At a time when age statements seem to be in retreat across the whiskey-making world, one of the most famous labels in brown liquor is releasing its first numbered whiskey in more than 100 years. Jack Daniel’s 10-Year-Old Tennessee Whiskey is the first age statement to come from the iconic distiller since its founder—who died in 1911—was still living. It will hit shelves in September.
According to Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller Chris Fletcher—who occupies a position once held by his grandfather—the decision to launch the 10-Year came about in 2015. During that year, Fletcher began looking at the barrel lots used to produce the company’s more premium, higher-proof Single Barrel Select expression, and pulled aside about 3,000 barrels aged for about seven-and-a-half years to use in the 10-year.
The juice inside is identical to what goes into the flagship Old No. 7. Its mashbill is composed of 80% corn, 12% malted barley, and 8% rye. After being distilled entirely in copper stills, the whiskey is filtered through 10 feet of maple charcoal produced on-site.
What makes it so obviously different is the age. While Old No. 7 carries no age statement, Fletcher says it averages about four-to-five years, and he counts Single Barrel Select as being between five-to-seven. But also of note is the 10-Year’s higher proof, which stands at 97—placing it considerably higher than Old No. 7 (80 proof) and just a hair above Single Barrel Select (94 proof).
In the glass, it pours a deep, dark bronze and features the typically sweet Jack nose plus a dried fruit scent that made me think sticking my nose into a box of raisins. Also on deck were cooked sugars, molasses, and woodsy spice.
Yes, it’s a sweeter whiskey, and its character should not come as a surprise to the label’s fans or detractors. And yet, it’s distinctly not Old No. 7: 10-Year is marked by virtue of its powerful dried fruit presence including raisins, figs and fruit leathers, and an enhanced spice presence in the back that builds up scented pipe tobacco alongside toffee and butterscotch. Aside from the appreciated complexity provided by dried fruit and tobacco spice, it’s also much more substantial in body, building up in texture until it becomes so viscous that you can practically chew it at the finish.
It was only in the spring of this year that Fletcher felt the 10-Year was ready to be bottled, and he pulled from about 200 barrels to produce roughly 36,000 bottles. Even at the more premium price point of $70, it’s easy to see the first batch of 10-Year selling out fast. However, Fletcher says that the 10-Year is a permanent addition to the Jack Daniels family, and that it will be released again around the same time next year. And thanks to the ever-unpredictable nature of aged whiskey, Fletcher notes that the 10-Year of 2022 could be a bit different from that of 2021.
When asked if the company—which once counted 14 and 18-year whiskeys among its product line—might introduce additional age statements, Fletcher expressed that that was his hope. Judging by what we’ve seen so far from the Jack Daniel’s 10-year, we imagine that might be the hope of whiskey drinkers across the world, too.