Jack Daniel’s Gentleman Jack is a light, approachable whiskey that, while an ideal entry-level choice for sipping, may prove to be too light, smooth or boring for seasoned whiskey drinkers.
Classification: Tennessee whiskey
Distillery: Jack Daniel’s
Cask: New charred American white oak
Still type: copper
Released: 1988; ongoing
Aged: Not disclosed
- Crafted to be easy-drinking and smooth, without a lot of burn on the finish, it’s an ideal entry-level sipping whiskey.
- The double-charcoal mellowing gives it a different, slightly sweeter and rounder flavor than Jack Daniel’s flagship Old No. 7, and many drinkers prefer Gentleman.
- One person’s “smooth” is another person’s “boring.” Fans of more flavorful American whiskeys will find that Gentleman Jack is a little too gentle.
Color: Pale caramel with an orange hue—the second round of charcoal filtration plus the addition of water to get it down to 80 proof has lightened the color significantly.
Nose: Sweet, fairly soft notes of vanilla, caramel and oak
Palate: Very light, to the point where it almost feels like it’s floating off the tongue, it has sweet vanilla and caramel on the entry, with oak and char dominant on the back. It holds no surprises, but the flavors are well-balanced, even if they lack a little “oomph.”
Finish: It’s short and to the point, with light oak and burnt caramel leading the way. There’s virtually no alcoholic kick on the finish, which is either a good or a bad thing depending on how you like your whiskey.
Gentleman Jack is a product of its time, the late 1980s, when vodka was the colossus that bestrode the world of spirits and whiskey was scrambling to find a way to compete. For Jack Daniel’s, the best-selling American whiskey brand in the world, that meant lowering the proof on its signature Old No. 7 expression from 90 to 86. The goal was a lighter, smoother flavor (the proof was lowered again in 2002, from 86 to 80). In 1988, the brand took it to the next level, launching the even lighter and smoother Gentleman Jack expression.
Jack Daniel’s, and Tennessee whiskey in general, is known for its use of the Lincoln County process, in which the whiskey is filtered through maple charcoal before barreling to remove impurities and smooth out any rough edges. Gentleman Jack is essentially Old No. 7, only it has been “charcoal mellowed,” as the brand puts it, a second time before bottling, making it still cleaner and mellower but removing some flavor and color as well.
The final product feels a little anachronistic in this age of big, robust bottled-in-bond and barrel-proof whiskeys. But there’s a reason Jack Daniel’s is the most popular whiskey in the world: A lot of people like it. And if you’re a novice or a fan of light, approachable expressions, there’s a lot to like about Gentleman Jack. In fact, it’s more balanced than Old No. 7 itself, with vanilla, caramel and oak all in perfect harmony. And if you’re a fan of bolder higher-proof whiskeys, there are plenty of Jack Daniel’s expressions that fit the bill, starting with the excellent single barrel.
Gentleman Jack is too light and its flavor too ethereal for mixing, and it certainly doesn’t need any water or ice, as it tastes relatively watered-down straight out of the bottle. But for a sipping whiskey that goes down easy and doesn’t require a whole lot of thought, it definitely fits the bill.
Today, it seems like a new Jack Daniel’s expression comes down the pike on a monthly basis. But until 1988, the original Old No. 7 had been, for decades, the one and only Jack. Gentleman Jack was the brand’s very first modern line extension—and, it turns out, the first of many.
The bottom line: Gentleman Jack was created to be light and easy to drink, and by that measure it succeeds. Seasoned whiskey drinkers, however, may find its exceedingly gentle nature a liability rather than an asset.