Jack Daniels Rye is a new whiskey, but very much still Jack
I had the good fortune of sitting down with Chris Fletcher, Jack Daniel’s Assistant Master Distiller, when he was in Chicago last month. The pretense of the fireside chat was the new Jack Daniel’s Rye, but we wound up tasting through the entire line. Rough life, I know.
First, let me say that if you haven’t actually sipped Old No. 7 in awhile, give it a whirl again. It was the first liquor I drank when I was a 21-year-old high school student, and I drank nothing but Jack for a full year. I haven’t had it since then though without a healthy dose of Ginger Ale or Diet Coke mixed in. I’ve always figured I was beyond that stage in my life, but it’s interesting going back. It’s fun to see what you pick up when you now know how to taste whiskey.
Old No. 7 was a fun walk down memory lane, but Jack Daniels Rye was the star of the show. It’s the latest addition to the Single Barrel family, but it’s a big departure from Select or Barrel Proof, both of which are iterations of the same whiskey. It’s actually the first new Jack Daniel’s recipe in over 100 years, so it’s safe to say they didn’t rush it to market.
Jack Daniels released Un-Aged Tennessee Rye in 2012 and Rested Tennessee Rye in 2014, but they were already aging spirits before they brought that first white dog to market. They storyboarded the entire Single Barrel Rye release to perfection to build excitement around the product and avoid looking like a Johnny Come Lately to the rye game. The resulting product is closer to five years old than the three and half years that math would suggest.
Mashbills for rye whiskey typically fall into two categories – 51% rye and 95-100% rye. It’s either just enough to call it a rye whiskey or it’s a rye kick to the crotch. I’ve always leaned towards the 95% and up dick kick, something like Bulleit Rye or Still630’s Rally Point Rye. They’re perfect for a spicy dram or a cocktail that really lets the spirit shine.
Jack Daniels Rye tinged the spittoon of convention and went with 70% rye. Sure, why not just split the difference? Well, because it usually doesn’t work out. When a spirit tries to appeal to multiple crowds it risks ending up boring. That’s far from the case here. What surprised me is that this was just enough for both, and as a 94-proof single barrel it’s anything but boring. The whiskey is a wonderful balance between the spice rye lovers crave and the sweetness that makes bourbon drinkers warm and fuzzy inside. Therein lies the problem though.
I’ve been telling just about everyone that would listen that split-base cocktails are the future. I’ve made most of my Manhattans recently with an ounce of rye and an ounce of bourbon. It’s fun; it’s interesting; it’s GDMF’ing delicious. Jack Daniels Rye is essentially my split-base all in one bottle. How am I supposed to be trendy when they’ve completely cutoff my need for two different spirits?
Thankfully no one is looking to me to set their trends, so Jack isn’t actually stealing my thunder. If you want to pick up the stellar sipper and awesome cocktail base, it’s running about $48 bucks right now and is worth every penny. The Single Barrel Collection only comes from the top rack of the warehouse, and while there are plenty more up there as we speak, there were only 800 barrels in this first run.
A little birdy also told me that there are barrels of rye elsewhere in the warehouses, and since Single Barrel can only come from the top floor, I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about what’s coming next.