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Is Jack Daniel’s Whiskey or Bourbon? (2022 Updated)

Last Updated on November 24, 2022 by Lydia Martin

Jack Daniel’s popularity skyrocketed when Frank Sinatra, a musical legend, called it “the nectar of gods” in 1955 during one of his stints. Since then, this American whiskey has become a staple in most bars. 

However, one particular question stood out – is Jack Daniel’s whiskey or bourbon? Keep reading to know the truth.

Jack Daniel’s – Bourbon or Whiskey? 

Jack Daniel’s

Jack Daniel’s is a Tennesse whiskey created by Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel in 1864. Jack Daniel’s Distillery produces its products in Lynchburg, Tennessee. Tennessee whiskey and bourbon are both subsets of whiskey, but they have distinct characteristics set by rules and standards on how they should be made. 

Jack Daniel’s whiskey brand is a whiskey mainly because it is produced in the State of Tennessee, one of the requirements of strict laws of the Federal government about labeling products as Tennessee whiskey. Almost identical to bourbon, it uses a special charcoal filtering that bourbons don’t have. 

Read: Who Taught Jack Daniel To Make Whiskeys?

What Makes It NOT A Bourbon 

Claims that state Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey could be labeled as bourbon needs further discussion and scrutinization. Our team decided to lay out the rules for each type to determine whether Jack Daniel’s could really pass as a bourbon to set the record straight. 

Rules To Become A Bourbon Rules To Become Tennessee Whiskey
Can be made in the USA and its territories (not only Kentucky) Exclusive to Tennessee State only
Should use a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn Should use a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn
Aged in new charred oak barrels Aged in new charred oak barrels
Must be distilled to no more than 160 (US) proof or 80% alcohol by volume (ABV) Must be distilled to no more than 160 (US) proof or 80% alcohol by volume (ABV)
N/A Lincoln County Process
Must be aged at no more than 125 proof or 62.5% alcohol by volume Must be matured at no more than 125 proof or 62.5% alcohol by volume
Each bottle must be 40% ABV or more Each bottle must be 40% ABV or more

Jack Daniel’s Is A Tennessee Whiskey 

Jack Daniel’s Old No 7

Brown Forman Jack Daniel’s is labeled a Tennessee whiskey because the distillery wants to honor charcoal mellowing, a traditional method used for Tennessee whiskey only. Technically speaking, this drink could completely qualify as bourbon whiskey, as claimed by Chris Fletcher, Jack Daniel’s master distiller [1].  

The North American Free Trade Agreement of 1994 includes provisions under which Canada and Mexico agreed to recognize Tennessee whiskey as “a Straight Bourbon Whiskey authorized to be produced only in the State of Tennessee [2].”

However, the makers believe that charcoal mellowing deserves its own designation, following what the Tennessee Whiskey Law states since its passing in 2013. Fletcher claimed that the extra step didn’t prevent them from labeling their product as bourbon whiskey. It allowed them to label Jack Daniel’s brand as a Tennessee whiskey, like George Dickel. 

Read: Bourbon vs Whiskey

Bourbon vs Tennesse Whiskey 

Tennessee and bourbon whiskey are almost identical. Both are considered American whiskey. They distillate to not more than 80% ABV, have their own rules and regulations regarding their production, and are made in the same process. 

They also use almost the same mash bill with 51% corn (at least), rye, and barley and go through a charred new oak barrel to mature, but their concentrations must not exceed 62.5% ABV. Both spirits are also bottled at 40% ABV or more.

Bourbons can be made anywhere in the United States of America, which still qualifies Jack Daniel’s as a bourbon whiskey. However, Tennessee whiskeys can only be made in the State of Tennessee, which sets it apart from bourbon. 

Another thing that sets it apart from the bourbon is its additional production process of charcoal mellowing. Its charcoal-filtered concentration gives a more robust and bolder flavor. Jack Daniel’s products are slowly filtered through sugar maple charcoal.

How Whiskey Becomes Bourbon

Jack Daniel’s with cocktail mixers

Whiskeys only become bourbons if they follow the rules set by the US regulations for labeling and advertising. As per requirement, bourbon must have a grain mixture with a minimum of 51% corn, wheat, and rye.

It should also be made in the United States and Territories, like the District of Columbia and (Puerto Rico) only, and must be matured in a new charred oak barrel. 

Bourbon also follows standard alcohol by volume of 80% ABV upon its distillation process, matured at no more than 62.5%, and must be bottled at 40% ABV or more.

Read: Can You Substitute Whiskey For Bourbon?

What Is The Lincoln County Process? 

The Lincoln County Process, also known as the charcoal mellowing process, filters the mash bill through sugar maple wood charcoal chips. This extra process adds sweetness before putting the charcoal-filtered mixture into barrels for aging. 

Jack Daniel’s Distillery also uses another process aside from the Lincoln County Process. The distillery claims it to be an old-time process that Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel himself insisted on. Since then, this extra process has always been used by the Jack Daniel’s Distillery.

FAQs

Where is Jack Daniel’s made?

Jack Daniel’s is produced in Lynchburg, Tennessee, the site of a limestone iron-free spring, which Daniel purchased for just around $2,148. It’s Tennessee’s tiny rural town with fewer than 6,000 residents. 

Can Jack Daniel’s become bourbon?

Jack Daniel’s meets all the bourbon requirements, but it chose not to be called bourbon. In fact, all Tennessee whiskeys can be labeled as bourbon. However, not all bourbons can be labeled Tennessee whiskeys.

So, Is Jack Daniel’s Bourbon or Whiskey? 

Jack Daniel’s is a Tennessee whiskey, like George Dickel, because it has charcoal-filtered concentration before aging. This spirit has an added filtration process when producing its whiskey products. However, Jack Daniel’s could also be technically called bourbon because it also follows all the requirements for bourbon labeling. 

Jack Daniel’s makers prefer using the Tennessee whiskey label to honor their whiskey’s added filtration process. This filtration process makes Jack Daniel’s a certified Tennessee whiskey. 

Reference:

  1. https://www.forbes.com/sites/ginapace/2020/10/12/jack-daniels-new-master-distiller-chris-fletcher-talks-whiskey-upbringing-future-of-the-iconic-brand/
  2. https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/local/2014/06/11/jack-daniels-george-dickel-rage-tennessee-whiskey-definition/10319051/

2 thoughts on “Is Jack Daniel’s Whiskey or Bourbon? (2022 Updated)”

  1. This was a good article actually, interesting and informative! The family and I would love to tour your Facility when we come in town in November!

    Reply

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