I get sent a lot of samples here at the Houston Press offices. A lot. Most go straight to the newsroom to be quickly drunk or devoured by our staff writers. And although I may taste them myself, I'm rarely inclined to write about any of them. Such is life.
So when something impresses me enough to sit down and devote time to learning more about it and even inviting people over to make cocktails out of it, that's more or less my stamp of approval. And the little bottle of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey Whiskey that I received last week absolutely gets that stamp of approval.
Screwing the cap off to get a first sniff of the stuff, I was immediately struck by the strong scent of honey. The distillery wasn't messing around when they created this stuff.
Jack Daniel's is mum about the kind of honey used in the proprietary honey liqueur that's used to flavor its newest whiskey brand, but it tastes and smells like simple clover honey. Not that I'm complaining.
I wanted to take it home and experiment with it, so I did just that.
At home, the recipe I came up with that I liked the most was to add a simple splash of water to the whiskey along with three dashes of West Indies orange bitters. I called it the Orange Blossom and reveled in the way the bitters opened up the mild honey flavor even more and brought a sharp brightness to the drink. Yes, the Tennessee Honey Whiskey is imminently drinkable on its own, neat, but with a little experimentation, it's simply stunning.
I invited my parents over the next day and made them some Orange Blossoms. My stepfather, a consummate whiskey connoisseur, was blown away. I think he attempted to smuggle the bottle out several times.
"This tastes like Drambuie," he said, approvingly. "But not as thick."
He wasn't far off, as Drambuie is also a honey-flavored whiskey although with an undertone of warm spices that the Tennessee Honey Whiskey doesn't have at all -- just whiskey and honey here.
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You'll never catch me buying a bottle of straight Jack Daniel's; their whiskey isn't my personal favorite. That's why I was even more surprised to enjoy the Tennessee Honey Whiskey as much as I did. I guess a spoonful of sugar really does help the medicine go down.
The whiskey will hit shelves soon, priced at $22 for a 750ml bottle. I've already got my $22 set aside for more.