I Didn’t Know Jack: Meet The Jack Daniels Bonded Sipping Whiskey
I hope you’ll permit me to start with a digression, which is that there is something marvel-ous about seeing “the market” in action, right before your eyes. And that’s true regardless of whether the movement is in watches or other things that tickle your fancy.
This, at least, is how I assuaged myself the other night, as I (somewhat begrudgingly) purchased a bottle of Jack Daniels’ new Bonded offering.
Playing the High Ball
Watch collectors of every stripe will understand the journey I am about to describe: Near the start of the year, Whisky Advocate magazine declared this new Bonded product as its whiskey of the year, placing the familiar, American-as-apple-pie logo right on its cover. Time to give Jack another go? After I tasted the stuff from the one bottle I bought, I re-turned to the same shop two days later, determined to buy the five bottles I’d left behind.
They were gone. That’s the market at work. A product from a practically ubiquitous, ex-perienced-by-everyone brand, creating a new level of buzz by showing off what it does best.
Determined to get my hands on more, I found a bottle for $46 and still walked out smiling. From a mathematical point of view, the premium I had paid was obscene (the announced list price was $30, channeling the Rolex/Patek game on a smaller scale). But I’d probably be willing to pay a bit more, truth be told; the stuff is flat-out delicious.
I wasn’t entirely surprised by all this. Although the Lynchburg, Tennesee-based company was first registered in 1866, and could undoubtedly rest on its laurels, they have hit homers with limited editions from time to time. Five or six years ago, I got my first taste of Sinatra Select (the Chairman once described Jack as “nectar of the gods,” or so the story goes) and that was similarly satisfying. Lately, I haven't seen a bottle of the Select for less than $170 or so.
But this new product is what the industry refers to as a “permanent expression,” and it’s the first so-called “super-premium” extension of the Jack Daniels’ product line in 25 years. The design, a close cousin of the flagship bottling, is closer to the original label layout of 1895.
“Bonded” mainly signals the robust 50 percent ABV (100 proof, compared to the main bottling’s 80), but it also references compliance with the Bottled in Bond Act of 1897, re-quiring whiskey to be distilled by a single distiller during a single season, as well as ma-tured in a government-bonded warehouse for at least four years.
Bonded, Really Bonded
I was surprised to learn that Bonded adheres to the classic Old No. 7 product’s standard recipe of 80% corn, 12% malted barley, and 8% rye; the richness and texture of the juice would have led me to guess a higher grain content. But the difference, of course, is time in barrel.
Tasting notes from the brand promise a “darker, richer, and more oak-forward charac-ter,” with “notes of caramel and spice.” And those are all there. What’s remarkable about this whiskey, though, is a dense, palate-coating mouthfeel.
It’s pretty in the glass. The high proof contributes to a clean, saline nose. There is a pow-erful candied sugar note and hints of tropical fruits that fade on the finish into persistent flavors of lightly toasted macadamia nuts. These so-called “exotic” flavors arise usually in the finest scotches and bourbons, aged treasures. A single cube loosens it all up, spread-ing the flavors across the palate.
Word of Mouth
I’ve been enjoying it so much that I couldn’t help but tell a few friends. And that same conversation is, no doubt, taking place all over North America – and thereby unleashing upward pressure on the price. Think about the same word-of-mouth stories on any num-ber of unexpected, elevated timepieces from brands you might have viewed as growing a bit stagnant. Even those who got hold of those watches at a premium were happy to have acquired them. Find yourself some Jack Daniels Bonded, for a roughly equivalent spirits experience.