For the first time since prohibition, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey will have an age statement on one of its bottles. The famed distillery is releasing a 10-year-old whiskey for the first time in more than a century.
A bottle of Jack Daniel’s whiskey hasn’t carried an age statement since Jack Daniel himself was alive.
The process to create this bottle required a bit of warehouse ingenuity. Select barrels of whiskey were aged for at least seven years on the top floors of the distillery’s Lynchburg, Tennessee, warehouses, before being moved to the first floor to finish out their lifespan.
Whiskey’s aging is accelerated by hot temperatures, which force more of the liquid into the barrel’s wooden staves, thereby extracting more flavor. But too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.
Tennessee is a particularly hot climate for whiskey aging, and because upper floors can get to temperatures exceeding 120 degrees in the summer, the whiskey makers worried an entire decade at extremes would make the whiskey too woody, which creates unpleasant astringency—like an over-steeped cup of tea.
“So this barrel spent the first seven or eight years of its life on the top floor,” explains Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller Chris Fletcher, “then we moved it to the bottom floor of one of our rack houses, which is very cool. That really slowed [the aging] down. So we kind of seared it up top, then we slow-simmered it for the last couple of years down on that bottom floor. We don’t want it to get overdone.”
In an exclusive tasting last month, the whiskey in question was rich and velvety, with plenty of fig and raisin notes on top of a dominant oak dryness. Even though it had resinous notes of pipe tobacco, the Jack Daniel’s 10-year whiskey managed some sweet fresh fruit notes, hints of dark cacao, and tons of butterscotch, proving itself to be surprisingly well-rounded.
As exciting as the release of this bottle is, it begs many questions about the future of Jack Daniel’s whiskey—namely, what’s next. Jack Daniel’s experimental collection, called Tennessee Tasters, has shown some gorgeous whiskeys over the last few years, but they’ve been limited to Tennessee only, and in small numbers of small bottles. Jack Daniel’s Rye was a standout, as well.
Fletcher says we’re likely to see many more new and exciting products in the next few years—and on a larger scale. “It’s a direction from the leadership that innovation is a key focus going forward,” he explains. “We’ve dipped our toe in with Tennessee Tasters, and we’ve done some really cool stuff that’s only available in Tennessee. My personal goal is to create the most complete and diverse set of aging whiskey in the country.”
Proofed to a respectable 97 percent, it shows incredible balance, and while we were impressed with a cask strength version during the preview, it has to be said: Fletcher and his team nailed this one.
The biggest question for Fletcher was whether the distillery planned to go beyond 10 years. Though he wouldn’t commit to specific products, he noted that Jack Daniel himself had produced several 20-year age statements in his lifetime, and the current team is looking to see how far they can take their whiskey in the modern era.
Jack Daniel’s 10-Year-Old will be released annually in the fall. At a suggested retail price of $70, this whiskey is going to be a hot ticket item for the rest of 2021. Jack Daniel’s does have plans to release this annually going forward, but with just a couple hundred barrels set aside for each batch, the number of bottles will be limited for the rest of the decade.