Jack & Coke

Lynchburg Travel Blog

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The fire trucks of Jack Daniel's distillery. They both work, and are tested regularly. One is named "REO" and the other is "SPEEDWAGON." Kinda funny.
DAY 7 (7/1/08)
Lebanon, TN (to Lynchburg, TN and back)
9:30 / 68∞ / Cool and relaxing – slightly breezy

After sleeping in, taking a 45-minute walk throughout the park and having a relaxing breakfast outside in the morning sun I thought I saw a day of reading and relaxation.

Then we decided to go to the Jack Daniel’s distillery in Lynchburg – and the day got infinitely better!

So, I have been on tours of several historical sites and sites that make well-known products (ex. Heineken beer) and this is by far one of the best, most informative tours ever. And they didn’t even bribe me with samples!

The drive to Lynchburg was relaxing and made me realize even further how my previous conceptions about these southern states is completely wrong.
Where the iron water comes from that is used in the making of JD.
About the LANDSCAPE of the states … my preconceived notion about some of the inhabitants is spot on. The rolling, wooded landscape of Tennessee is another place I could consider living. The homes are nice (even the less than prestigious homes) are well-kept and not littered with abandoned cars or garbage. The homes have a great style and they use so much red brick. It is truly a nice place.

The distillery tour had some amazing facts that I am going to list in an attempt to remember them all:

Approximately 28 million gallons of Jack Daniels were produced last year.

They have 77 barrel houses throughout Lynchburg where the whiskey ages, where at any given point, there is a total of 75 million gallons aging.

JD ages for a minimum of 4 years and is only then deemed ready by sight, smell and taste which is determined by the master distiller.
JD himself. A bronze replica of the original, life-sized marble statue. He was only 5'2".

Jack Daniels is the first distillery registered with the federal government. Today, up to 60% of the per-bottle price the consumer pays for JD is comprised of local and federal taxes and fees – depending on where you live in the US.

Jack Daniels began making whiskey at age 13 after he took over the business from a preacher he lived with (he moved in, so he could go to school). He started and registered his own distillery 3 years later at the age of 16.

Even though Jack Daniels is in a “dry county,” in 1995 the State of Tennessee voted to allow the sale of Jack Daniels on the premises of the distillery only (at the White Rabbit Store) in its otherwise dry county. Sadly, I did not buy any JD at the distillery because: 1) all their products are available in California, and 2) the only thing they were selling today were the commemorative bottles ‘Scenes of Lynchburg’ at $75/each.
Original offices of Mr. Jack Daniel.

Only 5 ingredients go into Jack Daniels: corn, malted barley, rye, iron water (water filtered through the rocks at the distillery site and it picks up iron along the way), and yeast during the fermentation process.

The charcoal is made on site from sugar maple trees owned by the distillery. It’s the charred lining oak barrels and the sugar maple charcoal that give JD it’s distinctive flavor, smell, and color.

Before being charcoal filtered and aged in oak barrels, JD is 140 proof. Through the distillation process, the original 140-proof product is mixed with water and is dropped to a more manageable proof (% alcohol).

A barrel maker – which JD bought their own company for barrel making (it’s in Kentucky) – is known as a cooper. A barrel making facility is known as a cooperage.
Still #5 used for making the sour mash.
A skilled cooper can make up to 225 barrels a day.

The old barrels are regularly purchased by vineyards to store wine in and scotch makers to make scotch. Our tour guide said that when you’re drinking scotch, you’re actually drinking second-rate whiskey.

Whiskey is actually a bourbon before being charcoal filtered. Bourbon can be made anywhere – despite popular belief. Kentucky Bourbon; however, must be made in Kentucky if it is to wear that label.

There are four types of JD for sale throughout the US:
1. Green Label: a lighter, less distinct JD due to its aging on a higher floor in the barrel house (best used for mixed drinks)
2. Black Label: the original, most well-known Jack product
3. Gentleman Jack: a more prestigious, smoother Jack product that is twice charcoal filtered
Fermenting room.
Single Barrel Jack: top shelf, highest quality

Jack Daniel died at 61 in 1911 from gangrene after he broke his toe when he kicked the safe in his office when it wouldn’t open.

Jack Daniel was only 5’2”.

There have only been 7 master distillers in the history of JD, with Jack Daniel being the first.

You can join the Barrel Club by buying your own barrel of single-barrel (meaning it’s not mixed with other barrels of whiskey), premium Jack Daniels. They bottle the product in specialty bottles with personalized, engraved labels, each hand-numbered, you get to keep the barrel it came in, receive a plaque in the distillery “hall of fame” and they ship it to a liquor distributor near you. All for only $10,000/barrel.

During the tour, our hilarious and extremely informed tour guide Marlene (a Tennessee native and 12-year employee of JD), told us that the first Friday of every month all employees of JD get a free pint of JD.
This is where they add active yeast to the corn, rye and barley mixture to begin making the alcohol. It smells horrible.
Her pint lasts her more than a month because she’s not much of a drinker, and only sips the whiskey on special occasions. As an employee, you can only receive the free pint if you’re at work that day. Marlene said everyone is at work on the first Friday of the month – known around the distillery as “Good Friday.”

The time-honored traditions of JD are world-known and sold in more than 50 countries.

This is but a glimpse of what was explained about the process. It was an awesome combination of local and US history, and the JD story. It was great.

Oh, and the tour was free!

I know that’s a lot about Jack Daniels, but I was impressed by the history of the product and the quality of the tour. Tomorrow, we’re off to The Great Smokey Mountains National Park for four days of nature – and no driving for me! I’m really excited for the 2nd most visited National Park.
Whoops, didn't turn the picture. This is a sugar maple (what they use for charcoal) and it's covered in a black mold. The mold is safe and doesn't affect the tree, but is caused by the yeast in the air from the fermenting room.

I do need to expand my culinary palette, and may try several local favorite eateries: Cracker Barrel, Shoney’s or maybe even Taco Bueno. I’ll report back should I be daring enough to indulge in any of these.

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The fire trucks of Jack Daniels d…
The fire trucks of Jack Daniel's …
Where the iron water comes from th…
Where the iron water comes from t…
JD himself.  A bronze replica of t…
JD himself. A bronze replica of …
Original offices of Mr. Jack Danie…
Original offices of Mr. Jack Dani…
Still #5 used for making the sour …
Still #5 used for making the sour…
Fermenting room.
Fermenting room.
This is where they add active yeas…
This is where they add active yea…
Whoops, didnt turn the picture.  …
Whoops, didn't turn the picture. …
One of 77 barrel houses in Lynchbu…
One of 77 barrel houses in Lynchb…
Me, mellowing out at JD.
Me, mellowing out at JD.
The JD mellowing.  This is where i…
The JD mellowing. This is where …
Stream of iron water running to JD.
Stream of iron water running to JD.
3 phases of a JD barrel (left to r…
3 phases of a JD barrel (left to …
Bottling room for those who buy a …
Bottling room for those who buy a…
One of the original, smaller barre…
One of the original, smaller barr…
The visitors center at JD.
The visitors center at JD.
Downtown Lynchburg - the only plac…
Downtown Lynchburg - the only pla…
photo by: jamartin39