Longbranch

Maker: Wild Turkey, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, USA (Campari)

Style: Straight, standard recipe bourbon “refined” in oak and Texas (!) mesquite charcoal.

Celebrity: Matthew McConaughey

Age: NAS (at least 4 y/o, but hang tag says 8 y/o)

Proof: 86 (43% ABV)

Michigan state minimum: $40

Parting words: Since the invention of what we now call bourbon, humanity has been asking one question: What if you took aged Wild Turkey and filtered it through oak and then Texas (as opposed to Mexican, I guess) mesquite charcoal? Thanks to Eddie Russell and movie star Matthew McConaughey, we now know the answer.

The process seems to be similar to the one behind Dickel Rye. Standard Dickel and Jack Daniels filter their whiskey before it goes into the barrel, which I don’t think they’re doing here, but the internet has not been particularly clear on this.

The target market seems to be the bougie casual bourbon drinker who isn’t a fan of assertive, high proof whiskeys (what Wild Turkey is known for) and values “smoothness” but still wants flavor and a fancy-looking bottle. In other words, Basil Hayden and Woodford Reserve drinkers. But why shouldn’t Wild Turkey have a share of that market?

At any rate, there’s nothing not to like about Longbranch. The price is even reasonable for Celeb Whiskey. I wouldn’t say it’s as good as fellow Texan Willie Nelson’s Old Whiskey River (a collaboration with Heaven Hill), but it’s still all right, all right, all right.

I apologize.

Longbranch is recommended.

Jack Daniels Rye

Maker: Jack Daniels, Lynchburg, Tennesee, USA (Brown-Forman)

Style: High rye (70%) straight rye whiskey

Age: NAS (at least 4 y/o)

Proof: 90 (45% ABV)

Michigan state minimum: $25

Appearance: Medium copper.

Nose: Potpurri, leather, tarragon.

Palate: Full-bodied and medium sweet. Spearmint, cinnamon disks.

Finish: Shamrock Shake.

Mixed: Performed adequately in a Manhattan, Old Fashioned and in a highball.

Parting words: Long time readers will know that, generally speaking, I don’t like anything with Jack Daniels on the label. Despite that fact, perhaps in an effort to punish myself or as a service to you, dear readers.

Despite my poor expectations, this rye isn’t bad. It’s much better than the George Dickel rye, which was slapped together by running aged MGP rye through a large vat of charcoal. The result was a confused, maple-flavored mess. Brown-Forman took their time putting this rye whiskey together and it shows. Not that it’s great, but it’s a perfectly servicable rye, on par with Jim Beam or Rittenhouse rye at about the same price. For once I gotta hand it to JD. Jack Daniels Rye is recommended.

Jack Daniels Single Barrel Select

Maker: Jack Daniels, Lynchburg, Tennessee, USA20160930_180620.jpg

Style: Tennesee Whiskey

Age: NAS

Proof: 94 (47% ABV)

Michigan state minimum: $52

Parting words: Single Barrel select was the first premium line extension to Jack Daniels. It was introduced in 1997 and had a fairly good reputation whiskey enthusiasts as the most (or only) drinkable JD iteration, at least after the standard JD was lowered to 80 proof. JD Single Barrel has now turned into its own line. There is now also a 100 proof bottled in bond (originally a travel retail selection), barrel strength and a single barrel rye (the last two released this year).

I haven’t had any of the new ones, but I’ve never been impressed with the SB Select but this bottle was even worse than I remember. It strikes a balance between boring and unpleasant as only JD can. Other than the proof and the price, this is indistinguishable from the last glass of standard JD I had. The price is not as outlandish as the Frank Sinatra Editions ($170 and $450 respectively) but still dumb money. Individual barrels may vary, of course, but overall Jack Daniels Single Barrel Select is not recommended.

George Dickel No. 12

Maker: George Dickel, Tullahoma, Tennessee, USA (Diageo)wp-1465608740749.jpg

Style: Tennessee whiskey

Age: NAS

Proof: 90 (45% ABV)

Michigan State Minimum: $25

Appearance: Medium copper.

Nose: Peanut brittle, tarragon, leather, alcohol

Palate: Light. Caramel, grape bubble gum, oak, alcohol.

Finish: Fruity finish, fades to basil and burn.

Mixed: Did well in all applications, especially Manhattans, Old Fashioneds and a Godfather. OK in cola, with Benedictine and on the rocks. Gets lost in a Boulevardier, but who doesn’t?

Parting words: I was shocked and appalled that I had not yet reviewed this whiskey. It was long one of my favorites and even a go-to. The peanutbuttery flavors are not for everyone, I realize, but I’ve always enjoyed them. Good in cocktails too, but it’s at its best when sipped need on a humid summer afternoon on a rocking chair on a wrap-around porch. Or in another sort of chair in another circumstance of your choice. Point is, it’s a good casual sipper.

If I had reviewed it back when I first started drinking it, it might have earned a highly recommended. I can’t go that far now. What happened? Well, Dickel was one of the last distilleries to get out of the great whiskey glut of the 1980s and 1990s. The distillery had so much stock that it actually shut down for a few years until it sold its old stock. It reopened in 2003 to a brief shortage of their lower shelf No. 8 whiskey. The first bottles I had were from the shutdown years and tasted like they had spent more time in the barrel than this version. It may not be the steal it once was but I still like it. George Dickel No. is recommended.

Dickel 9 y/o Single Barrel Head to Head: Spec’s vs. Red Wagon

Maker: George Dickel, Tullhoma, Tennessee, USA (Diageo)Dickel vs Dickel

Style: Tennessee Whiskey

Proof: 103
(51.5% ABV)

Spc= Selected by Spec’s, Houston, Texas, USA

RW= Selected by Red Wagon, Troy/Rochester Hills, Michigan, USA

Appearance

Spc: Dark copper, long, well developed legs.

RW: Brighter copper, similar legginess.

Nose

Spc: Alcohol, leather, lavender, char.

RW: Less alcohol, oak, peanut butter candy.

Palate

Spc: Well balanced with peanut brittle, a bit of maple.

RW: Sweet and bold with lots of maple and wood. A bit of peanut butter in the background.

Finish

Spc: Fairly hot finish that tingles for a long time with the signature George Dickel vitamin finish.

RW: Huge Dickel finish. Chewable vitamins, maple sugar candy and alcohol.

Parting words: Dickel’s single barrel program got kicked off a few months ago with a series of 9 y/o and 14 y/o retailer selections. The early reports had the 9 y/o barrels being superior to the 14 so I decided to invest in two of the 9s. In fact, I had been inquiring at Red Wagon about whether or not they would be participating in the program for weeks when I decided to just acquire one from an out of state store. The day after my Spec’s bottle arrived, I happened to be in Red Wagon and, lo and behold, theirs was sitting right there on the shelf. So, of course, I bought one of theirs too.

I was pleasantly surprised at the differences between these two bottles/barrels. Both were good but I give Spec’s the edge. Red Wagon’s tasted like an amped up version of Dickel #12. Lots of sweet peanut butter and maple with a touch of that famous vitamin note. I enjoy the #12 so I didn’t mind that, although anymore of that vitamin taste would have been unpleasant.

Spec’s had those signature Dickel flavors and aromas but they were more subtle and had a sweet leathery quality that reminded me of Elmer T. Lee and similar Buffalo Trace bourbons. It was surprising and showed how subtle and elegant George Dickel has the potential to be. Let’s hope it’s a sign of good things to come from Tullahoma.

 

Red Wagon’s 9 y/o Dickel Single Barrel is recommended and Spec’s is highly recommended.

Jack Daniels Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey

Maker: Jack Daniels, Lynchburg, Tennessee, USA (Brown-Forman)

Age: NAS

Proof: 80 (40% ABV)

Appearance: light copper.

Nose: Light banana scent, corn syrup, papaya, nail polish, touch of wood..

On the palate: Light and sharp. Nail polish, clove, maple sugar, bit of anise.

Finish: Hot and harsh. Bitter clove, acetone, not much else.

Parting words: Jack Daniels is the best-selling brand of whiskey in the world. I have trouble figuring out why. It is fairly easy-drinking with some spice and sweetness. There is not much else going on here, but what is going on is pretty unpleasant. The special charcoal mellowing process Jack (and George Dickel) goes through is supposed to remove many of the harsher congeners found in bourbons of the same age, but there were still plenty left over.

I didn’t bother to try it in a manhattan or anything like that, but I did try it in its most popular applications: Jack and Coke and Jack and Ginger Ale. It does very well in both these drinks. The cola smoothes out the rough edges, but there is enough there to (barely) taste the whiskey inside. The ginger ale complements the spice and fruit notes, and covers up the embarrassing nail polish ones.

As a bargain brand, it doesn’t stand up too well to the competition. It’s well over $20 here in Michigan. Not good value for something of this quality at 80 proof. There are seasonal editions of Jack Daniels Old No. 7 that come out at a variety of proofs and one dedicated to salesman Angelo Lucchesi at 90 proof, replicating the proof of Jack when he started working at the company in the 1950s when Brown-Forman purchased it. That one is only a couple dollars more and probably a better bargain if you enjoy Jack Daniels.

At any rate, I’ve had worse, but not at this price. Jack Daniels Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey is not recommended.