Is Jack Daniel's a Bourbon?
It is a fair assumption to make however, as Jack Daniel's is made in the USA (the home of bourbon) and shares the sweet bourbon-esque flavours of vanilla, caramel and oak. Critically, Jack Daniel's themselves define themselves as a Tennessee Whiskey, and you will not find the word bourbon anywhere in their branding. Lets take a deep dive into the topic.
There are several rules to what makes a bourbon, according the Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits, for the spirit to be recognised as a "distinctive product of the United States".
Rules defining bourbon
- Must be made in the United States, not necessarily just in Kentucky (although 95% of bourbon is).
- Aging must take place in a fresh, charred oak barrel. (The Scottish whisky industry makes good use of the abundance of these ex-bourbon barrels.)
- The grain mixture (mash) must be at least 51% corn.
- The whiskey cannot enter the barrel at anything higher than 125 proof (62.5% abv), and must be distilled at no more than 160 proof (80% abv.)
- Nothing except water can be added. Simple whiskey can have colour and flavours added, although bourbon must be totally unadulterated.
Does Jack Daniel's meet these rules?
- Yes, Jack Daniel's is made in Tennessee, USA. Fun Fact: Tennessee is a partially dry state. Indeed, the home of Jack Daniel's distilllery, Moore County, totally bans the sale of alcohol except for commemorative bottlings sold at Jack Daniel's distillery's gift shop.
- Yes, in fact, they make and char their own new handcrafted white oak barrels and have been doing so for over 150 years.
- Yes, the mash is approximately 80% corn, 12% rye and 8% malt.
- Yes, it comes over the still at 140 proof (70% abv), and enters the barrel at no more than 125 proof (62.5% abv).
- Yes, Jack Daniel's contains no artificial colouring or flavouring.
So, Jack Daniel's is a bourbon in the eyes of the Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits.
In response to this, Jack Daniel's themselves choose to define their liquid as a Tennessee whisky instead of a bourbon because they're better than a bourbon. What they say sets them apart is their unique charcoal mellowing process called the 'Lincoln County Process.' Just before barrelling, they filter the spirit through their hand-crafted sugar maple charcoal for 3-5 days to enhance the smoothness of the final whiskey.
It's all perspective, Jack Daniel's may say that they are one step above a bourbon, and therefore cannot be referred to as such. However, one may categorise Jack as a subset of bourbon. Though, it is always polite to call people/things/Jack Daniel's how they'd like to be called.
That being said, the brand files for federal label approval under the class of bourbon, and in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Tennessee whiskey is listed as straight bourbon. When it comes to taxes, Jack Daniel's defines itself as a bourbon. Take that as you will.
Explore our range of Jack Daniels here.