Distillery: Jack Daniel Distillery
Release Date: August 2023
Age: NAS (Aged over 7 years per company’s press release)
Mashbill: 70% Rye, 18% Corn, 12% Malted Barley
Color: Dark Mahogany
MSRP: $75 (2023)
Jack Daniel’s Twice Barreled Special Release Heritage Barrel Rye is the latest edition of Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Special Release collection. For this year’s edition, the company once again utilizes a secondary finishing barrel, similar to last year’s Twice Barreled Special Release American Single Malt Finished in Oloroso Sherry Casks release. However this time, the company utilizes a heavy-toast barrel. Additionally, compared to their 90 proof standard rye, this limited release gets a bump up to 100 proof. While the whiskey does not carry an age statement, the press release states that the whiskey “is charcoal mellowed before aging in new, handmade American white oak barrels for at least five years. It is then aged for over two years in uniquely crafted heavy-toast Heritage Barrels from the Jack Daniel Cooperage to achieve a complex rye whiskey full of unique, richer taste.”
Raising the dark mahogany whiskey to my nose reveals undeniable rich scents of holiday spiced raisins and toasted oak. Inhaling deeper reveals a sweet scent of brown sugar with a dollop of honey blended in. The classic Jack Daniel’s banana note is present, however, it is so faint that you have to really concentrate as you cut through the more dominating scents to find it. The nose hints at the whiskey being much older than it really is. While simplistic in construction, the aroma is rich and deep, offering an enticing opening to the sip.
The amount of oak exposure that this rye experienced is instantly noticeable. Transitioning into the palate, you’re teased with a quick burst of brown sugar sweetness before being smacked head-on with an extremely dry oak that seems to suck more and more moisture out of your mouth with every passing second. As you wade through this thick oak note, flavors of baking spices, dry cinnamon stick, light rye spice, hints of caramel, spiced raisins, and leather fight to come forward. It’s clear that the extended time in the heavy toasted oak barrel influenced the palate, and not necessarily in a good way. Try as I might, I found the dry oak note to be too overpowering and ultimately took away from the plethora of other flavors trying to make an impact.
Dry oak from the palate carries forward and starts off the finish on the same mouth-suckingly dry note. As your palate tries to recover, additional notes of dark dry raisins, light rye bread, baking spices, dry cinnamon powder, and leather faintly pull forward. Noticeably there is the gentleness of warming heat present, which considering the incredibly high amount of rye present in the mashbill, one would expect this to carry with it a higher degree of spiciness or heat in the finish. In the end, the dryness steals the show, ending the sip with a mouth-puckering dry oak note that holds you back from wanting to take another immediate sip.
Jack Daniel’s has been expanding their product portfolio at a fervent pace as of late. This year alone the brand released a second batch of their 10 Year Whiskey , introduced a new 12 Year Whiskey, a Bonded Rye, and made Single Barrel Barrel Proof Rye a permanent expression. You have to give the brand credit for expanding the depth of their product line allowing consumers to recognize them not only for their standard Tennessee whiskey, but as a distillery that is capable of producing a wide range of various tasting whiskeys.
In the case of Jack Daniel’s Twice Barreled Special Release Heritage Barrel Rye, you realize something is different about this bottle the moment you pour a glass and see the dark colored whiskey before you. Unlike 2020’s Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Special Release Barrel Proof Rye, this year’s release doesn’t rely on proof to make its point. Instead, it’s all about the time it spent in barrels, as it’s officially the oldest rye release from the company to date and more specifically, its focus on its heavily toasted finishing barrels.
Toasted barrel finished whiskey isn’t a new concept, however, you don’t see it utilized as often for ryes. When done right, like with Penelope Toasted Rye, the toasted barrel can impart a dose of flavors that help enhance the overall whiskey. In the case of Jack Daniel’s Twice Barreled Special Release Heritage Barrel Rye, the intention is clearly there, however, the execution takes it further than I would like. The whiskey’s nose is one of the most interesting and inviting that I've experienced from the Jack Daniel’s brand, though it can’t carry the weight of the other parts of the sip that don’t deliver at the same level. This extremely dry whiskey is certainly unique from this standpoint, but the percentage of consumers who enjoy this flavor profile will ultimately be small in the grand scheme of things.
Jack Daniel’s has a fervent global following. When people think of American whiskey, one of the first brands that comes to mind is Jack Daniel’s. With its standard Tennessee Whiskey being easily affordable and Jack & Coke being a cheap “cocktail” anyone can afford, the brand is often thought of as a value brand. While the brand has had its higher priced releases in the past, such as their Sinatra Select, for the most part, they’ve kept their limited edition whiskeys to a reasonable price. Jack Daniel’s Twice Barreled Special Release Heritage Barrel Rye follows this trend with a price tag of $75, which in today’s current whiskey climate, is very reasonable for a limited edition bottle.
However, just because a limited edition bourbon carries a reasonable price tag, doesn’t necessarily make it an outstanding value. Jack Daniel’s Twice Barreled Special Release Heritage Barrel Rye will be a bottle that flies off the shelves, but for those non-collectors who actually drink it, they may walk away wishing they spent a few dollars less and picked up the brand’s Single Barrel Barrel Proof Rye, or even took a chance on the new Jack Daniel’s Bonded Rye. Yes, neither will be a double-barreled bourbon, but in this case, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Due to its ability to suck the moisture right out of your mouth, this doesn’t come across as a rye that’s actually worth the price tag being offered. Limited edition or not, you still have to offer a solid pour for the price, and the fact that the brand has other ryes that do so for much less, makes this a hard sell.
Sometimes too much finishing time isn’t necessarily a good thing, and Jack Daniel’s Twice Barreled Special Release Heritage Barrel Rye overstayed its welcome when it comes to finishing time.
The Jack Daniel’s Heritage Barrel line is normally a whiskey that you can consistently bet on. Each year’s unique release provides consumers the opportunity to try something completely new for the brand. Most years these are instant buys without hesitation, however, this year’s release is giving me pause. While I love the fact that the brand has experimented with a heavily toasted finishing barrel for a rye whiskey, the end product shows that it spent too much time being finished. While the sip starts off on an incredibly strong foundation, the palate and finish that follow lean too far into the dry side of the flavor spectrum. While the sip is still drinkable, it’s also a disappointment considering the amount of potential it would have if the dryness could have been reigned in a bit, undoubtedly with less time spent in the finishing barrels.
I love the experimental nature of this series and realize that not every bottle will be a hit. With so many releases up until this point delivering such well-regarded whiskeys, a miss this year comes across as more surprising than not. In the end, this bottle will be quickly scooped up, but, for those who actually open their bottle, they’ll be in for quite a ride. Jack Daniel’s Twice Barreled Special Release Heritage Barrel Rye is a good reminder that cranking things up to an 11 isn’t necessarily always a good thing.