In 2012, Jack Daniel’s created quite a stir when they released their Jack Daniel’s Unaged Rye. The release created a spirited debate about what exactly to call the Jack Daniel’s special release, with some putting the spirit in the white dog/unaged whiskey camp and others (including the TTB) calling it a neutral spirit. Now, two years later, Jack Daniel’s adds to the conversation with an updated special release called Jack Daniel’s Rested Tennessee Rye. This time around there should be no debate about what to call it, as the spirit has spent two full years in casks, enough time to qualify it as a “straight rye whiskey”. As with the Jack Daniel’s Unaged Rye release, Rested Tennessee Rye is a limited edition release clearly aimed at Jack Daniel’s fans who want to sample the “work in progress” whiskey. Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller Jeff Arnett explains, “We hope they’ll remember that, as good as this new offering is – it’s still just a taste of what’s to come.”
Jack Daniel’s Rested Tennessee Rye Whiskey (40% ABV / 80 proof, $49.99) – pale gold in color, this whiskey has started to pick up some color from its time in barrel, although it’s light even for a two year old whiskey. The barrel impact on Jack Daniel’s Rested Tennessee Rye is clearly apparent on the nose, with a pencil box oaky top note that mingles with the rye spice. This is backed by an undercurrent of vanilla bean, a slight nuttiness, and a touch of Tootsie roll candy. While there is a touch of fruitiness to the nose with dark cherry, the prevalence of fruit is dramatically decreased after two years aging in a barrel.
As whiskey ages, it goes through many different stages during which the balance of aromas and flavors change. Depending on how and where a whiskey is aged, this 2-3 year zone is very much an American whiskey’s adolescence. This adolescence is very much reflected in the nose, which has some interesting elements but is kind of all over the place without much integration. The entry is much softer than you’d expect from the nose, with soft oak leading the pack along with caramel and vanilla. The mouth feel to start is quite nice and adds to the soft, round character of the opening. Much of the fruitiness that was apparent in the Unaged Rye has disappeared with only a very slight undercurrent of dark cherry. In the midpalate, Jack Daniel’s Rested Tennessee Rye gets a little spicy with rye spice and oak spice complemented by a touch of clove and black pepper. It’s here that the relative youth of the whiskey shows itself with a little bit of heat added to the equation.
Of all the flavors established so far, it’s the black pepper which becomes the defining note in a medium length and very dry finish. The finish is dry enough to be considered unpleasant, and at the end you’re left with the heat from the young spirit, a very dry mouth, and very little else.
Jack Daniel’s Rested Tennessee Rye Whiskey is very much a work in progress whiskey that simply doesn’t stand on its own merits. While two years in barrel finally makes this release a true “straight whiskey”, it’s still a long way from being close to a final release product. Jack Daniel’s Rested Tennessee Rye is very much like tasting a soup that just isn’t finished yet – it clearly needs more time to simmer and integrate. To that end, it’s kind of a surprise that Jack Daniel’s is releasing this limited edition in full 750 ml bottles. A release in 375 ml bottles at half this price gets this spirit into more hands and lets more people get a sneak peak into what’s ultimately going to be a major product for Jack Daniel’s. Given the other great things on the market at this price, it’s really impossible to recommend JD Rested Rye to anyone but the hardcore Jack Daniel’s loyalists. That being said, there are some interesting things going on here at the two year mark that make us excited to check back in after a few more years in barrel.