Is Jack Daniel’s Bourbon or Just Tennessee Whiskey?
There's Tennessee Bourbon, and Tennessee Whiskey, and Kentucky Bourbon, and ... wait, that doesn't sound right. So, what exactly is Jack Daniel's Old No. 7 Brand whiskey? Let’s look into the details a bit.
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What does the front label of Jack Daniel’s bottle say?
The Jack Daniel distillery writes these words on each bottle of their Tennessee Whiskey.
“Old No.7 Brand. Jack Daniel’s. Old No. 7 brand. Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey. Distilled & Bottled by Jack Daniel Distillery. Lynchburg, Tenn. USA. 40% ALC BY VOL. (80 Proof). Every drop made in Lynchburg, Tennessee. Quality & Craftsmanship since 1866.”
And that’s just the front of the bottle. Sorry for the poor punctuation, we just wanted to get everything that’s written down included there.
Does Jack Daniel’s Claim that it’s Bourbon?
Jack Daniel’s distillery does not label itself as bourbon. However, according to FredMinnick.com, the brand, “[applies for federal label approval under the class of bourbon ...](https://www.ttbonline.gov/colasonline/viewColaDetails.do?action=publicFormDisplay&ttbid=12046001000466”, and they do so with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, stating that the applicant is as seen below:
Jack Daniel Distillery, LEM MOTLOW PROPRIETOR, BROWN-FORMAN Corporation, 280 Lynchburg HWY, Lynchburg, TN 37352
Or at the very least, as it was filed on 01/31/2009. That date is 134 days away from National Bourbon Day.
American Whiskey vs Bourbon Whiskey
Simply put, whiskey is a distilled spirit. It is typically made from rye, corn and other various grains on the mash bill, and it is aged in wooden, white oak barrels.
Bourbon is a type of whiskey, and perhaps more specifically, a type of American whiskey. Setting perceived quality aside, it is the same argument that gets made over Champagne and Sparkling Wine, as Champagne must be derived from the region of the same name in France.
According to The Whiskey Wash, one of the factors that could contribute to the brand refusing to label a bottle of Jack Daniel’s whiskey as bourbon could be the Lincoln County Process. This process, “refers to the use of sugar maple charcoal to filter new-make whiskey before aging.” - something that not all producers of Tennessee Whiskey do.
Whiskey brand, George Dickel, like Jack Daniel’s, does follow the Lincoln County Process.
The Whiskey Wash also goes on to explain how bourbon is more heavily regulated, and thus protected, by the federal government through the Federal Standards of Identity of Distilled Spirits, whereas Tennessee Whiskey is only really defined within the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
We don’t want to upset the masses here, but that seems like a whole lotta posturing and arguing over some small details. Then again, adherence to the details separates a layperson from a Master Distiller at their craft.
So who are we to judge? We aren’t fomenters of the fermentation process, creators of charcoal filtering,
Nay, we are just subscribers to the single barrel straight bourbon whiskey cups of Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 black label that we like to enjoy from time to time.
That means the extra step of sipping whiskey if you aren’t following along. Barrel proof if possible (higher ABV).
Flavors of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey
The JD lineup has some old standards, as well as a few (relatively) new versions to please all palettes.
One of flavors that we find quite interesting is the Sinatra Select, a Tennessee Whiskey that is reported to be, “Smooth as Sinatra”. It’s matured in special barrels and features a “pleasant smokiness and vanilla finish”.
The brand also claims that Jack’s biggest fan was Frank Sinatra himself. However, we’d argue that ex-Van Halen bassist, Michael Anthony owns that title.
As for the flavor types, including Apple, Fire and Honey, we’re not totally convinced that Ol’ Jasper Newton Daniel (Jack) would have approved. Then again, had he seen the money that the company generates from sales of the alternative flavors, maybe he’d have been just fine.
Also new is the latest collaboration with the Tennessee distillery with longtime colloquial collaborator, though not on purpose, Coca-Cola. The two massively popular brands just released a new canned cocktail on June 13th, 2022, appropriately titled, “Jack and Coke”.
Yes folks, they’ve finally just gone straight for the kill and released a pre-made version of the infamous bar favorite, Jack and Coke. We can’t wait to get our hands on one. You know, for research purposes.
List of Flavors
- Can Cocktails
- Gentleman Jack
- Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel
- Sinatra Select
- Tennessee Apple
- Tennessee Fire
- Tennessee Honey
- Tennessee Rye Whiskey
- Winter Jack
Jack Daniel’s vs Jim Beam
In order to qualify as bourbon, both have to be made from at least 51% corn. There is more that goes into it, but let’s start there.
Beyond that though, Tennessee Whiskey, and for that matter, Tennessee Bourbon, is different than Kentucky Bourbon. There are differences in the typical amount of corn used, as well as the filtration process enacted.
There’s also a difference in the history of their overall production, with Jack Daniel’s being established in 1866 and Jim Beam emerging many decades prior in 1795. The country itself couldn’t drink by the current age limit, that’s how old Jim Beam is.
According to Vinepair, Jasper Newton Daniel would learn his craft from a Lynchburg minister named Dan Call, as well as an enslaved man, “believed to be America’s first Black master distiller,” named Nathan Green.
Yes, technically Jack Daniel’s qualifies as a bourbon whiskey. But no, they don’t really want their money-maker to be labeled as such. And so it isn’t.