Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 & Tennessee Rye
I’m no stranger to Jack Daniel’s. I visited the distillery in Tennessee back in 2015. Actually, I’ve been drinking Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 for well over a decade. It’s one of the staples in my drinks cabinet. It’s not great on its own, but I really do enjoy a Jack & Coke every once in a while.
It’s just such an easy drink. Ice, a generous pour of Jack, top it off with coke. Not the most sophisticated, but I don’t always want sophisticated. To me, a Jack & Coke is perfect for those moments when I’m feeling a little bit more laissez-faire.
So, I rather would’ve liked to attend the Dutch launch of the Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Rye, which took place late last year. I couldn’t make it, but they were kind enough to send over a bottle, setting me up to do a proper head-to-head with the Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7.
When Jack Daniel’s started distilling rye whiskey earlier in the 2010s, it was their first new mash bill in over a century. Their standard recipe contains 80% corn, 12% malted barley and 8% rye. Those ratios have been flipped on their head for their Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Rye, which consists of 70% rye, 18% corn and 12% malted barley.
While I don’t expect to be wowed by either, that’s not exactly the point of this exercise. It’s just that Jack Daniel’s has been one of the whiskies I’ve been drinking longest, so I suppose it’s about time they feature on my blog.
Nose: Oak but especially glue notes dominate, but there’s sweet floral notes hidden somewhere, as well as a touch of marshmallows and cotton candy.
Taste: A bit artificial and harsh at times. Spices mixed with sweet maple syrup and vanilla custard, yet somewhat watery and thin.
Finish: Soft spices and a touch of burnt caramel. Rather short.
Nose: Lots of banana candy notes, as well as cherry, marshmallow and soft notes of nutmeg. Vanilla custard is here as well. Overall not a very traditional rye whiskey.
Taste: Surprisingly mellow compared to the Old No. 7 — or maybe I should say less harsh. Notes of gingerbread, honey and banana mush. Fairly mouth-coating.
Finish: Orange liqueur, subtle spices. Medium in length.
So yeah, neither really excels, but that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. They’re not as bad as they’re made out to be sometimes, but I won’t soon drink either of these neat (or over ice, for that matter). However, I’m still fond of the occasional Jack & Coke, and the Tennessee Rye actually does the job well when substituted for the Old No. 7.
Thijs is a spirits writer and accredited liquorist from The Netherlands. He runs the blog Words of Whisky and contributes to a number of Dutch and international publications.