Located in the hills of Southern Tennessee is the United States’ oldest whiskey distillery. Jack Daniel’s was founded in 1866 by Jack Daniel (Jasper Newton Daniel). Jack became enamored with the trade of whiskey making at an early age. He learned the “Lincoln County Process” from a local preacher, Dan Call and a slave, Nathan “Nearest” Green. Whiskey making soon became Jack’s passion. After the Civil War, Call sold Jack the whiskey business and Jack hired “Nearest” as the head distiller.
Jack’s secret of this signature Lincoln County whiskey is Cave Spring Hollow.
The limestone filtered iron-free spring water which maintains a constant 56 degrees provides the natural beginning for Old No. 7, Jack’s original recipe. Jack knew he had something special and purchased Cave Spring Hollow and surrounding land for $2,148.00, a small fortune in the 1800s.
While the spring water may be the natural beginning of the whiskey, the Rickyard is where the magic begins in the creation of Jack Daniel’s whiskey.
Here maple wood pallets are incinerated to create the charcoal used in the whiskey fermentation process.
The charcoal filtered whiskey, “Old No. 7”, (the signature Black Label) in its unique square bottle made its world debut at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. There it earned its first gold medal as the world’s best whiskey.
An inconsequential event in 1906 would dictate the rest of Jack’s life when he kicks his office safe in frustration and breaks his toe.
Jack would succumb to his injury in 1911 from complications from his broken toe and having no wife or children, he leaves the distillery to his nephews, Lem and Jess Motlow. The distillery was shuttered from 1919 to 1933, when prohibition was the law of the land and again during World War II, due to a lack of supplies to make the whiskey due to the war effort.
In 1941, a statute of the 5’2” Jack was commissioned and now stands outside his original office in front of Cave Spring Hollow.
Crooner, Frank Sinatra was introduced to Jack Daniel’s whiskey in 1947 and that relationship has continued to the present day with Jack Daniel’s Sinatra label.
The Jack Daniel’s brand was acquired by Brown-Forman Corporation in 1956 and by the 1980s had become a global brand. In 1988, a smoother blend of the Black Label was introduced, Gentleman Jack.
The barrel houses, eighty-nine of them, contain twenty thousand barrels each. That’s a lot of whiskey!
The barrel houses are not temperature controlled, whether it’s hot or cold, it serves to enhance the flavor of each barrel. Walking through the buildings where the signature whiskey has been made for over 150 years, you get a real sense of the simplicity of the process and how little the location has changed over the years.
In the fermentation house, the whiskey mash is placed on a layer of the Rickyard made charcoal for three to five days. Upon entering the fermentation area you immediately recognize the perfume of the whiskey. This is where you will truly get a snoot full.
The aroma envelopes you when the vat is opened. This area is also where the tasters begin sampling the whiskey to determine just how long the barrels will be aged. On average the barrels are aged between five and seven years depending on which of the Jack Daniel’s labels are being produced.
The signature whiskey is aged in hand-crafted barrels that hold about fifty gallons and provides the whiskey with its amber color and some flavoring. The distillery does not reuse its barrels, it’s one and done. Barrels can be purchased through the distillery or other various retail outlets.
Here is a short video about the Jack Daniel Cooperage located in Trinity, Alabama.
After the walking tour of the distillery, we were treated to a tasting of five Jack Daniel’s whiskeys, Black Label, Gentleman Jack, Rye, Honey, and Fire. The tasting room’s oak tasting table is surrounded by old oak handcrafted barrels. While there you immerse yourself in the fine flavors of this premium whiskey.
Interested in how fine signature whiskeys are created, then this is the destination for you! I would recommend that you pre-book your selected tour online.
It will save you time and you can spend some time enjoying the exhibits in the visitor’s center.
Jack Daniels’ can be busy but there is ample parking available and a parking shuttle.
Do not pass up the opportunity to pick up a bottle of two of your favorite label in the gift shop. Moore County may be dry but there is always a brisk liquor business being done at Jack Daniel’s.
In case you have a sweet tooth, perhaps you’d enjoy some Jack Daniels’ fudge.
Here’s a link to the distillery so you can begin planning your trip!