4 Whiskeys Worth Knowing For The Perfect-tasting Cocktails

Gentleman Jack Sour

If you’re having company over and want to impress guests with your cocktail-making skills, it will be easier than you think with one of these four must-have whiskeys.

Brown-Forman, a Louisville, K.Y.-based distiller best known for its famous whiskey dating back to the late 1800s, has a portfolio of the spirit called Whiskey Worth Knowing. Each of the four whiskey brands has its own unique history, distilling process, and flavor.

The whiskeys are Jack Daniel’s Gentleman Jack, Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select, Old Forester’s 86 Proof, and Woodford Reserve’s No.1 Super-Premium Bourbon. Read on to learn which cocktails they fit best with so you can “wow” the crowd with both your delicious drinks and impressive knowledge of whiskey history.

Gentleman Jack

Jack Daniel’s emerged in the late 1800s, around the same time as Brown-Forman, in Lynchburg, Tenn. Brown-Forman acquired Jack Daniel’s in 1956, and the world-famous whiskey is still made entirely at the same location.

Over the decades, Jack Daniel’s has adapted to the changing taste buds of its consumers. In the 1980s, “people were looking for more approachable flavors,” says brand ambassador ET Tecosky. And so Gentleman Jack was born.

“If you’re a new whiskey drinker but you’re used to drinking clear spirits or wine, the Gentleman Jack is a great way to be introduced into the drink,” Tecosky says.

Gentleman Jack makes for a balanced, tasteful whiskey sour with just the right amount of whiskey, citrus, and sweet flavors — “no one flavor outshines the other,” Tecosky says.

Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select

About 10 years later, whiskey drinkers began looking for more flavor again, and Jack Daniel’s made the Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select.

This whiskey is bigger, bolder, and goes through a slightly different aging and distilling process. Because it’s a single barrel, barrels are not mixed as they normally are for blending, meaning that each one will be a little bit different. Jack Daniel’s also places these barrels at the top of the barrel house to age, meaning more heat and expansion in the wood, and more depth of flavor. 

As such, Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select is best appreciated on its own — neat or on the rocks — since every barrel is unique.

JD Single Barrel Neat
Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Neat

Old Forester 86 Proof

Old Forester is Brown-Forman’s flagship whiskey maker. Its founder, George Garvin Brown, was the first to ever sell bourbon in a bottle. He also began mixing barrels for a blended flavor at a time when other Kentucky distillers only made single barrels.

“He had this big idea that would revolutionize the bourbon industry and change the way this spirit was sold,” says James Joseph, Old Forester’s brand ambassador.

During World War II, many whiskey distillers stopped production, and therefore, consumers’ palettes softened. So Old Forester launched Old Forester 86 Proof, a whiskey that has now stood the test of time, Joseph says.

Old Forester 86 Proof mixes perfectly for an old-fashioned. In fact, it is rumored that the very first old-fashioned was made at a saloon down the block from Old Forester’s distillery in Louisville.

Woodford Reserve Bourbon

Now this is an impressive whiskey; it has an exact balance of each flavor found in the spirit — fruity/floral, sweet aromatic, spice, grain, and oak/woodgrain. 

Woodford Reserve, which opened in Woodford County, K.Y. in 1996, manufactures its own barrels and therefore has greater control over the taste of its whiskeys. “We’re able to make that wood and get flavors other distillers can’t get,” says Elizabeth McCall, assistant master distiller.

The No. 1 super-premium bourbon has a high rye content, making it perfect for one classical cocktail: the Manhattan. Just mix the whiskey, vermouth, and bitters, and enjoy. Yet since Woodford Reserve Bourbon is so versatile, this bourbon can really make any great drink even greater.

“It’s a bartender’s swiss army knife,” says McCall. “It works across all areas, and we did that on purpose. If you have a Woodford Reserve on hand, you can make whatever a guest requests.”

WR Manhattan
Woodford Reserve Manhattan

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