Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Jack Daniels Tour - Yes - Fun for the Whole Family - REALLY

Jack Daniels Statue at the Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee

Jack Daniel knew his whiskey. He grew up in the Tennessee mountains where moonshining was an honored profession. In fact, seven-year-old Daniel learned to make whiskey from a lay preacher who made spirits on the side. When the preacher decided to hang up his copper coils, thirteen-year-old Daniel bought out the business.

Daniel set up shop in Lynchburg, Tennessee, because the small town had clear spring water. The cold, clean water coming out of the side of the mountain is part of what sets Jack Daniels apart from other whiskeys. Jack Daniels does not have trace irons that can alter the taste.

Charcoal Filtering if One Thing That Makes Jack Daniels Whiskey Special

Charcoal filtering is the other critical part of the Jack Daniels process. Hardwood maple trees are slow burned to create charcoal. Then the whiskey is filtered through the homemade charcoal for seven days. In fact, this process is what sets whiskey apart from bourbon. The base recipes are pretty much the same, but the filtering gives whiskey a fuller, richer flavor. The US government agreed about the taste difference, and classifies Tennessee whiskey as a separate class of spirits.

If you’ve ever had homemade whiskey, then you’ll know that corn squeezings are clear. Mountain moonshine looks like Everclear, which tastes a bit like lighter fluid and burns about the same. Jack Daniels is stored in barrels where it perks or expands and contracts and then picks up the dark color from the wooden barrels.

 Moonshine for Those Who Have Never Seen The Real Thing

The extra care Daniel put into his whiskey making meant that he had the best moonshine for miles. He knew he had a good thing going, so when the government required registration, Daniel was the first to become an official whiskey maker. That’s where the 1866 date comes from.

The label on the bottle carries Jack Daniel’s picture. He was known for dressing like a country gentleman. This helped him look more credible, since he was so young when he started and also because he stood only 5 foot 2 inches.

Jack Daniels - Words to Live By

Daniel kept his business small during his years at the helm. The government issued a barrel count of 100 after which a revenuer would have to be on hand to keep an eye on things. Daniel didn’t want a lawman standing over his shoulder, so Jack Daniels remained fairly local during the early years producing only 8 barrels per day.

Over the years, the recipe and process of making Jack Daniels has never changed though the output has increased considerably. It’s still a slow and tedious process, but the result is a great whiskey. Master brewers hand down the secrets word-of-mouth and continue the tradition started so long ago by Daniel. In fact, only 6 men have run the business over the years with Jimmy Bedford in charge since 1988. He still test tastes the whiskey, but he can’t swallow.

Today, Jack Daniels is considered the best whiskey in the world and is sold in 130 countries. The rich, full taste is enjoyed straight up or mixed with dark sodas. Jack Daniels is also great in baking (pecan pie) and for grilling (BBQ sauce).

Jack Daniels Distillery - Free Tour is Fun for All

If you’re ever in Lynchburg, then be sure to visit the distillery. The tour is fabulous. The guys who walk you around and explain the history and process are funny as can be. Be sure to ask about the mop suckers. After the tour you get a jar of tea or lemonade. They can’t serve you up any whiskey, because Lynchburg is in a dry county (go figure).

You Can Get a Sandwich - But Not Really Barbecue in the Tennessee Tradition

Do note that Lynchburg is a very small town, mostly a farming area. They do have a small town square and when I say small, I do mean very small. It is a few miles beyond the distillery.

There are only a couple of places to eat. We hit the Bar-b-que Caboose, but the barbecue did not look like barbecue, so I had a chicken sandwich which arrived really fast (so I think it was likely nuked) with the side being regular potato chips (ours appeared to be from the bottom of the bag). The girls working at the restaurant were quite nice. I think our other option was a deli in a general store type place. Lynchburg definately isn't a dining destination.

Other than the couple of spots to eat, there were a few stores with mostly tourist type items featuring, of course, Jack Daniels logos and then cute country-style knick-knacks. You could also get t-shirts.

The Jack Daniels Distillery is the highlight of a visit to Lynchburg along with pretty farm scenery and friendly people.  

1 comment:

Chris said...

Great post Cyndi. Your comment about shine made me laugh. Since they made "legal shine" in TN a few years ago, I thought I wouldn't have to still "know a guy" but there is such a difference between "legal shine" and the real thing.