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Why Jack Daniel’s is Not a Bourbon: The Unique and Signature Charcoal Mellow

Jack Daniels Charcoal Mellow Why Jack Daniel’s is Not a Bourbon: The Unique and Signature Charcoal MellowBy Matt Goldstein

Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey is made very much like a Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey but can’t be considered bourbon because it’s not from Bourbon county Kentucky.  However, aside from geographical differences, the Jack Daniel’s Charcoal Mellow is unique and signature to Jack Daniel’s.  Jack Daniel’s and Bourbon Whiskey’s are made with the majority of the mash from corn, as opposed to rye or other grains like other whiskies.  However, before Jack Daniel’s is aged in newly charred new American white oak barrels, the Jack Daniel’s is dripped through charcoal.  This charcoal is made from sugar maple being drenched by 140 proof Jack Daniel’s whiskey and set on fire.  The result of the fire is sugar maple charcoal which is then packed into metal vats.  The Jack Daniel’s Whiskey is then slow dripped into the vatted charcoal sometimes taking about 3 days to reach the bottom.  The dripped charcoal mellowed whiskey is then placed in the newly charred white oak barrels for aging and maturation and that is the difference between Jack Daniel’s and Bourbon.

All three types of Jack Daniel’s have three different ages, Jack Daniel’s Old Number 7, Gentleman Jack, and Jack Daniels Single Barrel, but no specific aged is set for any of the whiskies.  Jack Daniel’s allows it’s tasters to decide when the whiskey is ready to be bottled.

Source: Jack Daniel’s, Travel Channel




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4 comments to Why Jack Daniel’s is Not a Bourbon: The Unique and Signature Charcoal Mellow

  • Bill

    False. In my opinion, Jack Daniels is clearly a bourbon if it is anything. The federal alteration statute (27 CRR 5-23) has nothing to do with filtering (aka charcoal Mellow or The Lincoln County Process). It appears to me to be a flight of fancy in the Jack Daniels marketing department to claim that it does.

    Further, since the alteration statute applies equally to all nine types of whiskey listed in 27 CRR 5-22, if charcoal filtration did disqualify Jack from being a “bourbon whiskey” it would disqualify it from being any type of whiskey at all. I wish Jack would fess up and admit that it does meet the modern federal definition of bourbon, enjoy its NAFTA benefits, and then relax that is also meets the more restrictive definition of Tennessee Whiskey.

    Here is an example of the correct analysis:


  • Dennis

    While I appreciate your enthusiasm for the issue, and agree that Jack Daniels does not market themselves as a bourbon, it technically is.

    In addition to being categorized as Bourbon by NAFTA, Jack Daniels would fall under the legal definition of Bourbon as defined by the United States ATF.

    Title 27, Chapter 1, Subpart C, Section 5.22 of the Code of Federal Regulations, pages 48-53
    (1)(i) “Bourbon whisky”, “rye whisky”, “wheat whisky”, “malt whisky”, or “rye malt whisky” is whisky produced at not exceeding 160 deg. proof from a fermented mash of not less than 51 percent corn, rye, wheat, malted barley, or malted rye grain, respectively, and stored at not more than 125 deg. proof in charred new oak containers; and also includes mixtures of such whiskies of the same type.

    (ii) “Corn whisky” is whisky produced at not exceeding 160 deg. proof from a fermented mash of not less than 80 percent corn grain, and if stored in oak containers stored at not more than 125 deg. proof in used or uncharred new oak containers and not subjected in any manner to treatment with charred wood; and also includes mixtures of such whisky.

    (iii) Whiskies conforming to the standards prescribed in paragraphs (b)(1)(i) and (ii) of this section, which have been stored in the type of oak containers prescribed, for a period of 2 years or more shall be further designated as “straight”; for example, “straight bourbon whisky”, “straight corn whisky”, and whisky conforming to…

    As well, there is no such rule that Bourbon has to come from Bourbon County, Kentucky. In fact, there is Bourbon being produced in Virginia, New York and Washington to name a few.


    WGM Reply:

    Thechnically, the bourbon can be made in Bourbon county but can be aged elsewhere. And yes, Jack is made like a Bourbon but the Charcoal Mellow excludes it from being a bourbon period.


    Eric Reply:

    This statement is incorrect. Bourbon can be made anywhere in the USA and charcoal mellowing does not exclude it from being a bourbon. See the quoted Standards of Identity above.


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