Jack Daniel’s is celebrating its 150th Anniversary and Chris Fletcher, Assistant Distiller and Grandson of the fifth Master Distiller Frank Bobo, takes us on a time travelling and tasting journey at Hotel Harry in Surry Hills.
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Jack Daniel’s Tasting with Chris Fletcher
Jack Daniel’s has distilled every drop of its whiskey from 1866 on from its home in Lynchburg Tennessee. The reason why Jack Daniel’s is a Tennessee Whiskey and not a bourbon is due to what they term as mellowing. To show what this means to the spirit, Chris has brought for tasting the unmellowed and mellowed spirit as it comes off the still.
The spirit as it comes off the still has aromas of grass, hay, some yeast and cereal grain. On taste, there are sweet notes up front, grassy notes on the mid palate with the liquid having an oily slick finish. This spirit, if they were to put it into new oak barrels as is, would have to be called bourbon.
Jack Daniel’s does not do that though. There is an extra step where the spirit is mellowed by running it through ten feet of hard packed sugar maple charcoal, a process that takes around three days. This spirit has is more floral and fruity on the nose with aromas of banana, pear and apple with a greater sweetness up front when tasting as the bitter flavours have been lost and the texture is not as viscous as the unmellowed spirit. The process does not add anything as colour or flavour. This extra step of mellowing is what makes Jack Daniel’s a Tennessee Whiskey.
As these two showed us how the spirit comes about it was time to move onto the finished whiskies.
First up Gentleman Jack (40% ABV), a very soft and mellow expression with estery banana and apple notes with that fruit sweetness up front when tasting. A second mellowing is done on Gentleman Jack but this time though only through three feet of the sugar maple charcoal. which is the reason for its softness and for the flavours to be brought to the front of the palate.
Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 (40% ABV) has that signature pop of fruit with flavours being more to edge of the tongue when tasting. There is more oak in evidence with a little astringency with this whiskey being balanced through the front, middle and finish.
Jack Daniel’s No.27 Gold (40% ABV) is double mellowed like Gentleman Jack but has also been finished for one year in maple barrels after spending four to seven years in oak barrels. This brings rich sweet aromas and on the palate this is a very soft and delicate expression with a creamier mouthfeel and brown sugar notes in the finish. The time in the maple barrel delivers those sweet notes naturally.
Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select is as its states, a bottling from one barrel. These stand alone whiskies, there are roughly 250 bottles that come out of anyone barrel, deliver bigger bolder flavours with dry baking spices and lots of toasted oak. there will always be the base Single Barrel Select character with subtle differences due to the individual barrel. The character comes from the barrels position on the top floor of the warehouse where the high summer heat causes the whiskey to swell and expand and build up pressure on the pores in the wood. The high temperature also increase evaporation which concentrates the flavour even more.
As the tasting concludes, who is this man in navy patterned pyjamas and a battered suitcase that appears? What is he babbling about, prohibition? Wrong country, wrong time. Or are we taking a journey through his dreams, his memories.
‘White with one’ is the password that takes you into the dark by candlelight room. No names are used. Well, no real names that is as you are working and this bootlegger needs people he can trust. You don’t know who might be a Prohibition Agent, that is if you are not a frequent visitor to this world. The door keep fills you in on what has been happening during Prohibition while keeping an ear out for the prohis. In the room, jars of moonshine with one filled with Jack Daniel’s can be seen by the flickering candle light. Around the jars coded tags are attached to be deciphered to find that precious liquid and to become our friendly bootlegger’s right hand while he takes care of business upstate. As the jar of Jack Daniel’s is discovered, the overalled help describes how to make the greatest Old Fashioned using frozen water, Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel poured prohibition style, without a measure, and some bitters. There were reports that the Old Fashioned was back in the 1800’s called the Breakfast Cocktail and was supposedly good for the complexion.
Prohibition was a dark and dangerous time but at its repeal coincided with the country beginning to make its way slowly out of the Great Depression and the mood of the nation started to look more positive. Our pyjama’d host has moved from his youth and takes us to the big change in his life when he met a young singer from around town.
If there is one name that epitomises Jack, it is Mr Frank Sinatra. As a wonderful privilege we high-rollers were able to go to his generous sized dressing room, much bigger than most peoples apartments with lounges and of course a bar well stocked with Jack Daniel’s. But we of course cannot forget the man himself for letting us in during the interval for his show at The Desert Inn in Las Vegas with the boss, Nicoletta Moretti also in attendance adding a dash of glamour. The casual banter put everyone at ease and Mr Sinatra decided he would have us make him his favourite drink, Jack Daniel’s My Way. Mr Sinatra talked us through how to make his drink, a nice tumbler glass, a couple of ice cubes no more than two, three fingers of Jack Daniel’s and the special ingredient H2O but not too much. You don’t want to dilute it, Mr Sinatra says, you have a great product why mess with it. Oh and didn’t he just enjoy showing as all Sinatra Select. My favourite whiskey named after me.
Mr Sinatra allowed his main man, Chris Fletcher, to bring us back to the present to explain the Mr Sinatra’s family with Jack Daniel’s produced a whiskey that Frank would drink. A whiskey that showedcased not only its natural character but also the character of Ol’ Blue Eyes himself.
Frank Sinatra’s love of Jack Daniel’s was legendary but this Tennessee whiskey expanded and became a favourite of many a rock and roll band.
That time with Mr Sinatra must have instilled a big love of music with our host as he recalled the time that followed. The years rolled on, the sixties, the seventies then the eighties and I was managing the biggest rock bands in the world. The nights got wilder and wilder. But I always kept my head on. The dream continues over here. Ziv was the biggest rock star at the top of his game. Hit after hit shooting up the charts and Jack Daniel’s on the bar.
Let’s move forward a few decades and here we are backstage with Ziv and Sass announce they are going to leave the band to form a rock and roll band. No hard feelings there, has been plenty of great music and plenty of JD’s and Cokes. What better way to remember the good times and help them come up with a name for his new band as we all toss in our suggestions while sipping on the same. Ziv wants to give that bottle of Old No.7 that has passed its way through musical history from the likes of Frank to the very best of the new.
This evening gave you a taste of the times Be it bootleggers moving pre prohibition Jack Daniel’s whenever they could find some, to spending time and having a drink with the inimitable Mr Frank Sinatra and being a part of that exciting world of rock and roll. Through all of those memories is Jack Daniel’s. You know you can not wait to see what new memories he brings.
The event concluded with the 1866 Cocktail, made to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of Jack Daniel’s. This is the recipe below.
45ml Jack Daniel’s 150 Tennessee
30ml Blueberry and Black Peppercorn Shrub
30ml Freshly Squeezed citrus
2 x dashes of Aromatic Bitters
Charge with a homemade Ginger Beer
Method:Build over ice, churn and charge with the homemade ginger beer
Garnish: Lime wheel and mint sprig
A lucky few received a special bottling of Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel specifically selected and signed by Christ Fletcher.
Jack lives on.
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