This past July, the team from Total Wine & More in Kennesaw, Georgia had the chance to experience firsthand how a classic American whiskey is made during a visit to the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. There they also participated in the selection of two special barrels as part of the ongoing Single Barrel Select partnership between the store and the distillery.
In 1886, a young Tennessee distiller by the name of Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel began the process of creating his own version of whiskey, a spirit America had come to call its own. Using water from a natural cave spring located outside the town of Lynchburg, Tennessee, Jack Daniel was able to distill a whiskey unlike anything that had been produced in the state before. The cave spring, which is part of a naturally filtrating limestone formation, was found by Jack Daniel to have the perfect temperament for his whiskey. Jack Daniel’s whiskey is distilled from a blend of 80 percent corn, 12 percent malted barley, and 8 percent rye, which contribute to a complex profile that is at times sweet, dry, and spicy. All of the ingredients of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey, from the corn to the barrel the whiskey is matured in, are harvested locally from around the Tennessee state, making Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey a quintessential Tennessee creation.
Spirit manager Mark Preetorious, assistant manager Heather Lalla, and spirit team members Thomas Webb, Harrison Benett and Michael Martin were sent to the distillery to hand-pick two new and unique single barrels to be sold in their store. After a tour of the distillery where they learned about the history of Jack Daniel’s and the process of how Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey is made, the team made their way to the Bethel House, home of the first Jack Daniel’s distillery visitor center, to begin the barrel selection process.
The Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select program accounts for less than two percent of all Jack Daniel’s sales. Throughout the whiskey aging process, a team of 104 Jack Daniel’s tasters sample each barrel to look for three certain flavor profiles; caramel, vanilla, and toasted oak. If all three criteria are met, the barrel is selected to age for an additional year to year and a half in order to become part of the Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select line. After the barrel has aged, seven Master Tasters convene on a panel to determine if the barrel is ready to be offered for selection. A single barrel will generally by bottled at 94 proof for a bolder flavor, and no barrel will ever produce less than 38 cases for sale and consumption. Each Single Barrel Select bottle features two sets of numbers; a writ number, which is the designation of the side of the warehouse the barrel comes from (left or right), and a barrel number, of which the first two digits always mark the year of production and the remaining digits mark the barrel selection for the year.
After the initial introduction to the process behind the Single Barrel Select program, the Kennesaw team was given five different barrel samples to evaluate, numbered 3890, 3899, 3901, 3906 and 3907, and were asked to select two favorites. The first three samples had softer, sweeter profiles, displaying aromas and flavors of caramel, vanilla, and light oak. The last two samples offered bolder notes of charred oak, toasted vanilla, and dark caramel.
After careful deliberation by the team, two barrels were selected, each showcasing contrasting sides of the flavor spectrum. Barrel 3890 was picked for its softer, sweeter profile, with fragrant notes of vanilla and caramel on the nose and light oak and sweet vanilla on the palate. Barrel 3907 was chosen for its boldness, incorporating charred oak and toasted vanilla notes with a nice depth of spicy heat and lacquered caramel on both the nose and the palate. These barrels will go on to be the 13th and 14th barrels selected as part of the unique partnership between Total Wine & More of Kennesaw, Georgia and the Jack Daniel’s Distillery of Lynchburg, Tennessee.
Bottles from both of these special barrels will be available for the fall season. Make sure to pick one up for a fantastic gift, collector’s item, or perfect addition to the upcoming football season.
Many thanks to the special guest author of this post, Harrison Benett, wine and spirits associate at Total Wine & More Kennesaw, Georgia
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