Jack Daniel’s Distillery Series Batch 11 Tennessee Whiskey (Anejo Tequila) Review

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Jack Daniel’s Distillery Series Batch 11 Tennessee Whiskey (Anejo Tequila) Review

Experimental barrel finishes are a rather delicate matter, when it comes to the world of bourbon–or in this case, Tennessee whiskey. Although some types of barrel finish have become common enough to be well understood, such as finishes in fortified wine casks that previously contained sherry or port, finishing American whiskey in other styles of spirits barrels–barrels that have often been reused after beginning their lives as whiskey casks–is more exotic territory, and it’s hard to say what will happen any time a distillery does it. When you’re aging American whiskey in a cask that previously contained scotch, or rum, or tequila, what is the ideal, intended effect? How much presence of that other spirit is allowed, or desired? How subtle are they allowed to be? It’s hard to say, but the Jack Daniel’s Distillery Series has for years operated in this gray area.

This series is primarily available for purchase straight from the distillery, and a few select Tennessee retailers, and sees the world’s biggest Tennessee whiskey producer offering 375 ml bottles from batches of JD that have undergone various experimental finishes. In the past, these finishes in the Jack Daniel’s Distillery Series have included the likes of “toasted pecan wood chips” or a rye finished in “toasted maple barrels.” For this latest batch (#11), the distillery has instead embraced agave spirits with an añejo tequila barrel finish.

What exactly does this imply? Well, this is mature Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey, aged for its typical “at least four years,” given a pretty lengthy secondary maturation of one year and seven months in casks that were used to mature añejo tequila–a term that itself means at least one year of aging in oak, typically reused American whiskey barrels. Presumably, the tequila brand giving up their barrels is one of the few owned by JD owner Brown-Forman, such as Herradura or El Jimador. This whiskey was then bottled at 45% ABV (90 proof), and it retails for a slightly steep $42, considering that these are 375 ml bottles. You’re paying to subsidize the experiment here, clearly.

Before tasting this, I find that I am a little bit incredulous to the idea that the tequila will manage to shine through this base spirit, even after a long 19 months in that añejo tequila barrel. The character of roasted agave already tends to be minimized in añejo tequila as a style, so how much will it be able to impart on Tennessee whiskey? We’ll just have to see, so let’s get to tasting.

On the nose, this entry in the Distillery Series should feel pretty familiar to Jack Daniel’s drinkers–I’m getting caramel and roasted banana, with moderate oak and pleasant orange zest. Some grassy rye and faint pepper are sneaking in as well, but by far the most prominent note on the nose is that sweet caramel, and traces of darker fruit like maraschino cherry syrup. It does not in any sense scream “tequila” on the nose.

On the palate, this is sweet and very gentle in its delivery–very smooth and slick, with an oily texture that is surprisingly bigger texturally than you’d probably expect for the 90 proof. I’m getting more of that cherry, along with caramelized banana, with flavors that really favor the sweeter side of the spectrum. One thing I’m not immediately finding is the tequila, until–wait a minute–around the third of fourth sip, a roasty agave herbaceousness actually does creep into the profile, along with mild pepperiness. Ethanol, meanwhile, is extremely mild, to the point that it feels almost unnaturally suppressed. The overall effect is a bit on the one-dimensionally sweet side, though this is so approachable and friendly that I could see a lot of drinkers loving it. What I find myself thinking, though, is that I would have liked more boldness–a wilder and more agave-focused angle that would have made this style of secondary barrel finish more obvious and dynamic.

Perhaps at a higher proof, this just would have popped a bit more. As is, there’s nothing objectively wrong with it–unless one finds it overly sweet–but it could have used a more dramatic transformation.

Distillery: Jack Daniel’s
City: Lynchburg, TN
Style: Tennessee whiskey
ABV: 45% (90 proof)
Availability: Limited, 375 ml bottles, $42 MSRP

Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident beer and liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.

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