Why does Jack Daniel’s call itself “sour mash” whiskey?

Credit: Caitlinator

Credit: Caitlinator

Ever wonder why Jack Daniel’s calls itself “sour mash” whiskey? Ever since doing shot after shot after shot of Jack in college, I’ve always wondered what “sour mash” meant.

It sure didn’t taste sour.

Now that it’s been years and I’ve become more invested in the process of drinking, rather than the result, I wanted to know.

So a little background, whisky production is a lot like beer production, except you distill the product and age it in barrels. (if you want to read about whisky production, WhiskyForEveryone has this great writeup on how whisky is made)

The part that matters when you talk about “sour mash” is the mashing process. It’s when the grounded down malt is added to warm water to pull out the sugars from the malt – that mixture is called mash. That sugar will be fermented by yeast to product alcohol.

Sour mash just means that the mash from a previous batch, which still has live yeast, is added to the current one to start the fermentation process. Using the sour mash from a previous batch helps with consistency, maintains an ideal PH, and a bunch of other good stuff.

Why is it called sour mash? It’s called “sour” because it’s just like how sourdough bread is made. It borrows the name from using a sourdough starter.

As it happens with a lot of marketing, sour mash is not unique to Jack Daniel’s. Nearly all bourbon is produced this way.

While I haven’t had Jack neat in a long long time (is it even considered neat when you just shoot it?), I do enjoy a Jack & Coke from time to time. It tastes like college. 🙂

World's Most Expensive Whiskies

Macallan 1926 Costs $38000 a BottleIn mid-2006, Forbes listed the world’s most expensive whiskies with the top bottle netting $38,000. That’s right, a single bottle of the stuff at the top of the list costs more than most of the cars on the road today. Which was it? It was The Macallan Fine and Rare Collection, 1926, 60 Years Old… a single malt of the highest order took the top spot and it’s not actually possible to buy it anymore.

Here’s what Forbes had to say:

The oldest and most sought-after of Macallan’s revolutionary Fine & Rare Collection is now sold out. It is still possible to taste this totally unique Scotch whisky at the Old Homestead Steakhouse in the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, N.J. However, it sells for a nosebleed-inducing $3,300 per dram, so you had better have had a good run at the craps table.

To clarify, the list was created to capture the most expensive of each type, so you’ll see clearly “inexpensive” Jack Daniels Single Barrel Whiskey listed because it’s the most expensive Tennessee whiskey. Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old is the most expensive rye whiskey and Suntory Yamazaki 18 is the most expensive Japanese whiskey. Anyway, here’s the rest of the list:

  1. The Macallan Fine & Rare Collection, 1939, 40 Years Old: $10,125
  2. Chivas Regal Royal Salute, 50 Year Old: $10,000
  3. Glen Garioch, 1958, 46 Year Old: $2,600
  4. Bruichladdich 40 Year Old: $2,500
  5. Glenfiddich 40 Year Old: $2,500
  6. Springbank 32 Year Old: $750
  7. Auchentoshan 1973 32 Year Old: $700
  8. Evan Williams 23 Year Old Bourbon: $350
  9. Midleton Very Rare: $139
  10. Suntory Yamazaki 18 Year Old Single Malt Whiskey: $110
  11. Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old: $55
  12. Johnny Walker Green Label: $50
  13. Bernheim Original Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey: $50
  14. Jack Daniels Single Barrel Whiskey: $42