Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Jack Daniel's Distillery

About 90 minutes southeast of Nashville lies Lynchburg, home of Jack Daniel's Distillery, where, with the exception of a few production gaps for state and federal Prohibition and World War II, they've been distilling Tennessee sour mash whiskey since 1875.

There's a large visitor's center, which houses the original statue of Jack Daniel that stood outside the grotto where all of the natural spring water used in the whiskey production comes from; a visit to the grotto comes at about the 1/3 point of the guided tour.

The tour starts at The Rickyard, where slats of sugar maple are carefully burned to create the charcoal that every batch of whiskey is filtered through.

A visit to the spring water grotto is next, where a new statue of Mr. Daniel stands, and is affectionately named, "Jack on the Rocks." Employees have tried to find the source of the spring, tracing it back a mile, but unable to locate where the water comes out of the ground.

The tour then winds its way through the various buildings that house the whiskey processes, and according to the tour guide, alcohol fumes aren't good for electronic equipment, so no photography was allowed? True? Maybe, but I wasn't going to be kicked off a whiskey tour for failing to follow instructions. Oh, and in case you were wondering if we got samples, the answer is no. Lynchburg is in Moore County, one of Tennessee's 29 completely dry counties, so even through whiskey is distilled, bottled, and shipped from Lynchburg, it's not available for individual consumption, except commemorative bottles sold in their gift shop.

The trees outside the distillery buildings are covered in a harmless (I hope) black mold that's a telltale sign of a still and alcohol production, something that was used by law enforcement to locate moonshiners and bootleggers during Prohibition. Ok . . . good to know.

After going through the barrel house (Jack Daniel's makes its own white ash barrels for both charcoal filtering and aging) comes the bottling house where the three types of whiskey are bottled - regular Jack Daniel's, a blend from multiple barrels for a consistent look, smell, and taste; Gentleman Jack's, a smoother whiskey that's charcoal-filtered twice before aging and blending; and Jack Daniel's Single Barrel, an aged whiskey that's isn't blended and is bottled straight from one barrel batch.

A lovely bottle of the Single Barrel will make an excellent Father's Day gift, no?