Only in America could you have a world-famous distillery planted smack-dab in the middle of a dry county. I guess it should come as no surprise to anyone that our nasty puritanical streak can only be usurped by the lure of the almighty dollar. With that in mind, I’d like to think that the counties in Tennessee aren’t so big that if I met a Gentleman named Jack or even Steve, we could stroll across county lines and get something good to drink.
Tennessee Whiskey is a strange part of the whiskey world. Despite the world-wide popularity of Jack Daniels, there are only two brands of Tennessee whiskey currently available, the other being George Dickel. Tennessee Whiskey, while basically bourbon, is set apart by the use of the Lincoln County Process which filters new-make whiskey through many layers of maple charcoal before it gets put away in casks for a minimum of 2 years. Tennessee Whiskey was designated as a separate “appellation” in 1941, but thanks to Tennessee’s strict laws, there are just the two brands available. This will change in coming years, however, as a law was passed in 2009 to allow distilling in an additional 41 counties, so we’ll probably see more Tennessee Whiskey on the market relatively soon.
It bears noting that in the same “lawmaking” session, they decided that it was okay to carry a gun in a bar or restaurant serving hard liquor. I might have to rethink walking around Tennessee with Jack or Steve after all.
Gentleman Jack is the middle child in the Jack Daniels family, falling between the desperate rock stars’ choice black label #7 and the higher end Single Barrel. It differs from ol’ #7 by way of a second charcoal filtering after maturation.
The Nose: Vanilla cream soda. A little floral. Maybe a little apple pie or apple cobbler with a side of vanilla ice cream. Nice, warming nose, caramel and burnt orange as well. Unfortunately, this baked fruit aroma also once in a while carries with it a little nail polish remover, not much, but just enough solvent-y smell to raise an eyebrow.
The Palate: Really smoooooooth. That extra run through the charcoal really takes the sharp edges off. It’s mellowed here by smoother vanilla, caramel and apple notes. I keep coming back to the apple thing, baked apple, caramel apples mixed with a touch of orange candy. Oddly, unlike “regular” Jack or George Dickel, I don’t sense much of that maple charcoal until the very end when it mingles with a bit of oak.
Finish: Sharp, rye-like and fairly quick. It leaves a few lingering charcoal, oak, and vanilla bean tones but moves on relatively quickly.
Thoughts: Hmmm…I like this whiskey, but I’m just not sure it has a regular place in my cabinet. I really love the George Dickel Barrel Select, as does my girl (let’s call her Sherry Butts) so If we have a Tennessee Whiskey in the house (and we do) it’s probably going to be that one. I see Gentleman Jack on sale often for around $24 which is a pretty darn good value, but there are other bourbons out there in that price range that are just as good if not better. Gentleman Jack is worth trying though, it’s well-balanced, very smooth, sips nicely and mixes well in a cocktail.