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I have a three older bottlings of Jack Daniel's that I bought at auction, and one new bottling that I got at the LCBO. We'll start with the newer one.
This is the third in their Master Distiller series, this one celebrating Lemuel Lee "Lem" Tolley. He was Jack Daniel's grandnephew and served as Master Distiller from 1941 through 1964. These were key years - he started shortly after Prohibition was repealed, and throughout his career could never make enough supply to meet demand, especially after Ol' Blue Eyes proclaimed his love for it in 1947. Other than having 3% more alcohol than Old No. 7, I don't know if the production process is any different than what is standard.
The colour is a deep reddish amber. Very bourbon-y on the nose with heavy corn, oak, mint chocolate, sourdough, overripe bananas, wood smoke and sage. Definitely some malt there as well; as noticeable as the oak is, this one seems more spirit-forward than most JDs (it's a touch metallic). Smokier with water. A notch above the usual.
Though a little sweet, it is mouth-drying on the palate with more banana, black liquorice, charred oak and dark chocolate. Less black pepper, more cayenne pepper. Am I crazy, or is that a hint of beef broth? Complex - more so with water - but also smooth and easy.
The finish is spicy, chalky and quite woody. As with the other bottlings in the Master Distiller series, this is very similar to the standard bottling, but a little better: spicier, oakier, a bit more oomph. Worth picking up if you like this brand.