Cocktail consultant, Liquid Productions
Co-owner, Pacific Standard
Co-owner, Clover Club, Leyenda, and Milady’s
Colloquially known as Black Label, JD, or simply Jack, Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Black Label Tennessee Whiskey is a classic and affordable option that represents a good introduction to the Tennessee whiskey category. While our reviewers had mixed opinions on the bottling’s overall quality, they are unanimous in recommending it with simple mixers like cola.
Classification: Tennessee whiskey
Producer: Jack Daniel’s
Expression: Old No. 7 Black Label Tennessee Whiskey
Cask: New, charred white oak barrels
Still Type: Charcoal-mellowed, twice-distilled in copper column stills
Aged: No age statement (aged at least four years)
Approachable entry-level whiskey
Affordable price point
Great with simple mixers
May disappoint those seeking a more complex bottling
Its relatively low proof may not come through in ingredient-heavy cocktails
Color: Clear amber
Nose: Caramel, vanilla, wood, peanuts, brine, banana
Palate: Rich and slightly hot, with a smoky sweetness and notes including corn, banana, maple, cinnamon, candied pecans, yeast, vanilla, orange, and peanut crumble
Finish: Short to medium finish, nuttiness and tannic oak
Similar bottles: Four Roses, George Dickel, Jim Beam White Label, Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey
Suggested uses: Sipped neat or on the rocks; in simple highballs like a Jack and Cola, or with lemonade
Our tasting panel is unanimous in recommending this classic Tennessee whiskey for simple highballs like a Jack and Cola, but remained divided on its other qualities.
“While Jack is certainly a beginner’s introduction to the category of American whiskey or whiskey in general, it is also both complex and nostalgic enough to be enjoyed by the most seasoned aficionado,” says Jeffrey Morgenthaler. “[It’s] a classic Tennessee whiskey, perhaps the Tennessee whiskey, that no bar should be without.”
Jacques Bezuidenhout calls it “nice and approachable” and an “overall decent representation of a Tennessee-style whiskey.”
Julie Reiner has a more critical opinion. “It has a very metallic finish, very little aroma, and is not a particularly good cocktail whiskey,” she says.
Our reviewers all identified strong banana and caramel notes on the nose and palate. “[The] palate is rich, with that initial banana giving way to caramel, candied pecans, and yeast,” says Morgenthaler. “Like a mouthful of liquid Bananas Foster.”
Bezuidenhout and Morgenthaler both recommend this whiskey neat or on the rocks. Morgenthaler can envision using this bottling in a wider array of American whiskey-based cocktails, while Bezuidenhout and Reiner think it fares best in simple highballs. Reiner says it is “delicious with Coke,” though she also suggests serving it with lemonade, ginger ale, or ginger beer.
“[It’s] very approachable but needs more proof to come through in cocktails,” says Bezuidenhout.
While Morgenthaler acknowledges that Old No. 7 is not a particularly complex example of the American whiskey category, he finds that it stands out among competitors like Jim Beam White Label, George Dickel, and Wild Turkey. “For my money, Jack is in the top of this tier,” he says.
Reiner, on the other hand, prefers producers such as Jim Beam and Four Roses for their mixability. “The very distinct flavor of Jack makes it unappealing in some cocktails,” she says.
Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Black Label Tennessee Whiskey is made with a mash bill of 80% corn, 12% barley, and 8% rye that is mixed with limestone-rich spring water from a cave spring at the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. Sour mash, or leftover grain from previous whiskey batch, is added to the mash, which ferments for six days before it’s twice-distilled in large copper columns to 140 proof. The liquid is then charcoal-mellowed, dripping through 10 feet of maple charcoal over a period of three to five days. The unaged spirit matures in new American white oak barrels for at least four years.
In the mid-1800s, an enslaved man named Nathan “Nearest” Green taught Jasper Daniel Newton, more commonly known as Jack, how to distill whiskey, including the charcoal-filtering process that has come to characterize Tennessee whiskey.
In 1866, Daniel established the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee, making it the first registered distillery in the United States, and introduced his flagship expression, Old No. 7, using the charcoal-mellowing process he learned from Green and limestone-rich spring water from a local cave spring. There is no verified explanation for the number seven, but theories have tied it to Daniel’s lucky number, the successful seventh batch of whiskey he created, and/or his seventh girlfriend.
In 1904, the whiskey medaled at the World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri. Daniel passed away in 1911 and left the land and distillery to his nephew, Lem Motlow, whose younger brother, Jess, served as Master Distiller. The distillery faced many challenges during Prohibition, the Great Depression, and World War II, when it was forced to halt production.
However, production resumed after the war, and the brand took off, particularly in pop culture. A “Postcards from Lynchburg” campaign in the 1950s advertised the whiskey as both a luxury product and a heritage brand, helping to market Jack Daniel’s as a slice of Americana. In the next few decades, musicians including Frank Sinatra and Keith Richards were often photographed with a bottle, solidifying its association with rock ‘n roll music. Jack Daniel’s has been owned by Brown-Forman Corporation since 1956, and Chris Fletcher serves as Master Distiller today.
—Written and edited by Audrey Morgan
Frank Sinatra was such a big fan of Jack Daniel’s, he was buried with a bottle of Old No. 7. The musician was reportedly first introduced to Jack Daniel’s whiskey in 1947 by actor Jackie Gleason at a New York City bar.
The Bottom Line
This Tennessee whiskey has remained iconic for more than 150 years and is a great option for mixing into a classic Jack and Cola or other highballs. Sipped neat or on the rocks, it’s a good introductory whiskey, but may lack the complexity that some whiskey aficionados seek.