The name Jack Daniel’s is synonymous with American whiskey. The Jack Daniel’s distillery, located in the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it hamlet of Lynchburg, Tennessee, is open to the public for tours.
Jack Daniel’s History – A Teenage American Whiskey Legend
Yes, Jack Daniel’s was a real guy. Standing at a mere five foot two Jasper “Jack” Newton Daniel was an orphan at 13 and by 14 he had been distilling for several years, originally making “medicinal whiskey.” He took over a local distillery because the Lutheran pastor was also the local whiskey maker and it was unseemly for a man of God to be making the devils liquor. In 1866, at age 16, he registered the distillery officially with the US government. Jack never married (he lived with his sister), but nonetheless was quite the ladies man. He was well dressed and intentional or not, he created an iconic brand, the Jack Daniel’s Old No 7. Regardless of what someone may tell you, no one knows for certain what Old No. 7 refers to, and yes, everyone has an opinion.
Jack Daniel’s Distillery Tours
The Jack Daniel’s distillery tours run daily from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM CST and you need not be a whiskey lover to appreciate it, but those who are will undoubtedly enjoy the option to sip a flight of five different Jack Daniel’s products along the way. Located in Lynchburg, an hour and 30-minute drive from downtown Nashville, the distillery sees about 300,000 people yearly. The visitors center commemorates Jack’s history with old photos, historic bottles and jugs used in the old days – including a ceramic one dating to 1886 – old stills and other items. Jack Daniel’s distillery tours run just under an hour-and-a-half and the 5 different tour options offer a variety of different perks including a two-course down-home meal from Miss Mary Bobo’s, a laid-back and comfortable motor coach tour, and of course some good old fashioned whiskey drinking. Be aware that summertime is very hot in Tennessee and much of the tours spend significant time outdoors. My visit in late June saw temperatures upwards of 93 degrees and an incredibly uncomfortable level of humidity. The tour will take you to parts like the Rickyard where they assemble and burn large amounts of hard sugar maple to get the charcoal used in their filtering process. A single palette is comprised of 343 staves, which are cut as two by twos. I had the ability to ignite one of the palettes, not something the public is allowed to do so don’t get your hopes up. They don’t use lighter fluid to start the fire, no, they use high proof Jack Daniel’s. This pyre will burn down in just over an hour to small bits of black charred wood. You’ll also see the original water source, what they call the cave spring, water in a limestone cave, which goes deep into the mountain more than a mile. The water is free of iron but plentiful with magnesium and calcium and is a constant 56 degrees.
Culinary Delights Await After Your Jack Daniel’s Distillery Tour
Jack Daniel’s distillery tours also include the stills and mash house, and the office, which houses the safe, which was Jack’s ultimate demise. There is a picnic area out front along the stream and you may want to bring food, however, there are several restaurants in Lynchburg. Of particular note is Miss Mary Bobo’s, a 1911 boarding house turned restaurant who offer reservation-only seating, each with charming Southern hospitality and yes it’s owned by Jack Daniel’s. Each seating has its own hostess who dines with you to talk all things Jack. Set about your table will be classic Southern comfort foods like fried catfish, fried chicken, a wonderfully savory and moist meatloaf, fried okra, grits, corn muffins, sweetened tea and coffee and dessert. Though Lynchburg is a dry county and you cannot consume beer, wine or any alcoholic drink, there is whiskey in at least one or two dishes. This is a great Southern experience with more food than you’ll know what to do with and a throwback to old-school dining.
Jack Daniel’s Massive Whiskey Operation
The various whiskies at Jack Daniel’s age in seven-story buildings and master distiller Jeff Arnett (only the seventh in the 150 years at Jack) took me to building number five, one of many aging buildings that, together, hold 2.3 million barrels, all sitting in the oppressive Tennessee sun, a pretty impressive sight to be sure. Also located in Lynchburg is Jack’s grave in the local cemetery there are two white metal chairs bolted to concrete footings in front of the headstone. “Jack had so many lady admirers who used to come and sit by his grave,” Arnett says, as he opened a bottle of Single Barrel, which we used to toast Jack. If you need more, there are 22 other distilleries in Tennessee alone.
Distilleries are nothing new to me and I have visited many across the globe including Nova Scotia, Austria, France, Crete, Hawaii and across the US. So, if you’ve ever visited a distillery you’ll quickly notice the inner workings are similar to other distilleries. What’s unique about Jack, however, is that this is an American icon and a more comprehensive tour than most distilleries. So now you know Jack a little better.