Classification: Tennessee Rye
Distillery: Jack Daniel Distillery
Release Date: September 2023 (Ongoing)
Age: 4 Years (Aged 7 years according to master distiller Chris Fletcher)
Mashbill: 70% Rye, 18% Corn, 12% Malted Barley
MSRP: $32 / 700mL / 2023
Jack Daniel’s Bonded Rye is a new permanent expression in the brand’s Bonded Series, which was introduced in 2022 and also includes Bonded Tennessee Whiskey and Triple Mash Blended Straight Whiskey. According to the company’s press release, “The Bottled-in-Bond designation on Jack Daniel’s Bonded Rye is another stamp of quality, assuring consumers that every drop of our whiskey is made right here in Lynchburg at the Jack Daniel Distillery with the highest standards possible.”
The Jack Daniel Distillery first began distilling rye in February, 2011. Bonded Rye is the first rye whiskey from the Jack Daniel Distillery with the Bottled-in-Bond designation, though it shares the same mashbill and yeast strain as other rye whiskeys in the brand’s portfolio. After distillation, Jack Daniel’s Bonded Rye undergoes what is referred to as the “Lincoln County Process,” which involves passing the distillate through charcoal that was made by burning maple wood that had been impregnated with 140 proof Jack Daniel’s whiskey. Notably, Jack Daniel’s experimented with various amounts of charcoal filtering, and unlike their Tennessee Whiskey they discovered that less charcoal filtering is ideal for rye, and as a result the distillate passes through only 3 feet of maple charcoal versus the standard 10 feet used for their Tennessee Whiskey. The maple charcoal filtered distillate is then aged in new charred American white oak barrels and aged for a minimum of 4 years, though according to our talks with master distiller Chris Fletcher, this inaugural release of Bonded Rye was distilled in the Spring 2016 distilling season, making it 7 years old. While the age for future releases is unknown, Fletcher noted that it will likely be around 7 years, give or take, given the flavor profile expected to develop around that time.
Bonded Rye will be available in 700mL and 1L bottles across the U.S.
Peppery spice mixes with crisp fruit scents of pear, apple, and green grapes to form an initial impression that leans a little more towards fruit than it does spice. Inhaling deeper brings out a candy-like sweet note that’s hard to pinpoint, but is akin to maple sugar candy. The potency of the aroma is light compared to the rest of the sip, but enjoyable nonetheless.
It takes only a first impression to realize this whiskey is unlike most other ryes. Bold rye spice meets fresh mint leaves up front. Waves of barrel char, black pepper, and cinnamon follow. Hints of maple sugar candy and molasses add a sweet note. All of these flavors rest on an unusually rich earthy base that is ultimately the principal factor contributing to the whiskey’s uniqueness, though not the only one. It’s somewhat shocking at first due to how untraditional it is, and takes some time with the whiskey to fully appreciate what it has to offer.
The whiskey’s earthy undertone continues into the finish along with persistent rye spice. Sweeter flavors of vanilla custard and burnt brown sugar emerge, transitioning the finish from spicy to sweet as it breaks down on your palate. It’s a great ending to an impressive and memorable sip.
A decade ago, Jack Daniel’s was not a whiskey I reached for to sip neat, even though it was a well-known brand and their flagship Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey was available just about everywhere. But over the past decade, the brand managed to win over the hearts of whiskey diehards which I’ve explored in depth. Talking further with Master Distiller Chris Fletcher, I learned about the “Bold” project, which took off in 2014. The concept was simple: be “bold.” Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Barrel Proof was launched and as a result, it’s safe to assume that the concept had an impact on additional Jack Daniel’s releases that would follow.
In May 2022, Jack Daniel’s introduced two new permanent line extensions, Bonded Tennessee Whiskey and Triple Mash Blended Straight Whiskey. Each is bottled in bond, and each was met with warm reception. Fast forward about a year and half, Jack Daniel’s is adding Bonded Rye to their permanent line of bottled in bond expressions. It’s a bold pour, and along with robust spice, offers ample sweetness and an unusual earthy base. Those familiar with Jack Daniel’s ryes will notice similarities with other ryes in the brand’s lineup, given that the whiskey shares the same mashbill, yeast strain, barrels, etc. Bonded Rye, however, gives bold spice a heavier presence, while still balancing against the whiskey’s sweet, earthy side.
When it comes to ryes in general, Jack Daniel’s Bonded Rye is unlike others. Those who have had a lot of ryes, will likely notice similarities with other ryes, and have a gauge on the range of flavor from barely legal 51% ryes to those with a 100% rye mashbill. Generally speaking, the range of flavors offered by straight ryes is a fairly tight band, before adding finishing barrels to the mix. But there is just something different about Jack Daniel’s ryes across their brand portfolio. The maple charcoal finishing probably contributes in large part to this, and is most likely a reason for some of the sweeter flavors that contribute to the sip. But in addition to that, there’s an earthy undertone that’s more like malted ryes or even malt whiskeys. Still, neither the sweet notes or earthy undertone draw full attention away from the rye spice, which is front and center throughout most of the sip. It’s a bold rye that tastes entirely its own.
$32 for Jack Daniel’s Bonded Rye is a fantastic price. It’s a 7 year old rye that has all kinds of potential for cocktails, has enough punch to handle a few ice cubes, and is complex and full of flavor if you prefer to sip it neat. It’s as versatile as whiskeys come, and because of its intensity and flavor combination, I can see it becoming especially popular in cocktails. Conforming to the bottled in bond requirements is also a plus, and like the other bonded whiskeys in the lineup I'm hopeful it will inspire a wider audience of consumers to think a little more deeply about the history behind American whiskey. Notably, it comes in 700mL and 1L formats, similar to the other bottled in bond whiskeys in Jack Daniel’s portfolio.
Jack Daniel’s Bonded Rye is bold, unique tasting, and versatile rye whiskey that celebrates a milestone in American whiskey’s history.
I have been increasingly impressed by Jack Daniel’s, especially when it comes to accessible permanent line extension expressions. Bonded Rye is no exception. It’s a bold, unique tasting rye that offers a ton of value at its affordable price point. But rye is not as popular as bourbon, or Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey (though it meets the requirement to be called bourbon), for that matter. Those unfamiliar with rye whiskey might be surprised by its spiciness, and those who have preconceived notions of what ryes generally taste like, might be surprised by what they find with Bonded Rye. But those are the things that I enjoy most about it. It’s not a limited edition, it’s not super high proof, and it doesn’t rely on an age statement to draw attention (though I appreciate the fact that the brand is willing to disclose that it is 7 years old). But it is accessible, affordable, and helps break new ground when it comes to rye whiskey flavor profiles. For these reasons, it may prove to be one of the most exciting new releases of 2023.