions, I was interested. Looking at Beam, all of their high proof and barrel proof whiskies are some of my favorites, so I wanted to jump into the heavy hitters from Jack and see if they stand up to the test. I would argue that the Jack Daniel’s brand is very iconic – think square black bottles with the Old No. 7 on them. The barrel proof has a very neat presentation and bottling as well. Enter tonight’s whiskey: Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Barrel Proof from Total Wine & More (Denver CO).
Aged 4-7 years, bottled at 66.60% ABV (132.2 proof) and served neat in a Glencairn glass.
Nose: vanilla cream, Nilla Wafers, milk chocolate, HUGE ethanol when first poured, but 10 minutes later that note fades into absolute sweetness. Spice is still evident with oak, cinnamon and a hint of black licorice.
Palate: big initial burst of juicy fruit – like a capri sun pouch, lots of stone fruit, plum, blackberry and dry raisin flavor. Midway the whiskey morphs into an almost a carbonated gauntlet of cinnamon that pricks the tongue and brings massive heat.
Finish: All the heat fades quickly as the cinnamon fizzles out as well leaving strong and prevalent banana and banana pudding flavor that draws more juicy flavors and simultaneous tannins (fruit on the tongue, dryness on the cheeks).
S+ Sensational - The Pinnacle (9.5+)
A - AXEceptional (astounding) (9-9.5)
B - bravo (step aBove average) (8-8.9)
C - competent (7-7.9)
D - disappointing (6-6.9)
F - flush it down the toilet (fail) (5.9 below)
Notes: Availability? Common. I have seen this many places. A great one to have in mind for guests or yourself.
The banana flavor tastes exactly like eating a perfectly ripe banana – it’s weird, but sensational. I’ve never had anything like it in a whiskey. The heat is tremendous on this pour, so I found that giving it a few minutes to open up really helps dissipate some of the ethanol and allow the other scents and flavors to shine through. The first time I tried this I was hungover and had heartburn (do not recommend in that state).