The world of whiskey can be complex to those who are unfamiliar, but awe-inspiring to connoisseurs. Made from fermented grains and aged in wooden barrels, whiskey has become one of America’s favorite drinks. An important thing to note is that all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. In order to be considered a bourbon, it must be made with at least 51% corn, aged in new charred oak barrels, and distilled to 160 proof.
Brown Forman, the parent company of Jack Daniel’s, Old Forester and Woodford Reserve, consistently distills high quality whiskeys and bourbons. Brown Forman is the only major supplier in the world that makes its own barrels. They inspect and buy the trees used to make their barrels to ensure that they are the correct density to age their whiskeys and so they know where the barrel came from. Jack Daniel’s, Old Forester and Woodford Reserve all flaunt intriguing beginnings and powerful flavors for all types of whiskey drinkers.
Jack fell in love with the process of making whiskey from a young age. He moved to Lynchburg, Tennessee where he found a cave that remains the water source to make Jack Daniel’s. Jack Daniel’s is set apart from a bourbon because of its charcoal mellowing process that extracts the grain and corn aroma and flavor before it goes into the barrel and becomes Tennessee whiskey.
With Frank Sinatra as a fan and promoter of the brand, Jack Daniel’s was able to keep American whiskey in the forefront after Prohibition. In the 1980s, distillers were looking for an approachable whiskey with less of an oak taste, leading Gentleman Jack to be released in 1988. Gentleman Jack goes through ten-feet of sugar maple charcoal barrel until it reaches full maturity. It then goes through three more feet of charcoal to remove the oak finish. Toning down the oak allows the caramel and vanilla notes to shine. Gentleman Jack works well in cocktails where every ingredient is a star, like, a Whiskey Sour.
Gentleman Jack Whiskey Sour
- 2 Ounces Gentleman Jack
- ¾ Ounce Lemon Juice
- ½ Ounce Simple Syrup
- Dash of Bitters
- Garnish: Lemon Wedge
Staying in the Jack Daniel’s family, Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel is the exact opposite of Gentleman Jack. Single Barrel features bolder and bigger flavors that amplify the experience of the Jack that everybody knows and loves. Single Barrel relies on one barrel and is chosen by Master Tasters that decide when it is ready to go on the market. The barrel that whiskey is aged in accounts for 50% of the flavor of the whiskey, which is why Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel is matured on the highest floor of the distillery in the highest barrel. Bottled at 94 proof, oak, vanilla, caramel, and banana flavors are amplified, and a creamy mouthfeel is found. Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel is best served neat or with one large ice cube to let the flavor of the whiskey shine.
Old Forester was the first bourbon to be bottled. Post-civil war, America was still in recovery, and getting liquor was not easy. The two options Americans had were going to a saloon and drinking, or going to the doctor and being prescribed bourbon. Both of these options had the issue of redistributors siphoning off the good whiskey in the barrels and filling it with anything that was the same color as bourbon. George Garvin Brown was a pharmaceutical salesman trying to make a career and produce high-quality bourbon, so he had the idea of buying three barrels from three different distilleries and blending them together. He eventually started putting his product into glass bottles and signing his name for authenticity, making it the first bottled bourbon. The success of Old Forester has relied on the brand’s ability to adapt, allowing them to sell liquor before, during, and after the prohibition. Old Forester’s 86 proof was introduced to be more approachable and is suitable for both avid and new bourbon drinkers. Known as the “glue” of Old Forester since its introduction, this bourbon tastes great, is high quality and it is almost always available. Old Forester works best in cocktails like an Old Fashioned due to its complex flavor. Old Forester boasts rich vanilla, caramel, and brown sugar notes, along with floral spices, black pepper, and a prominent sour green apple flavor.
Old Forester Old Fashioned
- 2 Ounces Old Forester 86 proof
- ½ Ounce Simple Syrup
- 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
- Garnish: Lemon and Orange Peel
Woodford Reserve launched in 1996, and while it is a contemporary brand, it is still steeped in history. Woodford’s process starts with introducing yeast to grains to make the distillate that has cultivated yeast strains and is fermented for five to seven days. Tropical fruit notes like mango, passionfruit, strawberries, and raspberries come through during the triple copper pot distillation. Nutty notes and a rich, soft mouthfeel are also created during this process. Woodford toasts and chars its barrels to wake up the sugar in the wood and get as much flavor as possible into the whiskey. After spending five to seven years in the barrel, the barrels are pulled by flavor, not necessarily age. With over 212 flavors found, Woodford Reserve is considered a very balanced bourbon and also a “Bartender’s Swiss Army Knife” due to its flavor range ticking off all five notes; floral, spice, aromatic, wood, and grain. Woodford Reserve is best served in a cocktail like a Manhattan. Made from 72% corn, 18% rye and 10% malt, the unique spice notes and balanced taste found in Woodford Reserve matches up perfectly with the classic Manhattan cocktail.
Woodford Reserve Manhattan
- 2 Ounces Woodford Reserve
- ¾ Ounce Sweet Vermouth
- 3 Dashes Angostura Bitters
Whatever your taste preference is, one of these four delectable whiskeys is sure to suit you and open up the world of whiskey that is well worth knowing.