Let me set this up for you. Picture a lovely, warm June day, and you are in the car with your wife and two young kids heading to the beach! Everyone is in a great mood, the traffic is flowing smoothly, and the radio is blasting a song by an artist you are unaware of, but it sure sounds fun. As the song nears its completion, all four people in the car are singing and dancing, smiles and laughter abounding. The last note plays, and you exhale while saying “that was fun…who sings that song?” Your five year old quickly responds “TAYLOR SWIFT!”
“Yeah, I didn’t like that song very much” you internally say while simultaneously clouds drift in and the flowing traffic comes to a grinding halt.
I am sure many of you have had moments like this, and at one particular Charred Barrel Society blind tasting, a similar experience presented itself. The thing we love most about what we at TCBS do is the blind tasting aspect of our reviews. The nervous anticipation of the reveal, and the immediate reactions that follow (sometimes reflecting shock, other times a prideful knowing) are highlights of our Society meetings.
So it was on this mellow evening that we sat around a table and examined, approached, and tasted what we described as the “pop culture whiskey” – Gentleman Jack from the Jack Daniels Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. Yes, that one. Yes, distillers of the ubiquitous Jack Daniels that you heard 18 times last night at your local sports bar (May I have another jack and coke, please?). Here is our review.
The initial approach was very pleasant across the board. We sniffed a very mellow whiskey dominated by vanilla and caramel. There was no harshness as the sweet scent continued to evolve more into smelling vanilla jelly beans and candied cherries. There was definitely a candy aspect to the nose, a unanimous conclusion by the Society.
Our Society members found the taste to be very sweet for a whiskey, with the same vanilla and caramel notes resting smoothly on the tongue. Upon tasting again, the candy that was so evident in our approach popped up again: candied cherries, jelly beans, and banana runts (my personal favorite). The one glaring omission from the flavor was the oak we kept expecting. It just never really showed up. However, like a brainwashed kitty, that missing characteristic was quickly erased as the smooth, candy flavor warmed our throats.
As Gentleman Jack went down, we found there to be no harsh aftertaste combined with a slight warming sensation, only furthering the positive vibes we were getting from this whiskey. One Society member said it made them want to reach back into the bag of candy for one more sip. Typically it was after that “one more sip” where the taste got very generic, too sweet, and we were ready to put the candy away.
The Society gave Gentleman Jack a blind score review of 2.4 fingers, which is a very good score. The smoothness and flavorful characteristics were impossible to ignore, leading to the score we begrudgingly gave.
The best part of our tastings at The Charred Barrel Society is the reveal. And the reveal of Gentleman Jack was particularly entertaining. Everyone was smiling, in a good mood, and the mostly positive remarks about the whiskey had us anxiously awaiting to learn what we had just tasted.
And then we saw it. Gentleman Jack. I wish there had been a hidden camera to capture the moment. There were literally moans, and I specifically remember a “DANG IT. ARE YOU SERIOUS?” from a Society member. We were almost a little sad. None of us claim to be experts, which is another reason we created TCBS. But surely our pallets are more sophisticated than to enjoy Gentleman Jack, right? The blind test proved otherwise….
This is a pop culture whiskey. The spicy characteristics that we missed are intentionally omitted from Gentleman Jack. Any potential harshness is removed by the “twice mellowed” process, which is what makes this a great drink to introduce to someone wanting to venture into the world of whiskey. The smooth, generic, and sweet flavors makes its ease of approachability perfect for first timers. Yet it is this generic and overly sweet flavor combined with the $30-$36 dollar price tag that causes The Charred Barrel Society to give Gentleman Jack a medium value.
No one is above liking a good pop song from time to time. And you know what? It is ok to sing Taylor Swift or Katie Perry with your kids while driving to the beach. Even still, I find that after one song I am ready to turn off the radio. Gentleman Jack is the same way. For one tasting, it does taste good. But I find I am quickly ready to move away from the pop whiskey to something not so generic.
To Friends, Fellowship, and the Society.