Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Special Release Rye Whiskey

By Richard Thomas

Rating: A-

Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Special Release Rye
(Credit: Brown-Forman)

Towards the end of last year, I was invited to participate in a virtual unveiling of the 2020 Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Special Release Rye. My parcel of samples didn’t arrive in time for me to participate in the tasting, guided by newly minted Master Distiller Chris Fletcher, but I sat in anyway and caught up with the tasting part later on.

This rye whiskey took the place of the annual Heritage Barrel this year. This single barrel release is drawn from the standard 70% rye stock that Jack Daniel’s makes, with their signature drip filtration through sugar maple charcoal (although the depth of charcoal in the vat is reportedly substantially less than that used for the Tennessee Whiskey). It’s a five year old, bottled at barrel proof; my sample came in at a whopping 130.8 proof. Beyond that, I’m told it’s more widely available than the preceding Heritage Barrel expressions.

The Whiskey
A pour of this potent Tennessee rye has a deep red, deep amber coloring. With an ABV over 65%, I gave it a quick check with my nose and then reached for a splash of water. After letting that settle in, the scent delivered a mix of mint, anise, ginger and cedar, accented by Jack’s staple banana and a daub of caramel stirred in.

One would expect a cask strength, mature-but-youthful, high rye whiskey to be quite robust, and this one is, but it’s robust without being ballsy. The Lincoln County Process is widely misunderstood as adding maple notes to the whiskey, but in truth the sugar maple wood is used for charcoal because it is a resin-free hardwood that is abundant in Tennessee, but with few other uses there (unlike chilly Vermont, these maples produce little sap in the Volunteer State). The point is the charcoal, which removes certain volatiles from the new make, producing a smoother whiskey sooner. That effect really sings out in this particular Lynchburg whiskey.

The palate leads with red fruit and banana, buttressed by vanilla and maple, and all with a potent current of ginger and peppery pine running through the middle. The finish runs spicy, naturally, with the ginger fading down to a light, lingering dusting of pepper.

The Price
A very reasonable $65 per bottle.

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