Some tasty Tennessee Whiskey has landed at our door today so we thought you’d like to learn more about this intriguing newcomer. Here’s the lowdown on Daddy Rack.

Most of you will know two things about Tennessee Whiskey. One, it’s made in Tennessee with almost the same legal regulations as bourbon (at least 51% corn mash bill, must be aged in new, charred oak etc.) apart from the use of a method of additional filtration through maple charcoal known as the Lincoln County Process. And two, Jack Daniel’s is a Tennessee Whiskey.

There are, of course, numerous other producers that make whiskey the Tennessee way.  George Dickel is the other giant alongside Jack, while Uncle Nearest is growing so fast we’ll be calling it Great Uncle Nearest soon. The latest brand to join the esteemed ranks is Daddy Rack Tennessee Straight Whiskey. Founder J.Arthur Rackham was drawn to the category because he “loves the soul of the state” and “wanted to bottle a bit of that magic”. 

It’s the realisation of a lifelong ambition. Booze has always been a part of Rackham’s life. He was born above his father’s liquor store in Portobello Road, west London. In 1968 he got an apprenticeship with the Camus family in Cognac, which began a more than 50-year career in the international spirit merchant business. Rackham says that all this time in the industry underlines that there is nothing more important than understanding the DNA and the tradition of the spirit you’re working with. 

Daddy Rack Tennessee Straight Whiskey

Daddy Rack is the latest brand to emerge from Tennessee

Making whiskey the Daddy Rack way

So we’re expecting to see that Daddy Rack was made without taking any shortcuts with ingredients, fermentation, distillation and barrel selection and ageing. First, we begin with a mash bill of corn (80%), rye (10%) and malted barley (10%). The grade one corn comes from local farmers within 50 miles of the distillery. We’re off to a good start. Rackham explains that Tennessee whiskey “conveys a sense of place” and that he wanted to amplify that by supporting the communities local to the distillery, “whose produce is amazing quality”.

He elaborates, “This all goes into creating a liquid that conveys quality and provenance in every sip. We sit in the middle of a corn belt, with high-grade corn grown locally, so it was an amazing chance to source locally.” The mash after fermentation is also sent to local cattle farmers for feed, meaning Daddy Rack is lowering its carbon footprint and supporting the local farm industry in one fell swoop.

Once the milling of the grains has taken place a 72-hour sour mash follows. Then a first distillation is in a copper column still, followed by a second pot ‘doubler’ still distillation. The spirit comes off the stills around 67.5% ABV, but before it’s placed into barrels there’s one more step. The Lincoln County Process. Daddy Rack does things a little differently by employing a light second round of maple charcoal filtration to “increase the smoothness”. 

Daddy Rack Tennessee Straight Whiskey

Say hello to Daddy Rack himself!

Passion, provenance and philanthropy

We can’t reveal the distillery’s name. But there are some clues in the article. And very few options for what it could be… Rackham does say that he’s been fortunate enough to always be surrounded by real stalwarts in the industry and along the way met some incredible people. Luck has played a part. “I met the owners of the distillery and they were keen to work with me on a project to show what they could do with their impressive facility in Columbia with their team,” he said. “It has been a joy to work with them and find a like-minded production partner.” 

Rackham says he selects about 20 barrels to mature a batch of Daddy Rack. He only uses casks with a light char level (no. 3), to avoid stripping too much character from the spirit. Which makes sense. No point spending all that money on great corn only to kill it with fire. It means barrel selection from the rackhouse is very important. “We use an algorithm of picking barrels. Some from the top tier with higher evaporation and some from the mid and lower tier with low evaporation to balance the blend and preserve our inherent core flavours. It’s all about managing the harsher congeners from the sour mash fermentation to make a mellow, balanced and smooth Tennessee whiskey with genuine flavour”. Rackham explains. “Sure, it’s a bit more work, but it’s definitely worth it.”

To that end, Daddy Rack is bottled at 40% ABV with no colouring, caramel or additional flavours added. It’s clear there’s a tremendous amount of care and passion gone into this project. After all, Rackham gave the whiskey his name. Daddy Rack is what eldest daughter Grace calls him. He feels like it truly represents him, explaining that “it’s like we’d bottled a bit of my heart and soul”. His ambition is to be the number two Tennessee whiskey in the global market after Jack Daniel’s. And to help a new generation of whiskey imbibers appreciate Tennessee Whiskey. Rackham’s also working on a cask strength expression with a little more age, which we look forward to tasting.

Daddy Rack Tennessee Straight Whiskey

Daddy Rack, looking swell in the sunshine.

The taste test

Before we get to the review, we would be remiss not to point out the brand’s fantastic support of CORE. The charity. with roots in Tennessee, receives 50 cents of every bottle of Daddy Rack sold to help support its mission of providing financial relief when a food and beverage employee with children faces a health crisis, injury, death or natural disaster. “With the year we’ve had it was more important than ever that we supported people in the hospitality industry who have faced so much uncertainty and struggle,” Rackham says. “It also has roots in Tennessee. So we felt a real synergy with it as a charity, and have nothing but admiration and respect for what it does. I am a Trustee of The Drinks Trust. CORE mirrors these values”.

As for how the whiskey tastes, overall I enjoyed Daddy Rack. It’s a touch thin on the palate at times and doesn’t quite carry all of its early promise into the finish. It could maybe do with being bottled at a slightly higher strength. But the nose has a lovely array of flavour and all of them are balanced well throughout. The sweetness never becomes saccharine, the spice is aromatic and there are some interesting depth and variety in places. Daddy Rack is a moreish, fun and versatile expression with a host of pleasant notes for a reasonable price point in this category. It’s a whiskey you can sip neat, but there’s also a number of cocktail recipes it works with.

My favourite is the Rackhouse Lemonade, which also happens to be Rackham’s. He made it with his friend Simon Difford and it should be no great surprise to anyone to learn that it’s absolutely smashing. I’ll be having one or two of those at the first BBQ I can go to this year. For now, we can still bring some of this liquid sunshine into our own homes. The full tasting note and cocktail recipe are below and you can purchase Daddy Rack Tennessee Straight Whiskey now!

Daddy Rack Tennessee Straight Whiskey

Daddy Rack Tennessee Straight Whiskey Tasting Note:

Nose: Vanilla pod earthiness, maple syrup and banana milkshake lead with red apples, fresh-cut grass, Kinder Bueno and toasted oak in support. In the backdrop, there’s melted salted butter, winter spice, cereal sweetness and peanut brittle.

Palate: Notes of candy floss, toffee popcorn, bruised apples and loose-leaf tobacco appear initially, with sultanas, manuka honey and vanilla cola in support. Barrel char, green tea, oily espresso beans and sour cherry brings some nice bittersweet depth. With brown sugar, custard and chocolate-covered raisins joining them underneath. There’s a measured prickle of spice throughout from cinnamon and black pepper.

Finish: Spearmint, orange peel and some lingering nutmeg, milk chocolate and caramel elements.

Daddy Rack Tennessee Straight Whiskey

How to make a Rackhouse Lemonade

45ml Daddy Rack Tennessee Straight Whiskey
10ml Giffard Creme de Peche de Vigne 
15ml lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
90ml lemon-lime soda

Pour all ingredients into an ice-filled Collins glass. Stir and garnish with a slice or twist of lemon.