The last year at Jack Daniel’s has included making history – as well as revising it to revive forgotten products.
In March, Lexie Phillips wrote the story of becoming the first woman named Assistant Distiller at the Tennessee whiskey brand. She has worked with Chris Fletcher, who was promoted to the role of Master Distiller in October, on whiskey quality and innovation. Their first major product launch since taking over from their new roles is to revive a product that many whiskey fans will be surprised to know existed at all: a Jack Daniels whiskey with an age indication on the label.
A 10-year-old Jack Daniel’s begins hitting shelves in limited quantities in September. The whiskey, 97 proofs and $ 70 per. Bottle, has fewer of the classic Jack banana notes, but is still a sweet forward-looking whiskey with dried fruit, cocoa and smoke on the palate and a long finish.
“Jack Daniel himself made age-appropriate versions of our classic whiskey recipe # 7 at 10, 12, 14, 18, 21 years,” Fletcher said at a preview of a 10-year-old barrel in late July. “We either have bottles with them, or we have pictures. We know it was all done. ”
It is likely that whiskey was bottled while Jack Daniels was still alive. He died in 1911, and the ban took effect in Tennessee about 10 years before it did nationally in 1920, said Nelson Eddy, Jack Daniel’s internal historian. Daniel left the distillery to his nephew Lem Motlow, and the family stopped spending the age on bottles in the early 1950s, though the older iterations were not made again after the ban, Nelson said.
One of the reasons the Motlow family stopped putting the label on how old the whiskey was is because age indications can be misleading to consumers. An example: A number of different factors make a 10-year-old Scotch very different from a 10-year-old Tennessee whiskey. The climate in Tennessee and the use of new oak barrels (Scotch is made with used barrels) means that the liquid has much more interaction with the barrel and can easily be formed also woody.
Fletcher used modern techniques to avoid the pitfalls of over-extraction from the barrel. Barrels used in the 10-year-old spend about seven to eight years at the top of a rickhouse, where it is warmer and dryer, and were then moved to the bottom, where it is cooler and more humid. The goal, Fletcher said, is to get some of the oxidation and esterification reactions that will dampen the whiskey but slow down the wood interaction and evaporation rate.
“When Lexie came into her role in November, we narrowed down which barrels we would use for this offering,” Fletcher said of Phillips, who had worked in quality control and previously served as the distillery’s main operator.
She would work with the warehouse department to get samples to take them down to the lab and cut them down for proof.
“Chris and I would taste the samples and discuss the flavors from each, and ultimately decide on this mass of whiskey,” Phillips said. “It’s a delicious sip that made the anticipation of this release grow even more.”
The label also strikingly resembles the historic bottle that recreates the vintage gold cartridge on the label.
Both Fletcher and Phillips have a deep sense of how much history and Jack Daniel’s brand matter. Fletcher grew up in Lynchburg, and his grandfather, Frank Bobo, was the main distillery from 1966 to 1989. Phillips grew up just outside Lynchburg and eventually has 24 family members who have worked or worked at the distillery or in a related job. When she moved into her new office, her father called – but she had not given him the number. He remembered it when he called her grandmother back in the 1960s.
It makes sense that the past would be a big part of the future.
“I’m so excited about Lexie and our team to literally be able to recreate something from our past,” Fletcher said. “This is about honoring what Jack himself did. As far as we know, this [making age statement whiskies] has not been done since Jack lived. ”
The 10-year-old will be an annual release and part of a growing number of products that will expand the brand to different ages. For those wondering where else the brand should go, Fletcher brings Phillips’ educational background in agricultural science and has also mentioned experimenting with different grains.
“My goal is to have the most complete and diverse set of aging whiskeys in the industry, and it takes years, if not decades, to get there,” Fletcher said. “We are already digging into future whiskey offerings as far as 2030 and beyond. The future is bright for Jack Daniel, and Lexie Phillips is a big part of it. ”