Frodo wrote:...I think something labaled "straight" whisky must contain 51% or the appropriate grain (wheat for wheat whisky, rye for rye whisky, etc). I'm not sure what you can put in a bottle of blended american whisky - what the standards are.
Correct, Frodo, regarding 'straight'. Also, must be aged in new oak at least two years.
Here's a link to U.S. whiskey/spirits law:http://www.distill.com/specs/USA10.html
...White and Black Beam. The difference here is 4 vs 8 yrs in a cask ...
There also is a 7yo white label sold in a few markets, including here in TN. The 8yo is noticeably better -- funny the difference a year makes.
... try a premium in club soda, perhaps Gentleman Jack 12yr old...
Gentleman Jack is the same age as all other Jack Daniel's whiskeys -- that is, 4-5 years old when bottled (the Single Barrel is 6 to 7 years old). The only difference in GJ is the double filtering (once before barreling, again at unbarreling). I'm not a fan of JD products in any case, but their price vis-a-vis age is one of the highest -- probably THE highest -- among American whiskeys. I can't think of another 4- or 5yo which tops $20. Maker's Mark is closest at around 6 years old in the $22-$23 range per 750ml.
None of the numbers on the Tennessee whiskeys indicates age. They are simply part of the name -- e.g., JD #7, George Dickel #8 and #12. None of them has a specific age, but rather a taste profile met when marrying barrels. The Dickel #12 is the oldest, but only about 6-8 years old (although it may be older at the moment because of the 4-year hiatus in distilling of Dickel from 1999 to 2003 -- the oldest of the 'new' whiskey is still too young for that label, but the youngest of the 'old' whiskey is now 7 years old).