Good things come to those who wait.
At least that's what I told myself back in August of 2022, when I had just finished waxing poetic about how much I loved the 2020 special release rye to Lexie Phillips during our barrel picking experience. I was begging both her and their head of innovation for more rye releases. She smiled and nodded in appreciation and hidden delight for the projects to come.
The Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Special Release series highlights an annual limited innovation from the Jack Daniel Distillery and this year’s release is a twist on the original -- Heritage Barrel. Twice Barreled Heritage Barrel Rye is a celebration of the whiskey-making traditions of our distillery and the barrel-making expertise of our cooperage. The 2023 Jack Daniel’s Special Release is a one-of-a-kind experience crafted from 70% rye, 18% corn, and 12% malted barley and twice barreled for a complex taste.
What has 2023 brought us? Single barrel barrel proof rye and this wonderful heritage barrel release that I got a sneak peak of thanks to my good pal Frank Dobbins. Wondering if it's any good? Let's dive into a proper Amongst the Whiskey review.
Company on Label: Jack Daniel Distillery
Whiskey Type: Rye Whiskey
Mash Bill Percentages: 70% Rye, 18% Corn, 12% Malted Barley
Age: NAS, but based on the barrel dates on the neck tag it spent 5.5 years in its first fill barrel and 2.5 years in its second fill toasted oak barrel, resulting in a total time duration of about 8 years of aging
Further identification: This 2023 limited edition release is Tennessee rye whiskey finished in toasted oak barrels; it comes in the square 700mL special release bottle format bearing the dates of fill & it retails for $75 MSRP
Nose: Sweet lemon suckers and cotton candy jump out of the glass first for me. The nose-feel is bright and effervescent, like a refreshing glass of iced down ginger lemonade on a clear Summer day. Diving my nose back in reveals maple sugar, bacon bits and bountiful level oak. Deep inhales are quite approachable at this proof as molasses and cardamom aromas proliferate in the bulb of my glencairn. Zesty flashes of citrus, sage and saffron rise off the surface of the whiskey. My, my... If you really dig you can find this wonderful balance between light and dark. The dark yin of the 5.5 years aging in charred american oak brings in the maple, brown sugar and caramel tones while the light yang of the toasted oak layers in marshmallow, delicate florals and soft fruit. They come together beautifully on the nose here, testament to the care and attention to detail that was given to this release. Overall this smells like a classic American rye whiskey profile that many should enjoy. Time for a sip.
Honey and a hint of smoke builds well into the already complex profile as my nose takes a cursory pass back over the glass. Wow. Strong aromas of date, raisin and plum have snowballed in the well-rested glass. Near the bottom of the glass wonderfully nostalgic aromas of freshly sawn wood compliment the vanilla notes that whisper sweet nothings to the patient observer. The maple tones cannot be understated here. Overall the glass is elegantly creamy and well put together, completely bucking the presumptuous notion that Jack Daniels is for college kids and hillbillies. The empty glass smells of sweet charcoal smoke, cinnamon, coriander and clove. The empty glass aroma smells just like Christmas time. Mmm.
Palate: Wetting the whistle with this whiskey first and foremost shows the oily, slightly tannic profile that typically comes with toasted barrel finishes done right. It's unfamiliar at first to the those used to traditional aging, with the toasted barrel characteristics definitely coming off pronounced. Subsequent sips mellow out this contrast and the unified liquid gives off notes of honeysuckle, Earl Gray tea and freshly squeezed lemon juice. A longer sip and swish reveals delicious nutmeg, maple syrup, lemon biscotti and a thick, viscous mouth coating of mascarpone frosting. For not being barrel proof, this release suffers no indifference from me; full, rich flavor sits in every crevice of this glass. Sipping down near the bottom of the glass shows off a well developed medley of right where this glass started. Maple, molasses and creamy citrus tones swirl in a wonderfully sweet and complete sip. My last sip reminds me of a coffee roll on a slow Sunday morning.
TL;DR: Rich citrus on a distinctly different wavelength than the norm
Well damn. Nicely done Chris Fletcher. Take a bow. This is definitely a release I am going to be savoring, so it rightfully earns a nod ahead of my other 4/5 ratings with the Keep Amongst the Whiskey designation. I don't think it quite crests my appreciation for the single barrel barrel proof we locked down for MA, nor the 2020 limited edition rye release, but it delivers an exceptionally 'different' profile for those looking to really explore the vastness of the wide whiskey world & can appreciate when something just works out for the best.