Monday, March 28, 2011

Jack Daniel’s–To Bourbon or Not to Bourbon

I was called out by Blane for incorrectly stating that Jack Daniel’s was a Bourbon in this Blog Post.

I know better…..but I decided what a good blog post, plus…what is the real scoop.

If you were to ask the Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller, he would say -

Jack Daniel's is dripped slowly - drop-by-drop - through ten feet of firmly packed charcoal (made from hard sugar maple) before going into new charred oak barrels for aging. This special process gives Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey its rare smoothness. It's this extra step - charcoal mellowing - that makes Jack Daniel's a Tennessee Whiskey.

Interestingly, even though it is considered a Tennessee whiskey, that is not actually a legal definition. It is a bourbon in every respect with the addition of filtering through sugar maple charcoal.

Southern Ham says:

For a whiskey to qualify as bourbon, the law--by international agreement--stipulates that it must be made in the USA. It must be made from at least 51% and no more than 79% Indian corn, and aged for at least two years. (Most bourbon is aged for four years or more.)

Jack Daniel's and George Dickel of Tennessee are both 80% corn (their Barley and Rye percentages differ)  and it is difficult to find what percentage of Indian Corn they use.  So they COULD Qualify.

Many point to the fact that since Jack is filtered through Charcoal, that is the main disqualifier, yet again there is some ambiguity on the subject….especially when you read the letter of the law-

Title 27: Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Part 5 Labeling and Advertising of Distilled Spirits § 5.22   The standards of identity

Which put the following definitions -

(b) Class 2; whisky. “Whisky” is an alcoholic distillate from a fermented mash of grain produced at less than 190° proof in such manner that the distillate possesses the taste, aroma, and characteristics generally attributed to whisky, stored in oak containers (except that corn whisky need not be so stored), and bottled at not less than 80° proof, and also includes mixtures of such distillates for which no specific standards of identity are prescribed.

(1)(i) “Bourbon whisky”, “rye whisky”, “wheat whisky”, “malt whisky”, or “rye malt whisky” is whisky produced at not exceeding 160° proof from a fermented mash of not less than 51 percent corn, rye, wheat, malted barley, or malted rye grain, respectively, and stored at not more than 125° proof in charred new oak containers; and also includes mixtures of such whiskies of the same type.

As you can see, there is no exclusion to Charcoal Filtering, nor the aforementioned Indian Corn or the fact that it was not from Bourbon County.  Also, there is no legal  definition of Tennessee Whisky.

So….this re-raises the questions- Is Jack Daniel’s a Bourbon?  Legally, Yes.  According to the Distillery, No.  To me….it’s all Whiskey.

Bonus Shout out to my 33 Brothers-

1 comment:

  1. Even though Jack is not a Bourbon they still put out quality products.
    Gentleman Jack and Single Barrel are excellent Whiskeys.


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