On his first visit to India, master distiller at Jack Daniel’s, Jeff Arnett conducted a masterclass giving a taste of the old and the new.
Among the oldest distilleries in the USA (1866), Tennesse-based Jack Daniel Distillery is the first registered distillery there and is on the National Register of Historic Places. And Arnett is the 7th in its history to hold the title of Master Distiller.
Touching upon the history and legacy of Jack Daniel’s, Arnett gave an insight on the founder. “Jack didn’t know he was going to make this a huge company. He simply wanted to have a livelihood,” said Arnett. Highlighting the key differences between Scotch and Bourbon, Arnett explained the process as well. Jack Daniel’s is dripped slowly through 10 feet of firmly packed charcoal before going into new charred oak barrels for maturing. This special step of charcoal mellowing makes Jack Daniel’s a Tennessee Whiskey. Care is taken to maintain an ecological balance and trees are constantly planted by the company. Each barrel lasts for 60 years and the water comes a cave spring which means it is absolutely fresh. The grains used are of good quality and the company has a tie-up with the University of Tennessee for research and development.
The Tasting Session
Old No. 7
It has been awarded seven international gold medals, including the “world’s best whiskey” award collected by Jack Daniel himself at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. A well-rounded and balanced medium amber whiskey, it has a pleasant mix of caramel, vanilla and wood notes. I found it a hard drink, very much a man’s taste.
During his lifetime, Jack Daniel tried his hand at charcoal mellowing his whiskey twice to heighten the benefits imparted by hard sugar maple charcoal. Based on this, the Distillery introduced this whiskey in 1988. Charcoal mellowed twice, once before and once after aging, it has caramel and fruit (black currant and mandarin) notes, laced with vanilla and smoke.
This is as individual as it can be. Depending on the oak wood from barrel to barrel, the bottles drawn offer subtle differences in nose, colour and taste. A dark amber single barrel whiskey, it rests in the upper floors of the warehouses where the whiskey’s colour and taste deepen and mature an extra measure. The result is a bold full-bodied whiskey with heightened flavours of toasted oak, vanilla and caramel.
Personally developed by Arnett, this was introduced in 2011. Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 is mingled with a proprietary honey liqueur resulting in a unique, smooth offering. The flavour characteristics of honey complement Jack Daniel’s uniquely smooth charcoal-mellowed character. It can be served chilled straight or in drinks with other mixers like lemonade, tea or ginger ale.
This is a finely crafted, red-hot cinnamon spirit, crafted by mixing Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey and cinnamon liquor. The result is a sweet and fiery kick. This is the distillery’s second flavour variation and I loved it!
About Jeff Arnett
Jeff Arnett was named master distiller in 2008. A native of Jackson, Tennessee, Arnett holds a degree in industrial engineering and worked in the food and beverage manufacturing industry for 11 years before moving to Lynchburg. In 2001, Jeff began work at the distillery in quality control and overseeing Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel. Since then, he has handled various aspects such as warehousing, maturation, distillation, charcoal mellowing management, barrel quality and bottling. He has been a member of the Master Tasters’ panel. In 2017, Whisky Magazine named him “Master Distiller of the Year”.