Jack Daniel’s often does special releases for Duty Free/Travel retail and it’s nice to see one of them, the Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select Tennessee Whiskey make its way into a full retail offering. Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select Tennessee Whiskey is a special expression of Jack Daniels which is made from a blend of spirit aged in special “Sinatra barrels” and classic Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey. A Sinatra Barrel is one where the the staves in the barrel are grooved, which directly exposes the whiskey to the deep red layer (the part of the barrel where much of the color in whiskey comes from). The result of using grooved staves is much more barrel impact than you’d see with the standard Jack Daniels release. In addition to using special barrels, the Sinatra Select Whiskey is released at 90 proof, which is Jack Daniel’s original proofing (it was lowered from 90 proof in 1987 to 86 and then lowered again in 2002 to 80 proof).
Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select Tennessee Whiskey (45% ABV, 90 Proof $165 per 1 Litre) – having more contact with the core of the barrel has given this whiskey a darker and depper amber color than the standard Jack Daniel’s. The extra wood contact is also quite apparent in the nose which has deep oak spice at level that eclipses Old No. 7. Underneath the oak are the signature Jack Daniel’s vanilla, caramel and cola notes as well as a touch of dried orange peel. All these elements come together nicely for a nose that is oaky but inviting.
The entry for Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select is silky and smooth with a big bold oak flavor that’s initially balanced by the vanilla and caramel from the nose. The oak keeps on building and in the midpalate it overwhelms everything else. It’s here that the oak is joined by clove and a black pepper spice. The finish is long and oaky with the oak, black pepper and clove lingering on the palate for a long time. Adding a little water or ice does help balance things out initially but it also seems to pump up some of the harsher elements in the oak in the midpalate and finish. Unfortunately, using grooved staves is like trying to rush a slow cooker roast, and anything you do to try to accelerate the maturation/cooking process impacts the final product. With Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select, the grooved staves have introduced too much tannic oak into the mix in too short a period of time. The upside of this is a nice solid oak nose, but the downside is too many harsh oak elements that throw the balance out.
One the plus side Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select package is stunning, it’s a special one liter bottle which maintains the signature Jack Daniel’s look but adds an orange top hat seal and stopper as well as a thick leaded base. The bottle comes incased in a fabric covered cardboard locker along with a hard bound booklet that takes a look at the relationship between Frank Sinatra and the Jack Daniel’s brand. Behind the booklet is an invitation to the Jack Daniel’s Country Club which was inspired by a crest once worn by Sinatra. Packaging is important, but so is the spirit inside the bottle and it’s hard to get around the fact that Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select is over oaked.
At $30 or even $40 a bottle, this oaky spirit might be a fine alternative to the other oak forward spirits on the market, like Jim Beam’s Devil’s Cut but Jack Daniel’s has priced this at a staggering $165 per liter (which adjusts out to $123.75 if it were sold in 750ml). Sinatra select is over three times as expensive as Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel which costs $45 a bottle, is higher proof and does a much better job of balancing its oak. While we understand there’s a fair amount of expense in the premium packaging, the pricing here just doesn’t make sense. We are at a complete loss to understand what Brown Forman and Jack Daniel’s were thinking here. It’s one thing to release a series of special select barrels at a premium price, as George Dickel does with their Dickel Barrel Select at $45, but to push process a whiskey with grooved staves and then mix it with standard Old No. 7 at $165 a liter is just madness. We have no problem with high priced ultra premium and rare spirits, but there has to be some sort of case made to justify their price and we just can’t see the price justification with Sinatra Select.