Back in June, TWS held a tasting event with Brown-Forman at JOEY in the Eaton Centre. This was a joint event with @MaltCollective on Instagram, and was a great evening, enjoyed greatly by the 20+ attendees who were there! The team at JOEY brought out some amazing food and the service was second to none!
A huge thank you to the animated and knowledgeable John Breckon – who leads on-premise sales for B-F nationally as well as leading the Jack Daniels Ambassador program – for walking us through the whiskies and giving us some history about the company and brands. He started off by telling us about the Albatross he hit while playing golf shortly before the event before getting into the details of JD and Woodford.
We tried six different whiskies, three each from JD and Woodford Reserve. Reviews by our members will pop up on the site over time, so this post won’t include tasting notes or ratings, just pictures and descriptions.
We started off learning about Jack Daniels, the small-statured ladies’ man who was raised by a pastor and from whom he inherited his first still, and how he eventually died from gangrene. We learned about the distillery’s founding as the first registered distillery in the US in Lynchburg, Tennessee, and how it stayed open during prohibition, stockpiling and aging barrels. We heard about Frank Sinatra’s love for JD and how his love of it led to it becoming one of the best selling spirits in the world. We also heard about their cooperage, as one of the only distilleries to make their own barrels in the world. John told us all this and more, but then we decided to get into the whiskey.
Gentleman Jack was introduced in 1988, as a gentler version of their spirit. It’s double-filtered through the Lynchburg County process of using sugar-maple charcoal, and John described it as being the epitome of Tennessee Whiskey. Barrels for Gentleman Jack are taken from the bottom of the warehouse, as they experience less temperature fluctuation and produce a gentler spirit.
We then tried the original Old No. 7, which is filtered once, and is a spicier version of the spirit. JD batches are made using 200 barrels from across all levels of the warehouse.
The last JD we had was the Single Barrel Select, and our barrel was #16-8132. The single barrels are chosen from the top levels of the warehouse, as the greater temperature fluctuation will produce a more dynamic, flavourful whiskey. Each single barrel is specifically chosen by the master distiller, and then bottled at 47% (with some being bottled at cask strength).
Later in the evening, we got a chance to try the unaged spirit right off the still, and after going through the Lynchburg County Process. There were subtle differences and those who tried it were torn whether they liked it better before or after. We had a discussion with John about TN Whiskey vs Bourbon, as Tennessee Whiskey technically meets all of the specifications of Straight Bourbon, but agreed not to try and answer a question that’s been debated for years to no avail, and instead moved on to Woodford Reserve!
John told us about Woodford’s process, and how it differs from most bourbon production. They use a high rye mashbill (18%) and limestone filtered water – something also done at JD and others, but not everywhere. Their fermentation lasts 5-6 days, which is much longer than the standard 3. They then triple distill using pot stills – similar to irish whiskey – while most use exclusively column stills, and to only 125 proof, vs 140 by most others. It’s then put in barrels at 110 proof, (15 proof below the max) and aged for an average of 7.3 years, with each barrel seasoned for 9 months and then chosen for bottling once it’s ready. They then bottle at 45.2% ABV.
We tried three different Woodford products. The first was the standard Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select. It may not be flashy, but it’s a great, well crafted, high-rye straight bourbon. Then we tried the Double Oaked, which gets secondary aging in lightly toasted barrels.
Finally, we tried the Brandy Finished WR, which is part of their Master’s Collection. It was a sweeter, fruitier, wine-like version of WR and was a favourite of many that night. The WR Master’s Collection has included a number of experimental releases like Double Malt, Four Wood, Maple Wood, Sonoma-Cutrer finished and a Sweet Mash finish. After trying the Brandy finish, we’re hoping the LCBO brings some of these in in the future!
Overall, it was a great evening and we came away with a greater appreciation for these two brands. Thank you to JOEY for the venue and great eats, to MaltCollective for organizing, and to John for for leading the event! Another big thanks to Throzen and Leemarc for the photography work!