What To Drink This Week: Jack Daniels Honey Liqueur

It’s been nearly two years since I had my say about Jack Daniels’ last crack at innovation, an entry into the pre-mixed cocktail race whose sole purpose was staring its customer in the face and daring him to be as lazy as he could be.  I admit that I was not kind in that assessment, and the comments that we receive to this day — mainly from those very passionate about casual drinking in public — continue to reinforce just how many people will defend Jack Daniels to the death, no matter how terrible their ideas.

I completely understand why, because Jack Daniels is such an incredibly successful brand.  Even non-drinkers know what it is, if not exactly how it tastes, and few are the novice drinkers who do not eventually test their mettle against it.  When people order whisky in movies, a Jack Daniels bottle appears; when rock stars or bikers are throwing shit at each other, one of the projectiles is always distinctively square and long-necked.

This isn’t to say that Jack Daniels isn’t just about power-drinking hard-cases who kick your ass and only ask questions about what way they feel like kicking it… but it sure does feel like it’s mostly about that.  Jack has a declarative position as liquor for people who do not fuck around, a good honest blue-collar booze that marks you as someone who can Handle The Hard Stuff.  Who doesn’t want to be part of that crowd?  Of course you’d want to drink that on the beach, in easily-accessible can form, and write long diatribes about it in comments sections.

All of which is fine, of course, but it makes me wonder how Jack Daniels devotees are going to react to what’s come out now…

There are two very important things you must absorb — and one thing you absolutely must do — about Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey.  So, know this:

  1. It does not taste very much like Jack Daniels Tennessee Whisky
  2. It is very, very good

and now, go forth to:

  1. Buy it.

I am honestly stunned that a liqueur like this came out of a bottle that looked like that.  I didn’t actually know what to do when I first tasted it, because it so thoroughly sidestepped my expectations.  I had anticipated what many distillers are doing elsewhere with whisky and smoke, in that they take their base product and layer a bit of flavor on top; I had not in any way foreseen something that starts with honey, and follows it all the way through.

Honey is present in this liquor from the moment you first pour it into a glass.  It’s got very long legs, and it’s almost all you can smell on first whiff.  Whether it’s flavor science or actual boatloads of honey, I can’t actually be sure — but if it’s the former, then it’s pretty well done.  More to the point, it does not put forth the same hot, strongly alcoholic aroma that regular JD would.  At most, you get a slightly peppery scent, but if you close your eyes you might think someone was letting you sniff their tea.

Let’s pause for a moment while we process that.  This is a floral, sweet, clover-honey infused liquor, dark gold and sticky enough to cling to your fingers.  Hang onto that, as we move forward.

Drinking Tennessee Honey is just as surprising.  The good ol’ whisky flavor is in there, but it’s layered under an unmistakably bright, aromatic flavor.  Not only is it surprisingly fresh, but it’s also as smooth as promised — even drinking it straight, there’s no clenching of teeth or clearing of throat to be done.  It goes down very easy, dangerously so for a liqueur that’s still 35% ABV.

There’re differences elsewhere too, naturally.  Tennessee Honey doesn’t bring the same fire in the belly (which is sometimes the entire point) of good ol’ Jack Daniels, nor does it mix well at all with the favorite standbys.  In a glass of Coke, Honey is sugar against sugar; in most classic JD cocktails, Honey would be either crushed or fail to add the right kind of spice.  If anything, Tennessee Honey is a full-octane St-Germain, calling for altogether a different approach.

Which brings me back to my original question — if Jack Daniels has become synonymous with hard liquor and the people who love it, how will they respond to something that smells like flowers, clover and bee-fresh honey?  Is Sons of Anarchy going to feature an episode where one of the gang just can’t get the sweet taste of Tennessee Honey off his lips, and not have that result in a fatal beating?

Of course, the answer is no.  Jack Daniels has done the exact opposite of Jack and Coke in a can; they’ve stretched their core product into a very different space, and produced something genuinely enjoyable in the pursuit.  Tennessee Honey is still a serious liquor, but in a wholly different way — its flavor, character and application are distinct, even while its weight is still quite hefty.

Best of all, this is a drink perfectly timed, both for:

  1. Springtime, when people are eager and interested to drink sweet, strong things in even the faintest of warm sunlight, and
  2. Party season, where not only could Tennessee Honey have a broad appeal, but can actually become a conversation piece.  Just watching someone work through their first experience with it is fun all by itself.

At $30 a bottle, Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey falls squarely into the price range of all the novelty liquors dropping this spring — but unlike many of them (good God, marshmallow flavored vokda?), this one has a lot to offer your liquor cabinet for the summer to come.

Rating:  BUY!  Good God, reward them for trying something different!

  • http://myperfectversionofme.wordpress.com/ Tara

    I bought this on Thursday because I happened to be walking by it at the LCBO (where I bought a lot of wine in anticipation of Good Friday/Easter Sunday closures) and haven’t had a chance to try it yet.

    I’m glad to hear it was worth my money!

    • choosybeggarmike

      That is exactly the scenario that I experienced.  I was picking up wine, I was curious why they’d be featuring JD as something “in for spring”, and then made this pleasant discovery.  I have already had to pledge that I will purchase and store a bottle of this for post-baby-delivery, so that Tina can enjoy it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=508599077 Kendra Mellifera

    Hmm the JD website says that it’s not available in Canadia yet, but lo, we have two people who have purchased it. I will check out my BC Liquor Emporium this weekend!

    • choosybeggarmike

      I’m in Ontario and it just showed up! I think perhaps they’re behind on their marketing.

      • Kewalk

        CBM- Been reading the posts about liqueur for an hour or so. I have not run across your website before. I have to day, well done brother. It is rare to read a well written review these days. This stuff is on point, down right awesome. Keep up the great work, you have a new fan.

        • Kewalk

          say not day. Okay Okay- I admit it. I grabbed your buttered rum recipe and knocked back two…alright…four.

          • choosybeggarmike

            I salute you. And best of all: Did you know that the saturated fat from the butter is a natural preventative for hangovers? It’s probably true!

        • choosybeggarmike

          Thank you! You must be the other person on the internet who cares about booze as much as I do. Glad to meet you!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=611703490 Elisabeth Longmire

    I LOVE a nice Jack and Ginger, and I bought this the second it was available here in the US (around this time last year I believe) and I have to say, it is perfect. It’s also good in ginger ale btw… I don’t do Jack and Coke so I never tried that mix but I’m sure it would be too sweet. The ginger is nice with it though… especially if you get a good ginger beer rather than your run of the mill ginger ale.

    • choosybeggarmike

      I will have to try that!  I was thinking about ginger ale, but I didn’t know whether that’d make it too syrupy.  I should have counted on the bubbles to alleviate such concerns.

      • milo

        Have you tried it straight out from the freezer?

        • choosybeggarmike

          …no, but THAT’S ABOUT TO CHANGE

  • Chelle

    I got a bottle from a friend who didn’t care for it. Not being a fan of regular Jack Daniels, I was skeptical, but it was fantastic. Smooth, not too sweet, perfect all on its own.

    • choosybeggarmike

      Here’s to friends who don’t know how good they have it!  

  • http://twitter.com/lupusgirl lupusgirl

    The husband has been skeptical about this, but now… it is ON.

  • Hippioflov

    Certainly will make it easier to whip up a hot toddy on cold winter nights!

  • MeezaThinker

    It is good, but not as good as Wild Turkey’s American Honey. Also, honey liqueurs are nothing new; just new with bourbons. Scotch has been the preferred whiskey up until now. Drambuie is the old standby (and very tasty), and if you can find it Chivas’ Lochan Ora is a bonafide “Nectar of the Gods.” A friend I know imports it from England and sometimes Canada at $50-$70 a bottle he loves it so much. I have sweet tooth and I love honey’d whiskey, but this one’s not the best. The maple flavoring is overpowering to me. Of these four it’s a tie for third at best.

    • choosybeggarmike

      Fair point, and to be honest the revelation is not so much that honeyed whisky exists, but rather that JD should be the one to bring it mainstream with even a reasonable product. We live in a fairly strict province where selection isn’t the greatest, so I’m just happy that some form of this exists for people to try.

  • Brat

    This is by far the best that jack daniels has came out with so far..I love it over ice..no mix at all.. Congrats jack daniels yall have out done your selves with this whiskey…