WARREN BOBROW is the On Whiskey columnist for OKRA. He grew up on a biodynamic farm in Morristown, New Jersey. He is a reluctant cocktail/wine writer and former trained chef/saucier.
A quick, yet highly focused tasting of the Macallan Single Malt Scotch vs. 2 offerings of Tennessee “Sipping” Whiskey
My old friend Becky once told me that she’d “rue the day” that I called Tennessee “sipping” whiskey bourbon. She said that only a “damned Yankee” would be confused enough to call Jack Daniel’s bourbon.
Tennessee “sipping” whiskey is not bourbon. The char, smoke, and charcoal filtering make Jack Daniel’s unique in the dichotomy of whiskey. There is the rub. The smoke, the char, and the power.
Macallan, on the other hand, is an extremely fine Scotch whisky. The most immediate difference between Tennessee whiskey and Scotch whisky is not that one is spelled with an e, and the other without- but the terroir, or taste of the place. Scotch just tastes different.
I recently received a bottle of Macallan whisky and set to comparing this benchmark 12 year old single malt whiskey against the very American slurp of whiskey. What I discovered is quite profound. The Tennessee whiskey is every bit as sumptuous and delicious as the kindred cousins from across the pond.
Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select
Notes of fire-toasted pecans give way to a smoky, peat-laden mid-palate. Flavors of sweet cream and sweet vanilla gelato enrobe your palate with sharper notes of scorched toffee and treacle pudding. This is a very sophisticated slurp of liquid American History. The finish goes on and on and right into the robust 94 proof finish. The price is usually about forty-five dollars and is worth every sip.
Gentleman Jack Rare Tennessee Whiskey
Lighter in color than the Single Barrel Select, this whiskey is more akin to a blended Tennessee whiskey. The high price is from a double application of the “Lincoln Country Process.” In other words, filtering the spirit through charcoal- twice for a more mellow taste. The barrels are charred and often make their way to Scotland at the end of the aging process. Like what you taste? It rests in the cask for about four years. Be prepared to fork over about twenty- five dollars for the pleasure.
Macallan Highland Single Malt Scotch Whiskey (12 year aged in Sherry Oak Casks from Jerez, Spain)
Pure lust is the first thing I taste when I drink Macallan Sherry Cask Scotch Whisky. The nose is smoke, peat and wet wool shorn from sheep accustomed to living outdoors. There is a fire burning in the fireplace in the cottage and it is a slow burning peat fire – smoldering and giving off little bursts of wet soil; charred wood; more wet wool; sweet toffee; and a lingering, charming, dried fruit finish. The Sherry nose is immediately apparent through the attack of sweet/spicy and the sophisticated elegance is long lasting in your glass. There is no doubt that this is Scotch whisky (spelled without an e) The taste of the place – oily, salty, and dripping with history – will stay on your palate for minutes, leading to hours to the eventual finish. Twelve years in the barrel only means one thing- a classic single malt passion. I wouldn’t say that I prefer the Scotch whisky to the Tennessee sipping whiskey. What I will say is that they are very similar in nose, follow, and finish. You can expect to pay about fifty dollars for the pleasure.
Which one is better? I’ll leave that to you.
I will say that the Single Barrel from Jack Daniel’s is world class in every way.