Recently, friends of mine took a vacation to Tennessee and surprised me with some bottles from the Jack Daniel’s Distillery. These weren’t ordinary bottles that you could just get anywhere. They’re an experimental series called Tennessee Tasters. At the time I’m writing this, there are seven whiskeys in the series.
If you’re unfamiliar with Jack Daniel’s (is there anyone who hasn’t heard of it?), it was founded in 1866 as the first registered distillery in the United States. It started when Jasper “Jack” Newton Daniel purchased a distillery for $25.00 from a preacher named Dan Call. One of Call’s slaves named Nearis Green (also known as Nathan “Nearest” Green) taught Jack how to distill whiskey.
Daniel used water from Cave Spring Hollow in Lynchburg. Realizing how vital it was to have a steady, reliable water source, he purchased it and the surrounding land. The rest, of course, is history, and Jack Daniel’s is the #1 selling whiskey in the United States and the fourth most popular in the world.
My friends brought me three bottles of the Tennessee Tasters. Another friend, David Levine, sent me samples of the remaining four so I could have a complete set and provide tasting notes for each.
Each whiskey has a different recipe and proof, but each 375ml bottle will set you back $39.99, and there are about 24,000 bottles of each available. With that being said, I’ll #DrinkCurious and tell you about each one. My usual format will be slightly different; I’ll give the specifications of each and then provide the tasting notes. Unless otherwise stated, each Taster is distilled from the Old No. 7 mashbill.
Release 001 – High Angel’s Share Barrels
- Barrelled January 2013, Released Fall 2018
- 53.5% ABV / 107°
Appearance: In my Glencairn glass, this whiskey was the color of caramel. It formed a thick rim with fast, heavy legs.
Nose: Cinnamon, lemon zest, and oak joined with caramel and vanilla. When I pulled the aroma into my mouth, there was more caramel.
Palate: I found the mouthfeel to be oily and thick. I tasted English toffee, caramel, and raw honey on the front of my palate. The middle featured crème brûlée, and the back offered berries, cinnamon, and oak.
Finish: Medium to long in duration, the finish was made of berries, English toffee, and oak.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I enjoyed this pour. It was perfectly proofed and full of flavor. It is difficult not to sip this one and smile. I’m happy to crown this one with a Bottle rating.
Release 002 – Hickory Smoke
- Finished with Charred Hickory Staves
- Released Fall 2018
- 50% ABV / 100°
Appearance: Chestnut in color, Release 002 formed a thin rim on the wall of my Glencairn glass and yielded thick, quick legs.
Nose: As you might suspect, hickory smoke was dominating. Beneath it was vanilla and caramel. As I drew the air past my lips, vanilla rolled across my tongue.
Palate: Thin and oily, the front of my palate experienced hickory smoke and oak. The middle consisted of vanilla and cream, while the back tasted of dark chocolate and berries.
Finish: Perhaps the most interesting of this whiskey was the Blue Diamond Smoked Almonds, salt, and roasted coffee flavors that remained for a medium-to-long finish.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Each tasting element should be exciting. In the base of Release 002, the only riveting component was the finish. That’s not to say this was a lousy whiskey; instead, just a few notes mostly seemed out of place. A Bar rating is well-deserved.
Release 003 – Barrel Reunion #1
- Finished in Red Wine Barrels for 288 days
- Released Spring 2019
- 45% ABV / 90°
Appearance: The orange-amber liquid issued a thin rim and weak legs in my Glencairn glass.
Nose: I smelled fruity notes of strawberry and plum, then sweet vanilla, and finally, oak. In my mouth, the vapor tasted of bananas.
Palate: A silky texture greeted my tongue. Banana, plum, and cherry flavors completed the front, while vanilla encompassed the entire middle. Toasted oak and leather created the back.
Finish: Medium in length, the finish was cherry, vanilla, and oak.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I appreciate what Jack Daniel’s tried to do with Release 003. It is unique; it is also only a few notes, and this whiskey could have been so much more. My recommendation would be to try it at a Bar first.
Release 004 – Barrel Proof Rye
- Straight Tennessee Rye Whiskey
- 70% Rye, 18% Corn, 12% Malted Barley
- Released Spring 2019
- 63.8% ABV / 127.6°
Appearance: This whiskey presented as caramel in color and formed an ultra-thin rim on the wall of my Glencairn glass. What remained were sticky droplets that fought gravity.
Nose: Aromas of cherry and prune married brown sugar and caramel. Charred oak was also easy to discern. Through my mouth, banana teased my palate.
Palate: So far, Release 004 has the oiliest texture. Banana bread, rye spice, and cinnamon made for an exciting start. The middle featured caramel, nutmeg, and anise. On the back, I tasted leather, allspice, and coffee.
Finish: Long and lingering, this Rye had a spicy finish made of coffee, allspice, rye bread, and charred oak.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: There was nothing not to enjoy with this Rye. Flavors meshed naturally. I loved how this went from sweet to spicy. Release 004 also drank under its stated proof. A Bottle rating for sure!
Release 005 – Barrel Reunion #2
- Finished in Oatmeal Stout Barrels for at least 240 days
- Released Fall 2019
- 46% ABV / 92°
Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, the caramel color was enticing. A medium rim was formed, which released watery legs.
Nose: Peanut butter! I’m a peanut butter freak, and peanut butter just exploded out of the glass. While I couldn’t care less what other aromas were floating around, they were there and featured vanilla, toasted oak, and cherry pie filling. Drawing the vapor into my mouth, vanilla was evident.
Palate: A creamy, full-bodied mouthfeel resulted in milk chocolate and oatmeal cookies on the front. Peanut butter and nougat formed the middle, while coffee, dark chocolate, and cherry summed up the back.
Finish: Medium in duration, the finish was made of chocolate-covered peanuts, coffee, nougat, and cherry.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Release 005 was mind-blowing and easily a standout from anything else in the series. I would have loved a longer finish. As my favorite of the seven, this snags a Bottle rating.
Release 006 – Jamaican Allspice
- Finished with Toasted Jamaican Allspice Wood for 180 Days
- Released Spring 2020
- 50% ABV / 100°
Appearance: A reddish-amber hue grabbed my attention. In my Glencairn glass, it generated a medium rim with irregular, thick legs.
Nose: As you’d imagine, a mesquite aroma blasted my face. Accompanied by honey barbeque, brown sugar, plum, and tobacco, the sweetness melded nicely with the liquid smoke. As I drew the air into my mouth, vanilla punched my tongue.
Palate: Medium-bodied, caramel and cola were at the front of my palate. Flavors of honey and coffee formed the middle, while allspice, smoked oak, and tobacco were on the back.
Finish: Medium in duration, the finish tasted of clove, tobacco leaf, smoked oak, and cola.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Release 006 was an easy sipper. I have had pimento wood/allspice finished whiskeys before, and usually, what dominates is the allspice. I believe the cola notes tamed it. There weren’t complicated notes, yet overall, it was delicious. I’m happy to convey my Bottle rating.
Batch 007 – 14E19 “Twin” Blend Whiskey
- Straight Tennessee Whiskey (40%) blended with Straight Tennessee Rye Whiskey (60%)
- Barrelled May 2014, Released Fall 2020
- 53.5% ABV / 107°
Appearance: Caramel in color, it formed a medium rim on the side of my Glencairn glass, then released thick, fast legs.
Nose: An aroma of honey barbeque sauce blended with cinnamon and brown sugar. When I inhaled through my lips, vanilla and rye spice were noted.
Palate: I found the mouthfeel to be thin and oily. At the front, I discerned caramel, vanilla, and citrus. The middle featured molasses and honey, while the back was cinnamon, more caramel, and barrel char.
Finish: Long and spicy, the finish tasted of rye, charred oak, nutmeg, and caramel.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Release 007 was the least interesting of the series. I enjoy bouryes; this was just Plain Jane and didn’t do anything for me. I must stress it wasn’t bad. But, it does take a Bar rating.
Final Thoughts: If Jack Daniel’s releases additional experimental whiskeys to the Tennessee Tasters series, I’ll review them separately. Thanks for wading through all of these notes. Cheers!
My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
- Bottle = Buy It
- Bar = Try It
- Bust = Leave It
Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.