Jack Daniel’s Continues Resurgent Line of Age-Stated Whiskeys With Debut of 12-Year Expression
On Tuesday, Tennessee whiskey giant Jack Daniel’s announced two new releases: the very first batch of Jack Daniel’s 12 Years Old and batch 2 of Jack Daniel’s 10 Years Old.
Jack Daniel’s 12 Years Old Tennessee Whiskey is bottled at 107 proof — an exciting bump in alcohol content from the 10-year. Meanwhile, Jack Daniel’s 10-Year-Old Tennessee Whiskey batch 2 is bottled at 97 proof. They will be available in the U.S. starting this month in 700-milliliter bottles for suggested retail prices of $80 for the 12-year and $70 for the 10-year.
Both expressions are made from the standard Jack Daniel’s mashbill of 80% corn, 12% malted barley and 8% rye.
“The Jack Daniel Distillery is one of the most complete whiskey distilleries in the world, and we’re fortunate to have a deep history to draw inspiration from and craft premium whiskeys in a way that stays true to our heritage of quality and innovation,” Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller Chris Fletcher said in a news release. “We released our first age-stated whiskey since the early 1900s in this series about a year ago and were thrilled with the overwhelmingly positive response. We know there is a lot of excitement for our Aged Series, and we can’t wait to share Batch 2 of our 10- Year-Old Tennessee Whiskey along with the first release of our 12-Year-Old Tennessee Whiskey.”
In late February, we took a trip to Tennessee and had the opportunity to taste both new whiskeys ahead of their launch. In this article, we’ll give you all of the information you need to know about the new releases, plus give you a look into our experience tasting them.
Read More: Travel Log: Our Trip to Tennessee to Tour Jack Daniel’s, Taste 12-Year Whiskey From the Barrel and More
Read More: Jack Daniel’s 12 Years Old Whiskey Review
These whiskeys are the latest intriguing releases from Jack Daniel’s, which has in recent years begun diverging from its focus on the masses and putting out new expressions that appeal to the smaller sect of connoisseurial whiskey consumers who crave age-stated, small-batch whiskey.
According to Master Distiller Chris Fletcher, the strategic shift spawned from a casual conversation.
“We started this in about 2014 or so, thinking about, ‘Let’s start to hold back whiskey,'” Fletcher told us at the distillery. “There was a previous marketing manager on our single barrel team, and he and a handful of us here at the distillery were just standing around after a meeting, just talking, like ‘Let’s just push out some of these, just to see where we can push it to where we would still feel good about it.'”
Standard Jack Daniel’s whiskey is aged for about four or five years before being bottled, but after that discussion, the team started holding back barrels to see what effects further aging would have on the whiskey.
They began taking 1,000 barrels at a time and placing them in their rickhouses’ top floors, which are hotter and drier, causing water in the barrels to evaporate faster, thus elevating the proof of the whiskey within them.
Due to that evaporation, the more time spent on those higher floors, the less whiskey is going to remain in the barrel once it’s done aging. For that reason — and the fact that too much time in the barrel on high floors will eventually begin to degrade the whiskey’s taste, giving it such harsh, oaky influence that you lose much of the distillate’s flavor — Jack Daniel’s decided to age the barrels on the top floor for a certain period of time but then move them to lower floors for the remainder of their maturation. The magic number Fletcher and company landed on was eight.
“We felt like after eight years, we’ll have gotten great flavor, and it’s beautiful single-barrel whiskey,” Fletcher said. “But No. 1, if we want to keep some dadgum whiskey in that barrel, we need to move it, and No. 2, we could start to run the risk: If we want to get it to 12 [years] or more, we need to move it, because the barrel’s going to start to take over if we don’t.”
The Resurgence of Well-Aged Jack Daniel’s Whiskey
To the current generation, well-aged Jack Daniel’s has felt like a new phenomenon. In actuality, though, these older whiskeys are a callback to the brand’s history.
“Looking and going through the archives, Jack Daniel’s had a 10-year-old whiskey and all the way up to a 21-year-old whiskey,” Fletcher said. “How cool will it be if we can recreate some of the actual things Jack did?”
With this 12-year-old release, Jack Daniel’s has put out its oldest whiskey of this modern era — and Fletcher doesn’t plan to slow down from here.
“This is really, really exciting to know that we can have a 12-year-old barrel that’s going to retain that much sweetness,” Fletcher said during the tasting. “That tells us we’ve still got runway left. We can keep pushing and see where we go.
“Where will we go? I don’t know,” Fletcher continued. “Can we get it to 21 [years] like Jack did? I hope we can, but I don’t know. This makes me feel real good about it.”
Tasting Jack Daniel’s 12 Years Old and 10 Years Old Batch 2
We tasted these expressions at the Jack Daniel Distillery in a tasting led by Fletcher.
We first tasted two samples of Jack Daniel’s unaged whiskey, one before going through the brand’s signature charcoal filtration and one after. If you’ve ever doubted whether the charcoal filtration really achieves much, this tasting will assure you it does. The pre-charcoal taste was aggressively grainy, with tons of corn and some tartness, plus aggressive heat for the proof (80) and a bitter finish. The “after” sample, however, was much more mellow. The heat was gone, giving way to a gentler, fruitier, almost white-wine-like profile, fruit-forward with notes of berries and sweet sugar and a quick, down-and-gone finish.
Next, we tasted Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select, which was very good, but we won’t focus on it since it’s not new. On to the stars of the show.
Tasting Jack Daniel’s 10 Years Old Batch 2
Nose: Creamy with plenty of baking spices. Notes of gingerbread, cinnamon, cardamom, buttercream and cocoa, with a heavy hit of maple syrup.
Taste: Not as creamy as I expected based on the nose. There’s a heavy oak presence here. Notes of orange, leather, banana, tannins and peanuts. Some sweetness presents itself in the form of toffee.
Finish: Long and oaky, this is a wonderful finish that delivers notes of leather, cinnamon and more baking spices.
Overall: This is really good. Absolutely on par with the first batch, perhaps even a bit better. It’s oakier, more spice-heavy and less fruit-forward than batch 1 was. The baking-spice notes are so atypical for Jack Daniel’s, and they’re very welcome.
Tasting Jack Daniel’s 12 Years Old
Nose: Fruity, creamy and a little bit spicy. Notes of raspberries, blackberries, custard, nutmeg, brown sugar, French vanilla, peaches and cream, orange blossom, buttery popcorn, banana and toffee. This is a delicious nose.
Taste: Thick and viscous mouthfeel. There’s some heat here, but it’s more than bearable. There’s a strong oak presence with dark fruit notes tightly intertwined. Notes of cherries, strawberries, cinnamon and ginger.
Finish: Long and warm. Oak, tannins, anise, wormwood, tobacco and toffee.
Overall: Total rockstar — the best I’ve tasted from Jack Daniel’s to date. I’m welcoming the bump in proof with open arms. The trademark Jack Daniel’s flavors are in here, but they’re overshadowed by lovely dark fruits and spices. This is a seriously complex whiskey. Oak char is present but balanced wonderfully by exciting, diverse flavors.
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