Jack Daniels has had phenomenal success with their Tennessee Honey, so it’s no surprise to see them revisit the liqueur space with another offering. This time around Jack Daniels has decided to go the cider flavored whiskey route, very much in the same way that Jim Beam has with their Red Stag Hardcore Cider. The differences between Jack Daniels’ and Jim Beam’s offerings are pretty staggering. Jack Daniels decided to bring their Winter Jack in at a lowly 15% ABV, or 30 proof, which is less than half Jim Beam’s Red Stag Hardcore Cider (40% ABV / 80 proof). Winter Jack is also much lower than Jack Daniels’ Tennessee Honey which is 35% ABV/70 proof. The reasoning behind the low proof seems to be the idea that Winter Jack is “Best Served Warm,” a suggestion made clearly on the bottle and perhaps the only way Winter Jack can be really enjoyed.
Jack Daniel’s Winter Jack Tennessee Cider (15% ABV / 30 Proof, $18) – we taste all spirits neat and at room temperature first, and at room temperature the nose leads with crisp Red Delicious apple. The apple note on the nose is pretty ‘true’ and only has a very slight artificial quality to it. Right behind the apple note is orange, which comes off a little more orange tic-tac than natural orange. There is a hint of spice behind the fruit notes, but it’s extremely subtle. On the nose it’s very hard to pick out any of Jack Daniel’s traditional aromas. The entry for the Winter Jack is very thin, with the aromas from the nose muted on the palate with apple, orange, and cinnamon. The mouth feel is weak and watery, and again there’s very little Jack Daniels DNA here. It’s really at the end of the midpalate that we get any sense that this is a flavored whiskey, but the notes are so faint that they are fleeting, and by the time the short finish ends, they’ve vanished.
Neat, Jack Daniel’s Winter Jack Tennessee Cider tastes like a glass of watery whiskey liqueur which was served with ice, sat, diluted, and warmed to room temperature – not something very pleasant. On the label, Jack Daniel’s recommends putting 5 ounces of Winter Jack into a microwave safe glass to “heat and enjoy.” The problem with microwaving a spirit is that the heat evaporates the alcohol (which turns into vapor at a lower temperature than water). Given we are starting with such a low amount of alcohol, the end result after 30-40 seconds of microwaving is even less alcohol (and that’s what you’re paying for!).
Warmed, the Winter Jack’s nose does spice up a bit with orange, cinnamon, and clove standing out as much as the apple. On the palate Winter Jack does taste a lot like warm spiced apple cider, the mouth feel thickens up a bit, and the base whiskey does peek through. The finish warmed is round with a little spice, apple, and the suggestion of whiskey. Unfortunately, Winter Jack is so thin and low in alcohol, it completely falls apart in a toddy. Adding any form of water to this spirit (hot or cold) annihilates it.
Jack Daniels really hit a home run with their Tennessee Honey product, bringing the core Jack Daniels flavor profile to a sweet honey liqueur. Here they’ve failed to maintain their core identity in a product that’s muted and underwhelming. We can understand the idea of a spirit you can enjoy warmed for the holidays, but a much better way at going about that would be to heat a glass of cider and then pour some Jack Daniels into it. You end up with more real apple flavor along with the core whiskey notes that leap from the glass when heated. If you do decide to take the plunge with Jack Daniel’s Winter Jack Tennessee Cider, drink it warmed – any other way is a wholly unpleasant experience.