Taste Test: Jack Daniel’s New Rye Whiskey, a Rare Miss, Is a Study in Oak Overkill

Some things are worth trying once or twice, and then never doing again: skydiving, ketchup on spaghetti, and hot yoga come to mind. In the whiskey world, certain cask finishes that fall into this category of things that should probably not be repeated after the first or second go, and the new Twice Barreled Heritage Barrel Rye from Jack Daniel’s is proof of this concept.

As I’ve written about many times before, kudos to Jack Daniel’s for expanding well beyond its flagship Old No. 7 by experimenting and releasing a wide range of often great and always interesting whiskeys like the 10 and 12-year-old age statements, single malt, Distillery Series (most of which are cask finished), and single barrels. The latest release in that last category is a rye whiskey aged for five years and then placed into Jack’s proprietary heavily toasted Heritage barrels for an additional two years and bottled at 100 proof. Unfortunately, this lengthy finish is overbearing.

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The distillery added a rye whiskey to its core lineup in 2017, and it’s a good whiskey that retains those classic Jack banana and fruit notes while adding a nice dose of pepper and spice. But I found this version of the rye, made from the same 70 percent rye mashbill, to be virtually unrecognizable because of the influence of the toasted oak finish, sort of like a muted version of the effect that amburana wood has on whiskey. A toasted oak finish this lengthy—at two years, really more of a secondary maturation—has turned this whiskey into a cinnamon and nutmeg spice bomb with toasty tannins on the palate taking centerstage and dominating anything else going on here. There are certainly people out there who will enjoy this whiskey, but I recommend trying anything else in the range of other excellent options currently in the lineup instead.

Of course, Jack Daniel’s didn’t invent the toasted oak finish—Michter’s actually takes credit for that by launching its Toasted Barrel whiskey nearly a decade ago in 2014. Those bottles often sell for triple their asking price on the secondary market, but I generally think they fall into the same trap as this rye with an aggressively woody palate. I’d argue that the same holds true for versions from Elijah Craig, Daviess County, Penelope Bourbon, and Wheel Horse. One exception was the 2021 release of Wild Turkey Master’s Keep One, a whiskey finished in toasted oak that actually worked with its well balanced palate. There are absolutely some great cask-finished whiskeys out there, even some that are finished in a ridiculous number of barrels. But maybe, just maybe, there are certain barrels that don’t need to be used for this, and some whiskeys are fine just the way they are without a secondary maturation.

Score: 80

  • 100: Worth trading your first born for

  • 95 – 99 In the Pantheon: A trophy for the cabinet

  • 90 – 94 Great: An excited nod from friends when you pour them a dram

  • 85 – 89 Very Good: Delicious enough to buy, but not quite special enough to chase on the secondary market

  • 80 – 84 Good: More of your everyday drinker, solid and reliable

  • Below 80 It’s alright: Honestly, we probably won’t waste your time and ours with this

Every week Jonah Flicker tastes the most buzzworthy and interesting whiskeys in the world. Check back each Friday for his latest review.

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