Cocktails with… Jack Daniel White Rabbit Saloon – 43%ABV

2012 sees the 120th anniversary of The White Rabbit Saloon, the saloon that Mr. Jack Daniels owned and operated in Lynchburg, Tennessee. To celebrate this, the Jack Daniels Distillery have released a special version of their Old No.7 variety (for details on other variations of Jack Daniels, check out our comprehensive tasting here) named after this famed watering hole.

The main difference in this version is that it is bottled at 43%ABV, rather than the 40%ABV that’s common for the Black Label No.7 whiskey in the UK and US today. Funnily enough, going back thirty years, Jack Daniels No.7 was bottled at 45%ABV, which was then reduced to 43%ABV in the late 1980s and reduced further to its current 40%ABV in 2002.

The whiskey comes in a presentation box with very decorative labelling and verbiage relating to the experiences of customers in Mr. Daniels’ own saloon. The bottle is in keeping with the new, clean-line style of Jack Daniels in the UK and, frankly, I’ve not yet come round to it as for me it has less character.

But let’s get on to the more substantial and important matter of taste.

1) On its own
Colour: Amber, with a tinge of red.
Nose: Warm, soft and slightly sweet caramel and vanilla. Faint hints of banana toffee that lead to nail polish if your nose lingers too long.
Taste: Smooth to start, being sweet and woody, but this flavour is quickly overtaken by an artificial tasting, bitter, creamy note that lasts. The finish is then quite clean, dry and woody, with a pleasant, light note of banana toffee. It’s slightly warming, but not forceful. Overall, I couldn’t help but be disappointed with this whiskey; the beginning and finish were both so good, but that bitter note in between was just horrid. Interestingly, where I tasted bitterness, DTS didn’t taste much at all, finding it bland.

2) Old Fashioned
This has a lovely nose of smoky, charred banana toffee. The banana and toffee notes follow through on the taste, along with vanilla, but – oddly – this Old Fashioned isn’t at all sweet and there’s a notable lack of flavour at the front of the tongue. There are hints of bitterness before a finish of light wood. Although the nose and finish were good, the flavour of this cocktail left something to be desired.

As an interesting experiment, half of the Old Fashioned was decanted and placed in the freezer. This improved it greatly, adding a light, cherry note to the nose and stronger notes of wood and a hint of coffee to the taste.

3) Manhattan
A promising start of wood and caramel is quickly overtaken by that same, persistent bitter, dry note, which is distracting and artificial. The finish was odd, being slightly creamy, before becoming short and dry. Definitely not the best way to enjoy this whiskey.

4) with Ginger Ale
A light, traditional bourbon nose of wood and vanilla, tinged with a refreshing sweetness. Initially dry, this drink then fades into that bitter flavour. The finish is clean and short, with hints of sweet ginger. Although I still didn’t like the bitter aspects, this was my favourite of the drinks that I tried.

In Conclusion
I really wanted to like this whiskey. I adore the label and story behind the White Rabbit Saloon and think that the concept of “sippin’ whiskies” that people can enjoy with friends on its own, straight from the bottle, is a great one. Unfortunately, I just didn’t like the bitter taste of this one, either on its own or in cocktails; my favourite way of drinking it was with ginger ale or in the intriguing frozen Old Fashioned. We do, however, have some bigger fans of Jack Daniels in our family and I look forward to seeing what they think of this; when I do, I’ll update this post.

– Mrs. B.

Jack Daniel’s White Rabbit Saloon 120th Anniversary is available for around £26 for 70cl from The Whisky Exchange.

Keep Walking! – A Look at the New Johnnie Walker Labels

The Johnnie Walker line-up is changing this year, with the bowing out of their Green Label and Gold Label, and the introduction of Johnnie Walker Gold Reserve and Johnnie Walker Platinum Label:

Gold Label Reserve was created by Master Blender Jim Beveridge from handpicked casks to celebrate the art of blending. The Johnnie Walker website describes it as “pure indulgence”.

Platinum Label, also created by Jim Beveridge, is being marketed towards people who are after something a little bit special to share with friends. All of its constituent whiskies are at least 18 years old and are from limited casks that have been specially kept by.

Despite how exciting these sound, as a particular fan of the original Gold Label (ever since our wonderful Goodwood tasting), I have to admit to being a tad hesitant about such a big change. I had tried small samples at Distil and Imbibe, but couldn’t wait to try them both at home and was particularly relieved when DTS offered to set up a blind tasting for me, so that I could be as fair and unbiased as possible. To make things additionally interesting, he threw in the Green and Black Labels without telling me (it’s a shame that we didn’t have any Gold Label at the time)! Still, a sneaky, if clever, move.

Here are my blind-tasting thoughts.

Green Label
Nose: Syrup and oats, but with a dry finish. Lots of sweet wood, too, reminding me a tad of bourbon.
Taste: Raw, genuine wood and not too much else; quite a short initial flavour, but a very nice one, nonetheless. A good warmth builds up after from alcohol.

Black Label
Nose: Rich, fruity and really syrupy, with hints of plum, raisin and other rich notes that remind me of fruit cake. After a few moments, the sweetness transformed into more of a Christmas-pudding nuttiness.
Taste: Smooth and sweet. There’s a short initial flavour of fruit cake that’s followed by another flavour that develops a lot more slowly, overlaid by a faint smokiness: another genuine woodiness – no gimmicky flavours to mask it here – that you can really chew over.

Gold Label Reserve
Nose: A much stronger nose than the previous two. A combination of light wood, vanilla and a richer, honey sweetness.
Taste: Quite strong alcohol to start, followed by a good woodiness and the faintest hint of smoke. This quickly disperses, leaving a pleasant, medium-long finish that is relatively dry and fruity. Smooth and accessible.

Platinum Label
Nose: Savoury, light wood with oats, like oatcakes, to start. This then turns sweeter, with hints of maple.
Taste: Harsher than the previous ones and distinctly savoury; almost bitter at points. This comes across as not particularly balanced to start, but quickly settles down upon a second sip. There’s definitely some wood notes here, but there’s not so much personality. The finish is dry, reminiscent of sherry and dried fruit.

In Conclusion
The latest additions to the Johnnie Walker range are definitely different to the ones that they’re replacing, so if you are a particular fan of either the Green Label or the Gold Label (“The Centenary Blend”), you’ll want to stock up now. Equally, if you get the chance to try the Gold Reserve or Platinum Labels, I would recommend it; they’re definitely something new, carefully designed for today’s market, and, whilst they weren’t my favourites in this blind tasting, they might be yours!

– Mrs. B

Johnnie Walker Gold Reserve is available for around £42 for 70cl from The Whisky Exchange.

Johnnie Walker Platinum is available for around £66 for 70cl from The Whisky Exchange.