A review of the Elvi Mati 2009 and the Jack Daniels Old # 7, their Gentleman Jack Rare and their Single Barrel Select Tennessee Whiskies.
By Joshua E. London and Louis Marmon
Washington Jewish Week November 2, 2011
The link between Jews and Spain is believed to have been forged in the times of King Solomon. Prosperity and then persecution ensued over the next several centuries, culminating in the expulsion of the Jews in 1492. In the 19th century Jews began to slowly return to Spain and now there are several cities with sizable Jewish communities.
The Spanish wine industry has undergone a similar rebirth. Once mired in poor technology and outmoded viticulture, Spanish wine has been invigorated by new investment and a commitment to quality. This has made Spain the site for some of the world’s best wine values.
This includes kosher wines, especially those made by the ElviWine company. Founded by Moises and Anne Cohen in 2002, ElviWines originated in Spain’s Priorat region. The company now produces more than a dozen kosher wines from five locations within the county and has expanded its operations into Chile. The diverse ElviWine portfolio includes single varietal as well as blended offerings, a sweet wine and a sparkling cava.
The medium-bodied Elvi Mati 2009 ($15) opens with black cherry and red berry aromas which after a few minutes in the glass develop a pleasant earthy accent. These same fruit flavors continue along with vanilla, strawberry and a slight herbal quality into a nicely balanced, medium length finish. It is an ideal accompaniment to steak, roasts and other fall-weather foods.
Spirits-wise, we thought we’d revisit an American classic: Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey.
This is the Jack Daniel’s in that familiar, black-labeled, square bottle, as distinct from Gentleman Jack or Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel. Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7is the one that can be found in just about every bar in the country, and a great many elsewhere in the world. Indeed, not long ago Jack Daniel’s beat out Johnnie Walker as the world’s best-selling whiskey.
This bears repeating. The American whiskey Jack Daniel’s is the world’s best-selling whiskey.
Despite the marketing emphasis, there is little substantive difference between “Tennessee Whiskey” and “Bourbon Whiskey.” Both are made in essentially the same way, using essentially the same ingredients; the only real difference is that Jack Daniel’s prefers to be known as “Tennessee Whiskey” instead of “Bourbon Whiskey.” They could just as easily label themselves as a Tennessee Bourbon Whiskey” or a Bourbon Whiskey made in Tennessee”, etc.
Whisky geeks will be quick to jump on this to point to the “Lincoln County Process” in which the whiskey is filtered through a column of sugar maple wood charcoal chips before going into the casks for aging. It is only called the “Lincoln County Process” because that was the name of the county at the time the Jack Daniel Distillery was established in 1866.
The process is only used in the production of one other whiskey, “the George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey” which is a copy-cat competitor. Because the county lines have been significantly redrawn since the 19th century, neither distillery is now actually located in Lincoln County, Tenn. The charcoal filtering process itself is used to jump-start the aging process.
Since “Tennessee Whiskey” is not a regulated designation, this “Lincoln County Process” of filtration is not actually mandated for the whiskey to be sold as “Tennessee Whiskey” – though it just so happens that Jack Daniel’s and George Dickel are the only “Tennessee” whiskies being produced and both use the process. Much ado about nothing, really, but such is the nature of whiskey branding and marketing.
Likewise, the “sour mash” designation is simply a reference to an old American whiskey technique for keeping “whiskey mash”- the grain slurry that is to be fermented into beer and then distilled into whiskey – at the ideal pH level from batch to batch to ensure uniform fermentation and to stave off bad bacteria. It does make the mash taste sour, but not the whiskey, and while not every American whiskey producer puts the words “sour mash” on the label, each uses the sour mash method. Again, it is just marketing.
Of course, whiskey marketing shouldn’t be knocked too much as Jack Daniel’s is a powerful, internationally recognizable brand of whiskey. One of the few, it seems, whose fans feel connected with on an intimate, first-name basis: “Jack on the rocks,” “Jack and Coke,” and more simply “a shot of Jack.”
Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey($20) is pleasant, off-dry, medium-bodied spirit that works extremely well as a mixer, though is a bit rough around the edges when taken straight. The whiskey presents with an interesting jumble of caramel, vanilla and roasted nut aromas that follow through on the palate along with hot-fireball candy-type spiciness, corn syrup, a distinct background note of licorice, and with slightly murky notes of white pepper, and caramel popcorn. It finishes hot and sweet, with additional notes of white pepper, caramel and walnuts.
Jack Daniel’s Gentleman Jack Rare Tennessee Whiskey($40) is essentially just the Jack Daniel’s whiskey pushed through an additional (post-aging) mellowing Lincoln County Process of charcoal filtration. The resultant off-dry whiskey presents with buttery caramel, subtle smoke, pecan, and white pepper aromas and flavors, along with additional honey, currants, burnt sugar, licorice and fresh custard flavors. The finish is dry, nutty and a little woody. An easy to drink choice!
Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select Tennessee Whiskey ($50) is a more intense yet well balanced and fuller flavored, more sophisticated variation on the familiar Jack Daniel’s theme. Imagine the best of the other two with better balance and refinement, and then additional notes of lovely peach and apricot fruits, woody notes, along with burnt toast, oak char, licorice, vanilla, butterscotch and walnuts. A stellar whiskey, and easily the best of the lineup. L’chaim.