When you sit down to enjoy a good whiskey, what do you listen to?
This previously might not have been a question you’d think about, but that may change now after the release of some interesting new research.
The University of Oxford’s leading sensory academic, Professor Charles Spence, has studied the connection between taste and sound. His research found that certain musical pairings could enhance different flavour notes in food and drink by up to 10 per cent.
Now, Professor Spence is applying that research to whiskey tasting, collaborating with award-winning String Musicians Australia to create a music track that is scientifically proven to enhance the bold flavours of recently released super-premium drop, Jack Daniel’s Bonded.
The Australia-first track is called The Sound of Bonded, and it features melodic piano, low-pitched cello and high tempo violin that enhance the whiskey’s caramel, oak and spice flavour notes.
“The research suggests that when you listen to the track while sipping Jack Daniel’s Bonded whiskey, the flavour notes will come to life in an even bolder, more enjoyable way,” says Professor Spence.
It’s certainly an interesting concept, and one that complements the Jack Daniel’s brand well. Brown-Forman’s NSW/ACT Brand Ambassador, Andy Tsai, described this background as stemming back to 1866 and the original ‘Uncle Jack’, who loved music, and used it to bring people together.
“I think that is why through the ages so many bands and iconic rock and roll outfits have [partnered with us], because of that organic connection between Jack Daniel’s and music,” Andy said.
“We wanted to undertake this project that would really link and connect the music with what it can do the whiskey, and how it can enhance certain flavours.”
And what a whiskey to enhance. Jack Daniel’s Bonded is the first super-premium release from the brand in 25 years, made with boldness at its core. Chris Fletcher, Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller, was in Australia for the launch of The Sound of Bonded, and gave The Shout a special insider’s look into the creation of the highly anticipated whiskey, and those bold flavour notes the music will enhance.
“When we started this project, it was just called Bold – so that was the genesis for all of this. Knowing that a higher concentration of ABV would lead to bolder flavours is what led us to start playing around and see what we could do,” Chris explained.
“Certainly, we wanted to bring big, classic, American, Jack Daniel’s whiskey flavours to the forefront, and really focus in to create something that’s wonderful for a big bold cocktail. That was the initial thought, and as we did that, the Bottled-in-Bond regulation presented itself.”
The 1897 Bottled-in-Bond Act was created as a way for the US Government to create a standard of authenticity and quality for American whiskey. The Act requires a whiskey to be distilled by a single distiller in a single distilling season and matured in a bonded warehouse for a minimum of four years, before being bottled and released at 100 proof (50 per cent ABV).
Chris said that while this is “arguably the most restrictive whiskey regulation out there,” it was relatively easy for Jack Daniel’s to meet the requirements thanks to its continuing tradition to make all of its whiskey in one place – Lynchburg.
“If you look at the history of the Bottled-in-Bond Act, it was passed in a time where there were wholesalers and blenders getting whiskies and mixing in some unsavoury things like tobacco juice and orange juice, to water the whiskey down and sell it off,” Chris said.
“If you think about the American whiskey culture now… there is a lot of buying and selling of bulk whiskey going on. But at Jack Daniel’s we’ve always really prided ourselves on our transparency and our authenticity – people can believe in who is making this whiskey and that’s the people of Lynchburg, who have been making this whiskey ever since Jack started. That’s a pretty special thing, so that Bottled-in-Bond regulation is just as meaningful now as it was back in 1897.
“Every single drop of whiskey we make goes under one brand name – we make great rye whiskeys, Tennessee whiskeys, now Bottled-in-Bond whiskeys, but it’s all Jack Daniel’s whiskey. We felt that because of that authenticity, tradition and transparency, the time for a Bottled-in-Bond offering was perfect for us.”
Bold flavours in fashion
Chris believes the anticipation behind the Australian release of Jack Daniel’s Bonded is largely because of the growing desire for boldness in drinks. But the important thing to note about boldness is that it shouldn’t just apply to one flavour, in order to have that ability to be versatile for cocktails.
“The goal for us from the beginning was to create a balance of bold flavours… We wanted to bring the big classic American whiskey cues of caramel, vanilla and brown sugar coming from the wood of the barrel, a big oaky dryness in the mid palate and then a little spice at the back to accentuate everything,” Chris said.
“In my opinion, that gives you a lot of different options to do a lot of different things with different cocktails. It’s exciting for people to be creative like that and put their own spin on things.
“This idea of higher ABV whiskies has really become something that people are seeking more now. And 50 per cent ABV I think is a sweet spot for cocktail applications.”
Chris has been at the helm of Jack Daniel’s distilling for many years, and he says that kind of innovation is truly a group effort. What has been pleasing to see over his years in the industry is how people are more interested in how the product comes together and how so many people have a hand in making the whiskey magic.
“The really interesting thing for me as a distiller is that consumers are not only interested in trying new flavours, they want to know why there’s new flavours in there. They want to know what we do – that’s really cool for people to be so engaged that they want to understand the intricacies and the nuances of how we think about developing those flavours,” Chris said.
“I don’t think 20 years ago that anybody would have ever thought about that in American whiskey, but that’s where the industry as a whole is gone. So that’s really exciting.”
This kind of environment sets the scene for The Sound of Bonded. While it’s an interesting idea to recreate at your venue, at its core is the inspiration to craft memorable experiences and new ways to enjoy whiskey.
According to Andy Tsai, this is what Jack Daniel’s wanted to encourage with the live launch of the Sound of Bonded at Sydney’s Hickson House last week.
“People experiencing this session will go away with a new idea and a new way to appreciate whiskey,” he said.
“The way that people enjoy their whiskey is already such a varied thing. Everyone has a different personality and a different set of tastebuds. If this encourages people to go on and experiment with different audio projects and learn how sound can affect the sense, that’s a really good thing.
“I think this will open a really interesting dialogue, and I hope that it encourages other people to try different projects.”
The step by step guide on how to recreate The Sound of Bonded experience, including the track itself, is available at the Jack Daniel’s website.