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Jack Daniel's Distillery
by
Terry Sullivan

Jack Daniel's DistillerySummary: Many people like to play the game as well as play with the phrase, “You don’t know Jack.” However if one looks at the parking lots at Jack Daniel’s Distillery early on a Saturday morning, apparently many people do know Jack. The distillery has a visitor center where travelers can take an hour tour of the facility. Don’t expect to have a whiskey tasting at the end of the tour; Jack Daniel’s Distillery is located in a dry county.

Jack Daniel's DistilleryThere is a short walk from the parking areas to the U-shaped visitor center. Entering through the center, visitors are greeted by a life-size statue of Jasper Newton Daniel. He preferred to be called Jack. Make a right and go to the reception desk where you will receive a tour pass with a number. One can spend quite a bit of time wandering amongst the displays waiting for the tour number to be called. During this time you’ll learn about Jack Daniel and the Tennessee Whiskey making process.

Tennessee Whiskey Process

Behind the reception counter there is a display showing the whiskey making process at Jack Daniel’s Distillery. The first part shows jars of corn, rye and malted barley in front of a grinding wheel. Today the distillery uses a grinding machine. The grains are ground and transferred into a mash cooker along with water that was taken from the Cave Spring that flows through the property. The proportions are the same as those that Jack Daniel developed. While in the mash cooker, the grains and water are heated.

Jack Daniel's DistilleryAfter the mash cools it is transferred to a fermenting vat. Yeast is added and the mixture ferments for six days. After this fermentation, the liquid known as distiller’s beer is pumped to a still. The still is heated and the alcohol evaporates first and is collected when it condenses. The distilled spirit is at 140 proof.

What makes the whiskey a Tennessee whiskey and not bourbon is the mellowing process. The whiskey drips through ten feet of crushed Tennessee sugar maple charcoal. The resulting smooth mellow spirit is transferred to new white oak barrels for aging. Jack Daniel’s Distillery has their own cooperage that makes all the barrels used to age the whiskey.

Jack Daniel's DistilleryThe Tour

The tour assembled with our guide, Bruce, who invited everyone into a small theater. A video about Jack Daniel and the whiskey making process was shown. The group than boarded a bus for a short ride to the distillery. After a group photo, Bruce took the group to the charcoal making area and described the process. The group then walked past fire engines to the Cave Spring. A newer statue of Jack Daniel is near the spring and many in the group had their photos taken.

The tour ambled into several buildings including the still room, mash room, and mellowing room. While in the mellowing room, Bruce instructed the group members to squat down and smell the mellowing liquid as he raised and lowered the lid rapidly a few times.

The tour entered another building where there was a short video showing barrel making. The room also had a barrel making display. A single barrel bottling line was also in the building and Bruce discussed how people could buy a barrel and it would be bottled in this room. Jack Daniel’s main bottling line is in another building.

The group visited a barrel aging room. A section of barrels had been removed for bottling. The tour concluded back in the visitor center. Ice-cold lemonade was offered to all members of the group. Since the distillery is located in a dry county, one cannot have a whiskey tasting. However during the tour, many in the group knew the different Jack Daniel products.

Jack Daniel's DistilleryProducts

The distillery produces four products. Black Label #7 is the most widely known product with 40% alcohol (80 proof). Gentleman Jack has an additional pass through the mellowing tank prior to bottling. It is also 40% alcohol (80 proof). Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Whiskey was bottled from barrels on the top floor of the aging warehouses. It is 47% alcohol (94 proof). The fourth product is Tennessee Honey, a blend of Jack Daniel’s Black Label mixed with honey and molasses.

Whether you know Jack or not, a visit to the Jack Daniel’s Distillery is an educational and enjoyable experience. Guides will relate the story of Jack Daniel and the distilling process often adding humorous anecdotes.

Jack Daniel Distillery
182 Lynchburg Highway,
Lynchburg, Tennessee 37352

GPS: N35º 17.070’ W86º 22.204’

 


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Copyright: Terry and Kathy Sullivan 2016