I was delighted when I realized how close I was to Lynchburg Tennesse and the Jack Daniel’s Distillery. I am not really much of a drinker but if I am going to have one, Jack will be my choice. Three ice cubes in a whiskey glass please. I also like the Winter Jack. Warm a shot in warm water and it makes for a wonderful hot toddie. Even put a little in your hot chocolate to give you that deep warmth you are looking for on a cold winters night. Gentleman Jack is one of my favorites along with Select Barrel coming a close second. Do not forget about Honey Jack because that’s a sweet that’s smooth. Oh my, they are all good in their own way.
Pulling into Lynchburg I knew this was going to be a day trip. I was going to want to see it all. What a cute little town and a massive Distillery. Excited I headed to the visitor center.
I had already decided I was going to take the tour. I had been drinking Jack for a lot of years, learning it’s history was going to be interesting. I did not expect how much fun it would be.
Walking into the visitors center I was greeted by Jack Daniel’s himself. Surrounding him, over 100 years of whiskey making history.
As I wandered through looking at how the bottles had changed, the whiskey making had not. The same process that was used back then is used today. We will learn more on the tour.
On the left was the ticket counter for the tour. There were four different tours. Some included tasting some did not. There was one that allowed you to taste their premium brands. That’s the one I want. The tour was called The Angel Shares Tour. The name would be become an interesting fact.
Let’s get on with the tour.
Out tour guide was Jacob. A strapping young fellow with a cute Tennessee accent that told the story of Jack Daniel’s in a most delightful way.
We boarded a small bus that would take us to the heart of the distillary. Getting off the bus and walking down a winding path as Jacob told us of Jack Daniel’s history, the history came into sight.
Jack Daniel was born Jasper Newton Daniel in 1846 but much preferred Jack. When he was very young his mother passed away. His father remarried and not getting along with his step mother he left at the tender age of 8. He was taken in by Reverend Dan Call and introduced to the making of whiskey. He learns the art of whiskey making with a man named Nathan “Nearest” Green who would not only become his friend but also the first Master Distiller of the Jack Daniel’s legacy. It is interesting to note that this workforce is a generational workforce. The daughter and sons, the granddaughters and grandsons of the first employees work here. I believe Jacob said he was 3rd generation. That’s incredible.
Jacob would tell us of prohibition and the effect it had on Jack’s business. Even today the county that the best whiskey in the country is made is a dry county. Special ammendments were made so that we could taste and buy Jack at the distillery.
The first place we would visit would be the charcoal making building. The 140 proof raw whiskey is dripped through charcoal in what is called Charcoal Mellowing. Wood cut to shape is stacked and sprayed with 140 proof whiskey and set on fire. It is then cooled with water to make the charcoal. There are 2 men that do this and only them. It is done about twice a year and produces enough charcoal for the 10 feet of charcoal the whiskey drips through. This process makes Jack Daniel’s a Tennessee Whiskey and not a bourbon. They had a canister on the table and Jacob told us to come and spray it on our hands. It was raw 140 proof Jack Daniel’s whiskey. He then went on to say if we had used any of the hand sanitizer in the visitor center it was 140 proof whiskey. Oh how cool. It smelled really good too. The can had “Whiskey for Destruction” written on it. I did not know there was such a thing.
Our next stop would be where the mash was created. We could not take pictures inside the building but it was interesting to see the mash bubbling and fermenting to become alcohol. No heating is required as it is a natural process. Natural is good for you right?
The reason Jack Daniel picked Lynchburg for his Distillery is the water. Making water into whiskey and this water is filtered through limestone which removes the iron from the water for perfect whiskey making. A two mile deep cave provides all the water for the millions of gallons of Jack produced each year.
Jack even had his own fire brigade to keep the whiskey safe. Interestingly there has never been a fire at the Distillery. Thank goodness. Here is hoping they continue that record for another 150 years.
The only original structure from Jack’s day is his office. Nicely preserved it is genuinely a walk back in time. An old desk heated with a coal burning stove the place had the feel that Jack himself could walk through the door.
Interestingly there are a couple of things in this cabin that have a story. There are pictures on the wall of the Master Distillers through the ages. Remember what I said about a generational workforce? Today’s Master Distiller is the grandson of the Master Distiller in 1922. That is so cool. I also find it comforting that generations have such appreciation for the product and the owners that they continue to do an amazing job today.
The safe in the office has a more sinister story. The story goes that Jack came to work early one day to retrieve something from the safe, but when he tried to open it, it would not open. Getting frustrated he kicked the safe and injured his toe. Thinking it would be fine he did not seek medical aid. By the time he did gangrene had set in. The doctors tried to stop it but tragically in 1911 Jack Daniel passed due to complications from the gangrene. I am sure looking down he is so very proud of what his generations and many more have created.
We then went on to see the barrel houses. Ok, these things were huge. As you walked in you were surrounded by barrels of whiskey. Row apon row, stacked to the ceiling all you could see was barrels of fine crafted whiskey. The smell of the wood barrel, in a wood building, mixed with the whiskey was comforting. We were told the whiskey would stay in the barrel for 4 years. The finer whiskeys like the Select, were higher on the top. He explained that whiskey was not just the liquid. The barrel makes the whiskey. As it expands and contracts in the heat and cold the whiskey sinks deeper into the wood of the barrel giving it flavor and color. The finer whiskeys are on top as heat rises making the expand for longer periods of time adding that extra deepness of the barrel to it. The finer whiskeys are also charcoaled again using three feet of charcoal to bring out that extra smoothness. He also explained no two barrels are the same. Each one with its own unique characteristics.
As you walked through you noticed that some of the barrels would be leaking. It is a wood barrel and it is holding liquid. The drips coming down are called Angel Share. If you walk through with your mouth open an angel may share with you! How nice!
Now to the good part. The taste testing!! Yea! Now as I said I am not a big drinker but when I do it’s Jack. As we walked in the door the same warmth that was going to wash over us in a few minutes was already in the room. You know the warmth I am talking about. Sippin good whiskey gives you a warmth that starts from the inside.
Let the tasting begin!
The selections included their Gentlemen Jack, which is still my favorite, and their Select which is almost a tie along with another whiskey I had not tried but was very good. They also had two of their new rye’s. One being 127 proof! Whoo that was smooth!!!
It was a long tour that almost did not seem long enough. Jacob was a wonderful tour guide that had an infectious spirit and kept it all very fun and interesting.
After a tour of town and a whiskey burger at a local Cafe it was a day to remember! I will definitely take the tour again and highly recommend if your in the area of Lynchburg Tennessee give Jack a visit. You will be glad you did!
Thanks for coming along on my Chipmunk Adventure! See you next time.