Barrel-proof whiskey, also known as cask-strength, is having a moment, and for good reason. By bottling whiskey at the proof it comes out of the barrel, distillers are capturing the exact flavors of what years of maturation did to the liquid, at the cost of a more limited, and therefore exclusive, production from each barrel. And by keeping alcohol content higher, barrel-proof whiskeys are a favorite of bartenders who want to to keep mixed drinks alcoholic, and of slow sippers who want to keep their ice from turning their whiskey on the rocks into watery memories of a good spirit.
Jack Daniel’s Single-Barrel Barrel-Proof Whiskey isn’t the distillery’s first tango with single-barrel offerings. In February of 1997, the distillery introduced Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select. The next year they offered a barrel program in which groups could purchase entire barrels for bottling. The US military has since become the single largest purchaser of Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel, with entire SEAL teams making purchases and rumors circulating that SEAL Team 6 purchased a barrel after tracking down Osama Bin Laden.
Only one in 100 barrels of Jack Daniel’s is considered at the quality needed to make the cut for the Single Barrel program, where the whiskey made from a nearly 150-year-old Tennessee whiskey recipe is stored in the upper regions of the barrelhouse, where temperature swings are more pronounced. Warming up in the Tennessee sun and then cooling down with the drafts of winter, the whiskey cycles in and out of the wood more than in any other barrel level in the warehouse. Once the master distiller feels that the whiskey is ready to be bottled, the barrels are tapped and, new to 2015, bottled at the exact proof that comes out. The result starts with sweet caramel and vanilla, but with more pronounced creaminess, oak and complexity for a long, lingering finish.
With bourbon, Tennessee whiskey and rye all hugely popular in the US, many companies are trying new flavors, strange expressions or gimmicks to try to fight for more of their share of the market. It’s refreshing to see the top-selling American whiskey brand take their time with their whiskey and with their decision to bring a barrel-proof offering to market. It took them almost two decades to unleash a new single-barrel bottle, but it was well worth the wait.
Aged: No age statement
Proof: 125 to 140
Mash: corn, rye and malted barley