There are very few drinks in this world that can be called iconic. Whisky brands, due to their competition, tend to not have such a status in the world. This however cannot be said for the king of bourbon, and perhaps American whisky in general, that is Jack Daniels.
Old No 7.
This is a religion to some, life to others, but to anyone who has had a sip of this elixir, whether with coke, water or simply with ice, it is a symbol of bourbon at its finest. To know what bourbon is exactly however I suggest you revert to this post.
Before proceeding with the story however, keep a few things in mind about the American whisky culture. For starters it’s heavily corn based when compared with any other area of the world. Next it uses more than one grain to make (the collective term being mashbill). This imparts a number of complex notes to the product. Rye for instance adds a spiciness, wheat a a better mouthfeel and finally barley with its maltiness.
Also I must highlight a bit on the past of America whisky. It started from the sellers initial efforts to turn an abundance of apples into brandies. Moreover initially it was made by immigrant farmers from Germany, Ireland, Scotland and so on. The corn trend came around the 1770’s when local Indian corn was produced in abundance. It was a profitable business, considering 50c worth of corn could produce 2$ worth of whisky and that free land was literally given away in the 18thc to plant corn . The industrial revolution of the 1860’s boosted the movement… but alas by 1915 ,20 states were dry. This wasn’t helped by the great drought of 1920. By 1930 bourbon was dead.
Years later when scotch and Canadian whisky took the market, and when world war II removed American produced whisky from the mindset (despite a repeal of the prohibition), a new hope arose. Wine (that’s right), Californian wine to be exact brought America back into distilling spirits. How you might ask… perhaps it convinced Americans that domestically produced liquor was good, world class even. Or perhaps it was a lucky coincidence, who knows…
In anycase it came. And with a bang at that. But before we go back to JD I must recall another man named JC.. John Crow (nothing to do with the lord commander :P). This man singlehandedly converted American whisky from moonshine into the beauty that is bourbon. He did this by bringing science into the mix… sourmashing (introducing a bit of the acidic old fermented mash into a new batch, something that was done to remove the hardness of lime heavy water), PH testing, Sacrometers (sugar testers), by bringing all this into the mix he helped create a finer final product, and cemented himself into whisky legend, having given 30 years of his life to the craft.
Returning now to the story of Gentleman Jack
“In 1846 there once lived a boy named Jack. He had a difficult life, an absent father and overburdening step mother, made his life a living hell. This drove a young jack to hit the high road and move with his uncle. Years later at the age of 14 he started working in a store of a pseudo preacher named Dan, who also had a still running in his basement at Louse Creek.
Soon, the First World war called and with it Dan to bear arms for king and country (no king really but you get the point). It was at this time that the slave who worked for Dan by the name if Nearest Creek taught Jack the art of distilling bourbon.
So in 1865 Jack once again bid farewell to the familiar. But this time aimed at whiskey glory. He took Creek’s grandsons George and Eli to help him make what would someday bear his name across the world.
So it was a Lynchburg alongside a cave and its springs that Jack finally found home.”
The uniqueness of bourbon in this region however is the Lincoln County process that uses Sugar Maple Charcoal to filter the bourbon. But this requiring charcoal for 75 vats being changed every 6 months results in a combined cost of $100,000 a year.
The use of large amounts of corn also provides it with its signature softness and sweetness. Moreover it makes its own barbells, from drying to toasting to shaping. And finally its water, cool at 13°C it prevents any unwanted sharpness from emerging.
In any case it has and shall continue to encapsulate the palate of veterans and rookies in the whiskey world. Below are my tasting notes for the Old No 7.
OLD NO 7. – 80 proof
PRICE 750ml: Rs 1341
NOSE: Golden amber, sooty, caramelized sugar
PALATE: Light, sweer, clean, full of Vanilla, young but firm
FINISH: a bit of spice from the rye
CONCLUSION: easy sweet and mixable
There is a reason JD has done so well in the market. It had the ability which few bourbons have. The ability to compliment ingredients in cocktails. JD and coke, in a whisky sour, a mint julip, the list goes on. Now I’m not a big fan of mixing whisky or even bourbon with anything, but even I can’t deny it accentuates drinks and in other cases forms the base to the whole experience.
In any case JD shall always remain what it is, a pillar of unity for all things whisky. Something that an industry built on competition rarely seems to do.
With that we conclude this weeks post, stay tuned for more next week…