You all know Jack Daniel’s. You’ve all, almost certainly, tasted its flagship product Old No.7. There’s something to be said for producing the world’s best-selling whiskey*. But there’s more to JD than it.

And we don’t mean the ubiquitous branding found on t-shirts and posters and more around the world. We’re not referring to images of Sinatra sipping a whiskey on the rocks or Lemmy swigging from a bottle while dangling from a chandelier. Yes, Jack Daniel’s is a brand, one that’s traversed fashion, music, merchandising, and more.

But first and foremost, Jack Daniel’s is a whiskey distillery. And with its Bonded Series reaching the UK with Jack Daniel’s Bonded Whiskey and Jack Daniel’s Triple Mash Whiskey, we decided to look beyond the black and white label with master distiller Chris Fletcher.

Jack Daniels

Everyone knows Jack Daniel’s. At least, this whiskey. But there’s a huge range beyond it.

The name’s bond, bottled in bond 

The Bonded Series was launched so Jack Daniel’s could create a range of “Bottled in Bond” whiskey. For people outside of the U.S., it’s a strict designation that emerged from the 1897 Bottled-in-Bond Act, a U.S. federal law crafted to guarantee whiskey quality. This legislation was a response to rampant adulteration in the whiskey industry. Back in the day people would buy whiskey and then cut it with other things, water it down, or add tobacco juice to make it look like it was aged. 

To qualify as a Bottled in Bond whiskey, the spirit must first be an American whiskey, which could be bourbon, rye, malt, or Tennesse whiskey. It also must be the product of one distillation season by one distiller at one distillery, it has to be aged for at least four years in a federally bonded warehouse, and it must be bottled at exactly 100 proof (50% ABV to us Europeans). 

There are two seasons, spring (Jan to June) and fall (July to Dec) and you can’t blend whiskey from these two seasons, or whiskey from the same season across different years, giving Bottled in Bond whiskey something of a vintage vibe. Every bottle should contain a DSP number and a distillery permit that signifies the whiskey was made at a single site. Jack Daniel’s bottles will show DSP Tennessee-1. The federally bonded warehouse is a locked maturation space where everything is bonded to the government until the tax on the alcohol is paid.

The Nightcap

Jack Daniel’s master distiller, Chris Fletcher

Bigger, bolder Jack Daniel’s

What was originally designed to protect the consumer became more of a gold standard of quality that established American whiskey’s reputation globally. Today, Bottled in Bond represents a guarantee of transparency, a rarity in whiskey generally, nevermind the United States. “We feel that the Bottled in Bond Act might be more important now than it was in the 1800s. There are hundreds of brands, but not many distilleries, and not much transparency about where the whiskey is made. It’s something we’ve taken for granted as we’ve always made our own whiskey, but that’s not the way it is across the industry at all,” says Fletcher.

The Bonded series gives Jack Daniel’s an opportunity to not only bottle premium whiskey but also bring a style and historical classification of American whiskey to a wider audience. Few have the platform this brand wields with its name. The flavoured editions might not be for the whiskey nerd, but they help bring people into the whiskey category, people who would usually drink a cocktail or a white spirit. “Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey or Apple is essentially a cocktail in a bottle,” as Fletcher puts it. At the other end of the scale, there’s more premium whiskey like Gentleman Jack, worthy experiments like its Rye whiskey, and an excellent range of single-cask expressions.

Fletcher says that they still felt like there was a bit of a gap between Old No.7 and the Single Barrel and that the Bonded series was the perfect solution. It’s a batched product, meaning for each whiskey a couple hundred barrels are being blended together. “It gives you the darker, richer, more robust character, the kind you would get in a single barrel, but instead of barrel-to-barrel variation, these are consistent products that deliver that bigger, bolder consistent flavour”.

Jack Daniel’s Bonded Whiskey is described by Fletcher as being the classic No. 7 but taken up a notch, while Jack Daniel’s Triple Mash Whiskey is its own thing entirely. “The marketing team pitched an idea about blending whiskey, not something we don’t do very much in American whiskey. An American blended whiskey only has to contain 20% whiskey, the other 80% can be anything (neutral spirits or other whiskeys), so I was very reluctant,” Fletcher recalls. “But I said we could do a blend of only straight whiskey, our Tennessee whiskey, our malt whiskey, and our rye. If we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna double down on the transparency and authenticity of every drop of whiskey we make in Lynchburg. The regulation doesn’t say Bottled in Bond whiskey can’t be blended, it only refers to straight whiskey. We got the approval”. Triple Mash is very much what it says on the tin: three straight whiskeys, a Bottled in Bond malt, rye, and Tennessee whiskey, all combined to create one unique product. 

Casks at Jack Daniel's

Casks at Jack Daniel’s, maturing all kinds of interesting whiskey

The ‘how it’s made’ story

Because Bottled in Bond has become a de facto quality statement, Fletcher says Jack Daniel’s could aim for a more discerning, educated whiskey drinker, the kind who appreciates cask strength or single cask whisky in Scotch. “We can see where American whiskey is and where it’s going, so this range gives us another platform and the attention of a consumer who is more interested in the craft behind their whiskey. We control the process from start to finish, the term craft doesn’t only apply to small distilleries. It’s about telling our story. What we do. Our ‘how it’s made’ story’,”. 

Even though Jack Daniel’s is a name known all over the world, it’s made in the second smallest county in Tennessee. Out of 95, it’s county number 94. There’s no restaurant that stays open past 5pm, there’s no shopping mall or movie theatre, and there’s one traffic light. “It’s a small town. But the people there and the families that have been making whiskey for generations**. My family has been involved, my grandparents worked there. We’re still back-culturing our own yeast since Prohibition. A full-time microbiologist grows it up fresh every week”.  

With the Bonded Series, Jack Daniel’s is flexing its muscles. These are two completely different but interesting whiskies and early signs are good, with Whiskey Advocate naming the Bonded Whiskey as their American whiskey release of the year for 2022. They might just make some people reconsider what they think of when they hear the name. Below is a tasting note for each of the Bonded Series whiskies, with input from Fletcher himself.

Jack Daniel’s Bonded and Jack Daniel’s Triple Mash

Jack Daniel’s Bonded and Jack Daniel’s Triple Mash Whiskey

Jack Daniel’s Bonded Whiskey 70cl tasting note:

Nose: Orange peel, luscious vanilla, toasted oak, and plenty of rich caramel.

Palate: Muscovado sugar, cooked apple, vanilla fudge, and ginger.

Finish: Woodsmoke, marmalade, and cinnamon swirls.

Fletcher says: “At its core, this our Old No. 7. Same recipe, same process. It’s about how we’re batching this together with those darker whiskies coming out of the barrel, which means more oak influence on the flavour and that means drier, tannic, barrel char that balances those classic sweet notes you get from Jack Daniel’s. Gentleman Jack or Old No.7 has that bright, floral fruit sweetness on the nose, this is more cooked fruit, and the 50% ABV has an impact too. One word we kept talking about was bold. Bigger, bolder, classic flavours. I think it’s perfect for any classic whiskey cocktail, which was also part of the thought. I’m an Old Fashioned guy, just a little bit of citrus makes it pop. In the hands of a skilled mixologist, the opportunities are endless”. 

Jack Daniel’s Triple Mash Whiskey 70cl tasting note:

Nose: Warming oak, petrichor, vanilla, and toffee apples.

Palate: Honey on granary toast, dried fruit, and baking spice join the party.

Finish: Rye spice tingles away for a while.

Fletcher says: “This is 60% rye, 20% Tennessee whiskey, then 20% American single malt whiskey. That blend happens at the end of the process, with rye as the base giving you some earthy herbaceousness – dill, green mint, pepper on the back end – but also some of the sweet fruitiness, apple and apricot, that’s the classic Jack Dnaiel’s character from our yeast. The malt gives it this toasty, biscuity quality, and on the finish, it sweetens up with that Tennessee coming to the fore. It’s very different, more rye-focused, but with lots of red berries and sweet fruit throughout”.

*Depending on whose data you use, it’s always up there regardless.

** Including members of the Green family who have been producing Tennessee whiskey from the beginning and are now honoured by the Uncle Nearest whiskey brand, named after Jack Daniel’s mentor.