Today we drove about 2 hours to Lynchburg to tour the Jack Daniel's Distillery. We had heard from a couple of sources that this was a great tour. And no, there were no free samples! One of the first things you learn on the tour is that the distillery is located in a DRY county! Isn't that ironic? The distillery was just given permission in the last 10 or so years to sell collector bottles of whiskey to those who tour the plant. But that is the only whiskey sold.
Our tour guide, Bettie, was just fabulous. She shared the history of the distillery and Jack Daniel in such a conversational way, with plenty of anecdotes and flair. We really lucked out with her. Sometimes the guides on these tours are wooden and seem like they are spouting rote. She was a treasure.
The distillery was established in 1866 when Jack was only 16 years old. The story is really neat. Jack had left home at a young age and was raised by a minister, Dan Call, who was a family friend. Mr. Call's other vocation was making whiskey. Apparently Mr. Call was conflicted about his warring vocations and decided to give whiskey making and devote his life to the Lord. He sold his still to Jack in 1863 - and Jack was only 13! The distillery is the oldest registered in the United States and it's on the National Historic Register.
Supposedly, one of the ingredients that makes Jack Daniel's whiskey so good is the water used. It is pure, cave spring water that flows right along the distillery site. It's the reason Jack chose the site.
The first label made for Jack Daniel's Whiskey is Old No. 7. Apparently there are many stories of how Jack chose that name; one is that it was the 7th recipe or 7th trial batch. But I like the one Bettie told us. Jack never married, but never lacked for lady friends. At the time he created Old No. 7, it's said that he had 7 girlfriends and that's why he named it Old No. 7. Only Jack knows the truth! Now there are several labels made under the Jack Daniel name.
We were led through the whole process of making whiskey. And not just any whiskey, but Tennessee sippin' whiskey. Apparently there is a BIG difference! And whiskey starts out as bourbon, did you know that? The process that makes it Tennessee sippin' whiskey is the charcoal mellowing. The liquid that is really bourbon drips through 10 feet of charcoal and once it gets to the bottom, it is Tennessee sippin' whiskey. There is only one other distillery that makes whiskey this way. The charcoal used for Jack Daniel's is made from sugar maple trees.
The smell in the still house was pretty gross. When you first walked in, it wasn't too bad. It actually smelled a little like a bakery, doughy. But, then you walked into the fermenting area and UGH! It smelled like someone had lost his lunch. Then we looked into one of the fermenters and, I swear, that lost lunch was in there!! I have never cared for whiskey and this just confirmed that feeling!
The barrels used to store the whiskey while it's aging are made from hard white oak. And they are made on site by hand. Each barrel is only used once. However, they are recycled; many are re-crafted into furniture that is sold in the Barrel Store in Lynchburg, some are used for flower beds, signs, just about anything you can do with wood.
There are 75 warehouses within a 2 mile radius that house all of the barrels of whiskey. The warehouse we walked through was a small one; it only held about a couple thousand barrels. And yes, I said it was a small warehouse!
After the tour, we drove into town - 2 blocks away. And the town consists of a small mercantile square. If the distillery didn't exist, I don't think "downtown" Lynchburg would, either! When we drove into the square, I felt like we had stepped back in time, to the late 1950s maybe. They had some type of food establishment on four corners and two general stores. My favorite store name was "Lynchburg Ladies Handiwork." Doesn't that sound like you'd find Mrs. Cleaver, Mrs. Nelson and Mrs. Anderson there chatting? I love it!
We had a great afternoon. The weather has finally settled into a beautiful, crisp sunny pattern. The drive to Lynchburg was nice - we went through lots of farmland and the trees still have lots of color. A good day, all in all.
Oh! And we crossed off another Cracker Barrel!! Randy is in hog heaven!!
Tomorrow we're going into downtown Nashville. I'm really looking forward to getting pictures of some of the famous spots in town. We've been there before back in 2004 during the country music festival, but don't have those pictures, so I want to get them this time.
Until the next time . . .