Jack Daniel’s is the best-selling American whiskey in the world. Johnnie Walker Scotch is the best-selling whisky in the world and Jim Beam is the best-selling Bourbon in the world. This success has caused many changes in the Old No. 7 brand over the years. Back in the 1960s, Brown-Forman was happy to simply have shortages of Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 as they built more capacity at their distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. As the brand grew beyond what they expected, to meet demand, Brown-Forman began to lower the proof of Old No. 7. First to 86 proof, and then to 80 proof. The official reason for this lowering of proof is that the export market, a very large portion of their sales, drink 80 proof whiskey. That is the proof of Johnny Walker and most other Scotch whiskies, so they lowered the proof in order to compete in overseas markets. The side effect of this lowering of proof is that they 1) get more bottles from their production and 2) pay less tax when they export the whiskey overseas.

This bottle of Old No. 7 is a 90 proof whiskey. The bottle is a metric 1 liter bottle, but it still has a red tax stamp-like seal over the screw cap. The tax stamp was eliminated in 1984, but distilleries still used a strip stamp seal over the caps to prevent tampering with the whiskey. It took a few years to perfect the tamper-proof seals used today. 

Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey

Date: circa 1985

Proof: 90

Age: No Age Statement

Nose: Vanilla and wood smoke, bananas, pepper and oak.

Taste: Sweet vanilla with a hint of wood smoke. Bananas and pepper spice with a little dry oak tannins. When tasted with a dried cranberry a citrus note comes out and there is less pepper spice. When tasted with a pecan, the tannins of the pecan mix with the wood tannins and the wood smoke in the whiskey to dominate the flavor with only a little vanilla sweetness.

Finish: Dry with wood smoke, oak tannins and only a hint of vanilla. The cranberry causes the pepper flavor to come out only in the finish, making it very spicy and dry. The pecan made the finish very long and dry with oak tannins and wood smoke. I am pairing this vintage Jack Daniel’s with a My Father “The Judge” cigar. I find the smoke to have a lot of dark chocolate with a little cedar spice. The whiskey makes the smoke a little sweeter chocolate – more of a milk chocolate than a dark chocolate, and the spice of the smoke becomes stronger. The smoke brings out more fruit in the whiskey – apples and pears as well as banana, and the vanilla becomes creamier and more like a French Vanilla. A very good pairing for an after-dinner dessert cigar and whiskey.

Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller