Jack Daniel’s was established in 1886, and is the top-selling American whiskey in the world. It is produced in Lynchburg, Tennessee which ironically, is a dry county meaning the product can’t actually be sold there. Brown-Forman acquired Jack Daniel’s in 1956.
While not officially labeled bourbon, most of Jack Daniel’s whiskeys meet the criteria required to be called a bourbon. After distillation, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey undergoes what is referred to as the ‘Lincoln County Process.’ Jack Daniel’s allows its whiskey to drip for six days in 10-foot vats, passing through charcoal that was made by burning maple wood that had been impregnated with 140 proof Jack Daniel’s whiskey, before being put in new charred oak barrels and aged for an estimated 4-7 years. Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey was once bottled at 86 proof, but in 2004, was lowered to 80 proof.
Gentleman Jack was first introduced in 1988. Compared to standard Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7, the distinguishing feature of Gentleman Jack is double charcoal mellowing. In addition to undergoing the charcoal mellowing process before aging, Gentleman Jack whiskey undergoes the process again before being bottled.
Soft vanilla and caramel mingle with summer fruit, light oak, and a touch of banana. A small dab of maple syrup in the background offers additional sweetness. The overall aroma is pleasant and familiar, but lacks enough punch to make a lasting impression.
Subtle banana is followed by a soft wash of sweet flavors - caramel, vanilla custard, honey, brown sugar, and oak. The delivery is very even, and as suggested by the writing on the bottle, smooth. While not intense, the overall depth of flavor is more than the whiskey’s 80 proof suggests, offering a surprising amount of structure behind the sweetness.
The whiskey’s even-keel nature overflows into the finish with just a touch of spice accenting lingering notes of caramel, brown sugar, and honey. As the flavors fade, a nice, sweet aftertaste remains. While it’s short and leaves little to contemplate, the finish is just as agreeable as the rest of the sip.
Gentleman Jack was Jack Daniel’s first major line extension back in 1988. At that time, American whiskey was perceived much differently than it is currently, fighting vodka for just a little bit of shelf space with nowhere near the surge of popularity it’s seeing today.
Gentleman Jack undergoes the same Lincoln County Process (charcoal mellowing) as standard Jack Daniel’s after distillation and before barrelling, at which point there is still no distinction between the two whiskeys. The second charcoal mellowing, which takes place after aging but before bottling, is what makes Gentleman Jack different from standard Jack Daniel’s.
The process is considered a subtractive process, removing harsh impurities with the intent of making the whiskey more “smooth.” Along with the impurities, the process also removes color and flavor. While many whiskeys are filtered through charcoal after aging in barrels, the extent to which Gentleman Jack is charcoal mellowed a second time after aging isn’t a common practice.
The resulting whiskey is very smooth, as the bottle suggests with the phrase “Ultimate Smoothness” written in gold on the top of its black cap. At 80 proof it’s more full-flavored than I expected compared to most 80 proof whiskeys, however it is still very light. A nice balance of caramel, vanilla, and oak, it will have a wide appeal to those who want to sip whiskey but want to keep it light. Unfortunately, it is less characteristically “Jack” than its standard Old No. 7 counterpart, which makes it less interesting for someone who wants to explore a bit further and contemplate what they’re drinking.
Gentleman Jack adds about $8 to the cost of a 750ml bottle of the standard Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7. Considering the extra charcoal mellowing step that distinguishes the brand, it seems fair that an additional cost would be associated with that. It smooths out the rough edges and ultimately produces a whiskey that will please consumers looking for a sweet, easy drinking experience. While this process of subtraction removes some of what I like most about the standard brand, and actually makes the whiskey less appealing to me. The fact is other brands like Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Barrel Proof were introduced to satisfy consumers' like me who have an appetite for a more robust and unique Jack Daniel’s experience. Ultimately, Gentleman Jack accomplishes what the distillery sets out to do, and it’s offered at a fair price.
Jack Daniel’s first major line extension in 1988, Gentleman Jack’s double charcoal mellowing makes it an exceptionally smooth - albeit less interesting - drinking experience.
Gentleman Jack is a perfect balance of vanilla, caramel, and oak that lands squarely on the sweet, easy-drinking side. Fans of low proof bourbons (such as Basil Hayden’s as an example of a bourbon that others often refer to as their go-to) should find a lot to like with Gentleman Jack. Because it has less of the quintessential Jack Daniel’s flavor notes, those who may not care for the standard Jack might find something to like as well. For bourbon enthusiasts on the other hand, Gentleman Jack offers little to get excited about. It’s a good reminder that not all whiskeys were made for you, but also one to have on hand for guests who are looking for a smooth, easy-drinking pour.