Over in Lynchburg, Tennessee, people take the view that if it ain’t broke, you don’t try to fix it. So when Jack Daniel found the perfect water source for making great whiskey, hit upon the ideal recipe and started maturing it in the finest quality American oak, it made total sense to leave it just the way it was.
Today the distillery is still making Tennessee whiskey exactly as Mr Jack first intended. Pure limestone water is still drawn from Cave Spring, the spirit is distilled just as it always was, every drop passes through Sugarmaple charcoal and is warehouse-matured in the old Tennessee way.
Judging by millions who enjoy it across the world, it would seem that Mr Jack got it just right.
When you make whiskey, though, every barrel will differ slightly from the next. In Tennessee, where scalding hot summers are followed by sharp winters, barrels mature at different rates in the warehouse and offer slightly different versions of the trademark Jack Daniel’s character. It’s like a big family: all clearly related but each one with slightly different features.
For some 10 years now Jack Daniel’s has been picking out a select few of these individual barrels and bottling them for die-hard Jack fans. Now they’re making the Single Barrel version of Jack Daniel’s more available to premium bars across the UK.
Each batch of Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel is different to the next. One might offer a butterscotch and pecan mix, another might seem to be dusted in cocoa and loaded with liquorice, and yet another might hint at dark chocolate liqueur. Whatever the dominant individual flavours, though, each one is recognisably Jack Daniel’s at its core.
Are Single Barrel bottlings better than the famous Old No 7 whiskey? Not necessarily. It’s a matter of personal taste. As one whiskey writer put it, Single Barrel bottlings are to their parent brand what a Keith Richards solo album is to a Rolling Stones greatest hits package: rawer and rootsier, perhaps more of an acquired taste, but still the Rolling Stones through and through.
Not better then, but different, and that, of course, is where the fun starts.
They understand this over in Tennessee. It’s not broken, so it’s not being fixed.