It’s becoming a bit more common to see new bottles of whiskey so well conceived that they’re capable of unseating the classics, and Jack Daniel’s Heritage Barrel is one such whiskey. Were it not a limited release of limited volume, it would be an obvious replacement for America’s best-selling whiskey. You should try to buy some anyway.
Heritage Barrel is amped-up Jack Daniel’s, if we’ve ever seen it, and it all starts with specially designed barrels. The so-called “Heritage Barrels” were slowly heated “to achieve a deeper, richer, toasted layer before being charred,” according to the brand. The whiskey was then put in at a lower entry proof (usually a denotation of higher quality) and placed near the top of one of the highest warehouses the brand owns.
What does all of this mean? A more deeply toasted barrel brings out more oak notes and baking spices (we got cinnamon, clove, and, yes, plenty of wood). Barrels put at higher elevations and on higher shelves tend to have particular traits as well. Essentially, higher elevation and higher positions are supposed to see to it that the barrel gets much hotter on long summer days. Hot barrels, by result, tend to produce whiskey with a higher proof, and a lot more flavor, in a slightly shorter time period.
The single barrel and barrel proof programs from Jack Daniel’s have been lovely experiences—so much so we’ve previously asked Master Distiller Jeff Arnett if we’ll see more such bottles in the future. Heritage Barrel may be his belated answer.
We found this whiskey nutty and deeply flavorful, with hints of peanuts, burnt sugar, clove, nutmeg, toasted oak, and lots of vanilla. It’s a tasty Tennessee bottling, with the kind of complexity Jack Daniel’s does not often get enough credit for. And at 100 proof, it’s ready to drink as is, in our opinion, though a couple drops of water really make it pop.
If there’s anything critical to say about this bottle it’s that we’d have liked a cask strength version, non-chill filtered. It’s very, very good here—how great would it have been at that next tier, we’ll never know.
Heritage Barrel is a limited release of just 200 barrels worth of whiskey, and placed at that high elevation, we doubt there was a ton of it left. It’s on shelves now for $65 and it’s worth the price.