Jack Daniel’s, like all popular things, is an easy target. The brand is so widespread that you can even find Jack Daniel’s coffee in some stores. I’d describe the entire line-up of whiskeys in their portfolio as having an ostensible image to uphold. Old Number 7, for example, isn’t a bottle you look at and instinctively think “that looks approachable.” Then there’s Gentleman Jack.
I always feel torn looking at the bottles for this particular expression. The flask-like shape mixed with a fairly minimalistic label is curious, if nothing else. As for details on the whiskey itself, Gentleman Jack is literally Old Number 7 put through the Lincoln County Process a second time. This adds an extra five or so dollars to the price tag, which begs the question: How much of a difference does it actually make? Let’s find out.
Nose: Sweet and surprisingly sharp banana with other fruits (cherry and either cantaloupe or honeydew), but also feels mellow with an air of the charcoal underneath it all. For such a low-rye mash bill, this has some surprisingly rye-like fruity sweetness. A waxy nut essence in the background, like walnut or pecan butter. The aforementioned sharp banana note comes across as astringent, borderline perfume-y.
Palate: Mellow, sweet, and easy on the palate. Silky to the point of bordering on creamy. Banana and waxy nut, like banana walnut bread that isn’t fully baked yet. Some malt and creamy chocolate on the mid-palate likely thanks to the maple charcoal filtering.
Finish: Vaguely charcoal-esque mustiness. Semi-sweet chocolate and banana, almost like chocolate-drizzled banana on a hot summer day. Soft and clean. Makes for an easy (though unremarkable) sipper.
Former master distiller Jeff Arnett went on record saying he recommended people start with Gentleman Jack when looking at the Jack Daniel’s catalog. He described it as an ideal whiskey to “break the palate in for the rest.” Sipping it absolutely confirms his sentiment; Gentleman Jack is wickedly easy to drink. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it smooths everything out about Old Number 7 (that sweet astringency is still present), but the experience is about as simple, easy, and approachable as a whiskey could possibly get for newcomers.
As for everyone else? There’s always Old Number 7 when on a budget, Single Barrel when wanting to step things up, and Single Barrel Barrel Strength for something truly momentous. When I said that Jack Daniel’s is an easy target, I wasn’t necessarily referring to Gentleman Jack. Considering the demographic it’s aimed at, however, honing in on the Lynchburg distillery only becomes even easier. I’ll never seek a bottle out for my own, but I see and acknowledge the place it has in a market that’s giving metal subgenres some competition with regards to overcrowding. For $25 you get a bottle that looks somewhat fancy and drinks stupidly easy. It may not be a gamechanger, but it may get people more interested in the world of whiskey. And considering the influence Jack Daniel’s have on the industry, I’d say that means they’re simply doing their job and doing it well.