MMS live at Jack Daniel’s Distillery

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by Raul Faria

Since 1875 Jasper Newton Daniel has been making whiskey in the great State of Tennessee. He was dedicated to his brand he dubbed “Old #7” and his dedication led his whiskey to become the highest selling American whiskey in the world. Jack Daniel’s Old #7 is now sold in over 160 countries and its iconic bottle and label is known world wide. I was lucky enough to get an opportunity to visit Jack Daniel’s distillery in Lynchburg and it is definitely a worthy vacation destination for any whiskey lover. Here are some highlights of the trip with some notes on the production of the various whiskeys produced at the distillery.

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The original statue of Jack Daniel now greets almost 250,000 visitors a year at the welcome center that serves as the Tasting Room, White Rabbit Saloon, Engraving Area and Tour Scheduling. To honor his Uncle Jack, his nephew and head of the comapny at the time, Lem Motlow commisioned the statue and had it placed at “the Hollow” in 1941. The Italian marble, life-sized statue (Jack was 5″ 2″) sat in front of the cave spring water source until September of 2000.

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The Rickyard is where the sugar maple wood pallets are stored and burned and where the Lincoln County process begins. All the sugar maple trees used in the making of the charcoal is sourced locally. The wood is burned right out in the open underneath the large hood vents pictured above. The hood vents direct the smoke and fire away from the Rickyard. Jack Daniel’s distillery has a team of employees that are also certified firefighters on hand to ensure the safety of the wood burning process.

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Here is a barrel full of the maple charcoal in which the various whiskies of Jack Daniel are filtered. The process is actually slower than what people may imagine. There are six pipes that slowly drip whisky being pumped in from the still house through 10 feet of packed charcoal in much larger barrels. I saw at least six (out of almost 70) of these enormous barrels working through the Lincoln County Process of maple charcoal filtration. Gentleman Jack actually utilizes the process twice to achieve its desired mellow flavor.

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This is the cave from which the Jack Daniel’s Distillery sources its water for their whiskies. The cave, often referred to as “the Hollow”, is remarkable for its high limestone content which strips away impurities, especially iron, that makes it ideal for whiskey making. This cave is immense, so much so that the folks at Jack Daniel paid a spelunking to team to chart the cave. They got a mile in before they had to call it quits. This location was very important to Jack Daniel and he refused to be outbid when whiskey makers Hiles & Berry put the 142 acres up for sale in 1884. Jack knew he was on to something special and according to his biography offered the winning bid of $2,180.40. Not a bad deal.

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This new statue now greets guests at the Hollow and was created out of bronze. Created for Jack Daniel’s 150th birthday, this statue is said to better capture the spirit of Jack Daniel and is often referred to as “Jack on the Rocks”.

 

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The Barrel House at the distillery holds over 6,000 barrels of whiskey but there are over 78 warehouses at various locations in Moore County full of Jack Daniel’s whiskey in barrels working their magic

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Almost 25 million gallons of whiskey are produced here in Lynchburg by Jack Daniel’s distillery. It is a 24 hour a day 7 days a week operation too. These mash tuns and stills are enormous and through rotation all the stills are operational at all times unless they are being cleaned or serviced. Interestingly enough the area surrounding the fermenting mash smell like fresh baked sourdough bread, very tasty. The trees closest to the stills are jet black, green leaves but a otherwise healthy tree with a black trunk.

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Jack Daniel’s old office is still located at the distillery and is a registered landmark. Inside the office his desk and other antiques from his time at the distillery are still there, including the infamous safe that he kicked and ended up with gangrene as a result of the infected wound. The Legend goes like this- One morning Jack came in early to the office and needed to check the safe. Convinced and frustrated that “the darn thing was broken” he gave the safe a swift kick and seriously injured his foot in the process. This led to a string of health problems and is said to have caused his death.

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If you want to know more about the life and times of Jack Daniel check out the book “Blood and Whiskey” by Peter Krass. Very informative and clears up a lot of the questions people have about Jack and the birth of Tennessee Whiskey

Special Thanks to Cami Novak and everyone at the Brown Forman Corporation for their hospitality. It was an amazing opportunity to see the operation up close and see what makes Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey so special.

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