It’s easy to assume that Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Rye is late to the game. But the fact is that Jack has been working on a rye whiskey since 2011. Rather than bottle a third-party whiskey like so many others, or rush something to market, they took their time.
You might remember Jack Daniel’s Unaged Rye, which debuted in 2012. This was released to give consumers a glimpse into the rye-making process. Two years later saw the release of Jack Daniel’s Rested Tennessee Rye, and two years after that: a single barrel version. Only the latter will continue to be available, whereas the first two iterations were limited-edition looks at the whiskey’s life cycle from unaged whiskey to the fully-matured final product.
With the forthcoming release of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Rye, which will join the brand’s permanent lineup this October, Jack is finally ready to show off all its hard work. The rye whiskey is Jack’s first new grain bill since Prohibition. Whereas the other whiskeys in the portfolio carry the same 80% corn, 12% malted barley, and 8% rye ratios, the rye whiskey turns things around with a grain bill that is 70% rye, 18% corn, and 12% malted barley.
Last week, we had the chance to sample the goods for ourselves straight from the source. When asked about the revamped grain bill, Master Distiller Jeff Arnett said:
“You have a lot of brands that are 51% rye and a lot that are 95%. We thought it made sense to do something different than what was already in the marketplace…The nature of rye is big and bold, but can be harsh and edgy. That’s why we backed off from going 95% or higher. At 70% rye, there was enough space left for the other grains to matter.”
He’s right. Jack Daniel’s Rye has a bold, spicy center, with flavors that range from dried fruit to mild oak. But when tasting it, all the ingredients are noticeable. The corn peeks through with a hint of sweetness, and the barley lends a welcome note of toasty cereal. And because the rye is filtered through 10-feet of sugar maple charcoal—a common Tennessee whiskey-making step known as the Lincoln County Process—the rye doesn’t smack you in the throat on the way down. It’s smooth, mellow, and very approachable.
At a welcome 90-proof, Jack Daniel’s Rye has enough strength to stand up in cocktails, and the brand hopes that bartenders reach for it when making Manhattans, Old-Fashioneds, and other drinks. But the rye is refined enough that you don’t need to put anything in it. A little water releases some trapped flavors, so if ice or a dash of water is your thing, go for it. But we were content sipping this one neat.
Rye is certainly having a moment—in fact, it’s been having a “moment” for the better part of a decade. And considering that Jack Daniel’s counts its fans among some of the most loyal in the world, and has since released several flavored whiskeys to capitalize on that growing market segment, releasing a rye whiskey was a natural progression.
“If a Jack Daniel’s drinker wants to try rye whiskey, we would be foolish not to give them an option to stay with our brand,” said Arnett.
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Rye will hit shelves in October and be available across the U.S. Priced at a reasonable $26.99 for a 750ml bottle, it’s just a few more dollars than your regular bottle of Jack.