History of Jack Daniel’s

Possibly one of the most iconic and recognizable whiskey brands in the world, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey is consumed all around the world and has grown to be the brand that it is today. It is difficult to walk into a bar and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s is not being served. Behind each one of those pours is a rich and complex history behind the brand that has withstood the test of time. From the death of its creator, through the hardships of prohibition and war time, to Frank Sinatra’s love for the whiskey all the way to the great debate whether Jack Daniel’s is considered bourbon, Sipping History dives deep into the history of Jack Daniel’s like never before.

Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel was born to Calaway Daniel and Lucinda Matilda Cook Daniel. His exact date of birth is unknown to this day. His gravestone reads birth in 1850 but there are still disputes as to whether this date is correct. A town fire had destroyed documentation of his birth, thus it remains a mystery. Some reported dates are September 1846, January 1849 and even September 1850. Despite the conflicting dates, to this date, Jack Daniel’s celebrates the birth of its founder every September. Jasper’s parents had ten children, and he was the youngest. His siblings included Robert, Adeline, Elizabeth, Malinda, James, Louisa, Wiley, Lemuel and Finetta. Lucinda was born in 1805 and passed away shortly after the birth of Jack. She was buried at Daniel Cemetery in Lincoln County, Tennessee. Calaway was born in 1800 to Joseph Job Daniel and Elizabeth Andress Daniel. After the death of Lucinda, Calaway remarried to Matilda Van Zandt Daniel and the two had two children together. Calaway was killed Wednesday January 21, 1863 during the American Civil War, leaving Jack orphaned.

As a young man, Jack Daniels began to work at a general store run by a Lutheran minister, Reverend Dan Call. Reverend Daniel Houston Call was born in May 1836 to Joseph and Rebecca Call. Aside from the store and preaching, Dan Call also ran a still. There are conflicting accounts as to if Dan Call was the one to first teach Jack how to use the still or one of Call’s slaves, Nathan “Nearest” Green. Either which account is correct, it is during this time period that Jack learned the trade of running a still. Nathan was an African American born into slavery in 1820. He ran the still for Dan Call. Eventually Jack and Dan would partner together to form Daniel & Call Distillery No. 7, District #4. As the movement for moderation of intoxicating liquids increased, Dan was at a crossroads between his distilling business and his religious stance. He ultimately chose to side with his religious beliefs and got out of the whiskey business by selling his share to Jack.

In 1866 the Jack Daniel Distillery was registered and opened for business. It became the first registered distillery in the United States with the government. The recipe that Jack used then is the same recipe that is primarily used today. It is composed of 80% corn, 12% barley and 8% rye. One of the signature processes in making his whiskey was charcoal mellowing which is commonly referred to as the Lincoln County Process. This process is acquired by passing the unaged distillate from the still through charcoal as a means of filtering and mellowing the whiskey to help aid in its smoothness. The filtered distillate is then put into casks for aging. This process was named Lincoln County Process after Lincoln County which was the county at the time of Jack Daniel’s original establishment. This process is used by many of the Tennessee whiskey producers. To help produce his whiskey Jack hired Nathan Green to distill with him, making Nathan the first known African American master distiller.

A major ingredient and factor that affects the taste of whiskey is water. Knowing the need for quality water not only for making and proofing down the whiskey but for various distillery operations, Jack set eyes on Cave Spring Hollow. This spring allows for 800 gallons of water to be drawn from underground every minute. The water passes through limestone which helps purify water naturally. The spring and surrounding land in Lynchburg, Tennessee was purchased by Jack for $2,148 in 1884. This became the site of the Jack Daniel’s Distillery that exists today.

Jack continued to perfect his trade and in 1904 he entered his whiskey into the World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri. There were many great inventions and products introduced to the world at this fair including Dr. Pepper and many notable people were in attendance. Jack Daniel’s whiskey won a gold medal at the fair and brought national recognition to the brand. Once returning back to Tennessee, business began to boom as the demand for his product continued to grow.

Jack was known as a man short in stature standing at 5’ 2” and was known to be a well-dressed man. He was never married and had no children. When his health began declining he passed the distillery to his nephew Lemuel “Lem” Motlow in 1906. Lemuel Oscar “Lem” Motlow was born on Sunday November 28, 1869 to Felix Waggoner “Stump” Motlow and Finetta Josephine “Nettie” Daniel Motlow. Finetta was the sister of Jack Daniel. Felix was born on Monday April 9, 1838 and Finetta was born on Saturday April 12, 1845. Felix had served in the Civil War alongside the Confederates. Lem married Clara Reagor in 1895 and the two had one child together, John. Clara was born on Sunday November 10, 1872 but died at the early age of 29 on Thursday November 14, 1901. She was buried at the Lynchburg Cemetery. Lem later remarried, this time to Ophelia Verna Evans. Ophelia was born on Monday July 2, 1883 to Daniel Scivally Evans and Susan Parks Evans. Lem fathered four children with Ophelia, Dan Evans, Robert Taylor, Clifford Connor and Mary Avon.

Jack was known as a man short in stature standing at 5’ 2” and was known to be a well-dressed man. He was never married and had no children. When his health began declining he passed the distillery to his nephew Lemuel “Lem” Motlow in 1906. Lemuel Oscar “Lem” Motlow was born on Sunday November 28, 1869 to Felix Waggoner “Stump” Motlow and Finetta Josephine “Nettie” Daniel Motlow. Finetta was the sister of Jack Daniel. Felix was born on Monday April 9, 1838 and Finetta was born on Saturday April 12, 1845. Felix had served in the Civil War alongside the Confederates. Lem married Clara Reagor in 1895 and the two had one child together, John. Clara was born on Sunday November 10, 1872 but died at the early age of 29 on Thursday November 14, 1901. She was buried at the Lynchburg Cemetery. Lem later remarried, this time to Ophelia Verna Evans. Ophelia was born on Monday July 2, 1883 to Daniel Scivally Evans and Susan Parks Evans. Lem fathered four children with Ophelia, Dan Evans, Robert Taylor, Clifford Connor and Mary Avon.

Saturday January 17, 1920 marked the enforcement of the Volstead Act which prohibited the production of alcohol. Only six companies were granted licenses to produce medicinal whiskey, but the Jack Daniel’s Distillery was not one of them. This proved to be troubling times for the company as they were not allowed to produce anywhere in the nation. Stocks of already produced distillate were stowed away in various locations in Birmingham, St. Louis and Cincinnati, Ohio. The 1920’s proved to bring more hardship to Lem than not being able to produce whiskey. At the start of Prohibition, all liquor that was already produced had to be stored in federally guarded warehouses. At the St. Louis location where Jack Daniel’s had their whiskey storing, 893 barrels of product were siphoned empty by a hidden hose that transferred the whiskey outside of the building and then disappeared. The missing liquor was discovered in August 1923 and the federal government accused Lem of stealing his own whiskey in a bootlegging scheme to illegally sell the product.

On Monday March 17, 1924 Lem made an appearance in court in St. Louis on the bootlegging charges. After court he went out drinking with some friends and then that night took the Louisville and Nashville train to travel back to Tennessee. While on the railroad car an African American sleeping car porter, Ed Wallis, asked Lem for his ticket but he was unable to provide one. The two began arguing and the train’s conductor, Clarence Pullis, stepped in. The intoxicated Lem produced a pistol and fired twice. It is believed his intended target was Wallis, but instead he struck Pullis in the abdomen. Pullis was taken to a nearby hospital in St. Louis where he died. Lem was accused of murder and on December 4, 1924 he went to court for the charge. The trial took place at Municipal Courts Building in St. Louis overseen by Judge Henry Hamilton. Lem was heavily lawyered with seven lawyers of his own. The defense testified that the gun discharged on accident when someone grabbed Lem’s hand as he was banishing his pistol. Wallis testified against Lem in the trial, giving his side of the events that day. Ultimately Lem was acquitted of the murder charge on Wednesday December 10, 1924 when the jury of twelve white men voted on his innocence. In Lem’s continued stroke of good luck, his charges for bootlegging were dropped thus avoiding the penalties and risk of losing the Jack Daniel’s Distillery. After the trial Lem returned to Tennessee.

Tuesday December 5, 1933 marked the end of National Prohibition, but just as Tennessee started prohibition of alcohol before the nation did, they did not stop prohibition when the nation did. Lem became a state senator for the state of Tennessee and over the six years in this position he was at the forefront of pushing to end the state’s prohibition. In 1938, Tennessee marked the end of prohibition in the state allowing for distillers to produce again and that is exactly what the Jack Daniel’s Distillery did. Production of their charcoal mellowed Tennessee whiskey in square glass bottles once again resumed.

Jess stayed the master distiller for the company until 1941 when production reigns were passed to Lem Tolley. Lemuel Lee “Lem” Tolley was born on Tuesday July 26, 1898 to John Lafayette Tolley and Lillian Bettie Motlow Tolley. Lem Tolley’s mother Lillian and Lem Motlow were siblings. Lem Tolley married Ethel Louise Compton and together they had three children, Majorie, John and Lilly. As Lem Tolley took over as master distiller, outside of the distillery World War II was occurring. This caused a supply shortage in 1942 causing the Jack Daniel’s whiskey harder to come by, thus raising demand. By 1944 the war was in full force and the distillery shut down production of their whiskey to conserve resources for the war efforts.

1947 was a year of both ups and downs for the distillery. The war was finally over and things were starting to return to normal. Lemuel Motlow was in failing health and had suffered a stroke a few years prior in 1940. On Monday September 1, 1947 he died of a cerebral hemorrhage. He was buried at Lynchburg Cemetery. Ownership of the distillery was passed down to his children. In that same year, John Herbert “Jackie” Gleason, an actor, comedian and writer, was having drinks in a bar in New York City, New York with Frank Sinatra. Frank Sinatra, a top selling musician, was given Jack Daniel’s as a drink suggestion by Jackie at the bar and Frank fell in love with the product. This introduction to the brand of whiskey started a lifelong love and appreciation for the product. From there Frank was known to have a bottle of Jack Daniel’s nearby whether it was with him on stage, at ceremonies, backstage or on private jets. As a well known and loved entertainer, Frank helped to bring attention to the Jack Daniel’s brand and is credited with causing increases in demand for the product. When Frank passed away Thursday May 14, 1998, he was even buried with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. As Frank honored Jack, Jack honored Frank with his very own line of Jack Daniel’s that pays tribute to the legend. The series is known as Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select.

In 1956 the Motlow family sold Jack Daniel’s to Brown-Forman. Brown-Forman got its start in the whiskey industry long before the purchase of Jack Daniel’s and was a well-established company by then. Both companies come from a long lineage of history. George Garvin Brown and his half-brother John Thompson Street Brown, Jr. started out with $5,500 and founded J.T.S. Brown & Brother. John Jr. was the older of the two brothers and was born on Monday June 8, 1829 in Hart County, Kentucky to John Thompson Brown Sr. and Elizabeth Creel Brown. Elizabeth was John Thompson Street Brown’s first spouse. John Sr.’s second marriage was to Mary Garvin Brown which they had George on Wednesday September 2, 1846 in Munfordville, Kentucky. Together they created the brand Old Forester in 1870. Old Forester is known for starting an important movement in the bourbon industry by being the first bottled bourbon on the market. The company was formed with quality in mind and wanting to ensure it. The bottles would be sealed with the signature of personal guarantee of quality from the Brown brothers. In the early days of Old Forrester the brothers did not distill their own products. They frequently purchased stock from Mattingly Distillery, Mellwood Distillery and Atherton Distillery. They would take these barrels of whiskey and blend them together, proof down to 90 proof and then bottle the distillate.

After just a few years of being in business, J.T.S. Brown Jr. decided to leave the company and start his own venture, JTS Brown and Sons. In 1873 after the departure of his brother, George went to his old employer, Henry Chambers. Henry bought into the company and it became known as Brown, Chambers and Company. In 1876 George reached out to his cousin, James Thompson Brown, who was from Ireland to join the firm. In 1881 Henry retired from the business and the firm became known as Brown-Thompson. In 1890, James left the firm to start his own company, James Thompson & Bro., with his brother Frank. James sold his shares of Brown-Thompson to the company’s accountant, George Forman. In 1901 the Brown-Forman name was officially incorporated and to this day the company still goes by that name. In 1901 George Forman passed away and his ownership in the company was purchased by George Brown. Brown-Forman went on to purchase their own distillery to begin their own distillation, obtain a license to produce whiskey during American Prohibition and purchase the Early Times Distillery.

The year after the acquisition of Jack Daniel’s Jess Motlow died on Monday October 28, 1957. He was buried at the Lynchburg Cemetery. Even after the acquisition of the company, Lem Tolley remained master distiller, but he began to eye retirement. Frank Bobo was in line to become the next master distiller, but there was another outstanding employee at the distillery that also deserved the honor. In 1964 Lem Tolley retired after 23 years as master distiller. He was replaced with Jess Gamble. Jess was born on December 21, 1901 to William Gamble and Mary Florence Price. He married Lenous Dyer on Wednesday December 23, 1925 and they had a child named Jerry. In his early working years he worked with Nashville’s highway department, but on Sunday June 6, 1948 he was hired by Reagor Motlow to join the distillery. He began as a common worker and through his hard work he was able to rise through the ranks. He was known as being a quiet and humble man. His hard work was honored when he was made master distiller in 1964. He held this position for nearly two years and in 1966 he retired.

Jack Daniel’s fifth master distiller title was given to Frank Bobo in 1966. Frank Thomas “Frog” Bobo was born on Sunday June 2, 1929 in Lynchburg to Roy Holt Bobo and Marie Hobbs Bobo. Frank’s family owned a grocery store in Lynchburg called Bobo’s Market. Before his days at the distillery he would be found working at the market. Frank served in the United States Army during the Korean War. He was married to Avalee Reed Bobo for 67 years until her passing on Wednesday August 31, 2016. Avalee was born on Sunday March 16, 1930 to Gueary Reed and Gola Stinson Reed in Vivian, Louisiana. Frank and Avalee two had two daughters together, Karen and Cindy. Frank was a member of the Lynchburg First Methodist Church and he was known as a fan of the NFL Raiders.

Lem Tolley died on Christmas Eve Wednesday December 24, 1980. He was buried at the Lynchburg Cemetery. Jess Gamble died Friday April 29, 1988. In the same year that Jess died, the end of Frank’s tenure at the distillery was on the horizon. In 1988 the title of master distiller was passed down to Jimmy Bedford. James Howard “Jimmy” Bedford was born on Tuesday January 30, 1940 in Franklin County, Tennessee to James Smith “Jim” Bedford and Wilma Limbaugh Bedford. Jimmy grew up on the family’s cattle farm in Lynchburg, just a short distance from the Jack Daniel’s distillery, with his two other siblings Bill and Sue. Jimmy attended Tennessee Tech University in Cookville, Tennessee and graduated in 1962. While attending college he met his future wife Emily Gregory. The two married and had a daughter, Alice. After college Jimmy returned home to Lynchburg and got a job at the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in 1968. He had put his dreams aside to be a veterinarian to begin work at the distillery. He worked his way up throughout the company gaining experience in fermentation, milling of grains, use of yeast and distilling. He worked alongside Frank Bobo to help gain experience that eventually led him to becoming master distiller of the world renowned company.

During Jimmy’s time at Jack Daniel’s he introduced two major products to the brand. In 1988 Gentleman Jack was introduced. Gentleman Jack carried the same mash bill as the iconic Old No. 7, but the major difference is that it is double filtered through charcoal. It is first filtered after it is distilled before it touches a barrel and then again after it has aged it is passed through the charcoal again. The idea behind the additional filtration is to add smoothness to the whiskey. Gentleman Jack is bottled at 80 proof (40% alcohol by volume) today but was originally bottled at 86 proof (43% alcohol by volume) until 2004. In 1997 the Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select was introduced. This offering is made of the same mash bill as the Jack Daniel’s but are all taken from a single barrel meaning that the contents of a bottle are from one barrel only and they are not mixed with any other barrels. Barrels to become part of this single barrel option are evaluated by the company and not every barrel from the distillery is able to get the ability to be bottled as a single barrel. The distillery offers groups, retailers, bars and individuals to be able to purchase an entire barrel and have it bottled as Single Barrel Select. Barrels are proofed down from their cask strength to 94 proof (47% alcohol by volume).

In Jimmy’s personal life he was a member of the First United Methodist Church of Lynchburg. He was part of the Army National Guard reaching the rank of lieutenant. His personal preference for enjoying his whiskey was on the rocks with a little water. His job as master distiller not only allowed him to be in charge of the distillation of one of the most well-known distilleries, but he was able to travel the world promoting the whiskey. Jimmy was forced into retirement in March 2008 after he was a part of a sexual harassment law suit. The suit was filed in Travis County, Texas by sales rep Claudia Falkenberg. In November 2007 Claudia had accused Jimmy of physically and verbally harassing her in a sexual manner while the two were on a five day business trip in south Texas to promote the brand at eleven different locations. The suit was later settled out of court. Just over a year after Jimmy left the company, on Friday August 7, 2009 he was found outside a barn on his farm near the distillery. After being taken to Harton Regional Medical Center in Tullahoma, Tennessee, he was pronounced dead from a suspected heart attack. He was buried in Lynchburg Cemetery.

To fill the shoes of master distiller of Jack Daniel’s in April 2008 Jeff Arnett was promoted and became the seventh master distiller in the company’s long history. Jeffery M. “Jeff” Arnett was born and raised in Jackson, Tennessee. He attended South Side High School in Jackson and later earned an industrial engineering degree from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. After college he worked in the food and beverage industry at Pringles which was owned by Procter & Gamble for eleven years. Jeff married Lori and they had two children together. He was a serving member of the Tennessee Distiller’s Guild. In 2001 he joined the Jack Daniel’s Distillery working with the Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select division of the company overseeing it and its quality control. Throughout his time working there he also worked with managing the charcoal mellowing process, barrel quality, bottling, warehousing and maturation. After working through the ranks of the company and becoming well rounded he was given the ultimate promotion to master distiller.

Under Jeff’s tenure as master distiller, many brand new products were introduced to the Jack Daniel’s lineup. In 2011 the first flavored whiskey offering from the company came to market. Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey is a blend of real honey and Old No. 7 producing a 70 proof (35% alcohol by volume) product. History was made in 2015 when Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Rye was first introduced. This was the first new mash bill introduced by the company since its original recipe. This rye whiskey is composed of 70% rye, 18% corn and 12% barley. It is offered as a single barrel expression just as the single barrel bourbon offering is. Another addition to its flavor line came in 2015 as well with Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire. Tennessee Fire is a blend of cinnamon liqueur made from real cinnamon and Old No. 7. It is bottled at 70 proof (35% alcohol by volume). Rye made another appearance in 2017 with the introduction of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Rye. This offering is the same mash bill as the Single Barrel Rye except it is a blend of multiple rye barrels and batched together then bottled at 90 proof (35% alcohol by volume). The flavored offerings continued in 2019 with the introduction to Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Apple. It is made with real apples and blended with Old No. 7. It is bottled at 90 proof (35% alcohol by volume).

The list of new Jack Daniel additions under Jeff’s tenure continued to grow with the introduction of Sinatra Select, Heritage, and Tennessee Tasters. Frank Sinatra was a dedicated consumer of Jack Daniel’s, so the company honored Frank with a line named after him, Sinatra Select. This unique offering has grooves notched into the staves of the barrels exposing various layers of the oak. These notches help to introduce additional character to the whiskey. It is bottled at 90 proof (45% alcohol by volume). The Heritage series offers a lower barrel entry proof at 100 and then the distillate is bottled at 100 proof (50% alcohol by volume). The barrels are toasted at a low temperature giving the barrel a heavy toasting. This imparts different flavors during aging than their typical barrels. The Tennessee Taster series offers small batch experimental series that test various finishing techniques such as various woods or ex-wine barrels.

In 2014 with the growing need for barrels and the growing of the bourbon industry, Jack Daniel’s opened a cooperage in Lawrence County, Alabama called Jack Daniel Cooperage. Prior to this the distillery had to rely solely on barrel production from Brown-Forman’s cooperage which also made barrels for the company’s other brands such as Old Forester, Woodford Reserve and Early Times. The production at the Jack Daniel Cooperage supports only the Jack Daniel Distillery allowing all barrels to be for their use.

Jeff was named the master distiller of the year in 2017 by Whiskey Magazine. During his tenure more new Jack Daniel’s products were introduced into the market than any of the previous master distillers. When Jeff wasn’t hard at work his drink of choice was Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select on the rocks. After twelve productive years as master distiller, in September 2020 Jeff retired. With big shoes to fill, Chris Fletcher took over as the company’s newest master distiller.

Chris Fletcher is a Lynchburg native and was born with distilling in his blood. He is the grandson of Frank Bobo. Frank had recently passed away at the beginning of the year on January 15, 2020. Chris has a wife named Ashley and together they have a son named Payne Thomas. Chris’s time at the distillery started in 2001 when he began working as a tour guide. While working he was attending Tennessee Technological University and earned his Bachelors of Science in Chemistry. This allowed him to begin working at a chemist in the research and development sector of Brown-Forman. He held this position for eight years until he left the company to work in other ventures in the bourbon industry. In 2014 he made his comeback to Jack Daniel’s and was working as assistant master distiller under Jeff. After six years of learning and assisting Jeff, he was named the newest master distiller of the company.

The current mash bill that the distillery uses remains unchanged from when Jack first started the company. One of the main grain ingredients of the whiskey is corn, which the distillery uses #1 yellow corn. Grade #1 corn signifies a high quality corn with minimal moisture in the grain. The higher the grade of corn the less broken corn and foreign material in the corn product. They source the majority of their corn from the regions of northern Alabama, southern Kentucky and southern Illinois. These regions are good for growing corn, but no not so much for rye. The company imports rye from Scandinavia for use in their products. Since the distillery is so large and uses such a large amount of grains, they have outgrown the silos that are at the distillery. These concrete silos were built in 1938 and were once enough space to house a month’s worth of grains. Now in today’s production it is only enough for less than 24 hours. The company has additional storages in Tullahoma. The location is close to the railroad so it allows for grains to be delivered to the storage facility, then when the distillery needs it the grains can be trucked in.

Water used in the cooking of the grains comes from two miles underground in the Cave Spring Hollow. The spring was purchased by Jack and is still used today. The outlet of the spring is near the distillery allowing for easy access to the needed water. The water is filtered by the limestone rocks and is 56 degrees Fahrenheit when pulled from the spring. The distillery has the ability to pull 800 gallons a minute of water to supply the plant with all its water needs. A life sized statue of Jack Daniel stands at the entrance of the spring. Lem Tolley had the statue put there in 1941. Realizing the importance of the water from the spring and the need to preserve its properties, in 1982 the distillery purchased 250 acres of land that sit above the spring to help ensure its preservation for the foreseeable future. The spring is the sole water source for the distillery.

After the grains are mashed they are put with yeast and allowed to ferment for six days. Jack Daniel’s uses a technique known as sour mashing. Sour mashing is the process of taking some of your backset from a previous batch of fermentation and adding it to your current batch as a starter to the fermentation process. Sour mashing does not mean that the mash is sour, its name is derived from the process of making sourdough bread where a starter is used in its fermentation process. Sour mashing a whiskey helps to control bacteria in the process. The wrong types of bacteria can affect the flavor which is unwanted when consistency is desired. Sour mashing helps Jack Daniel’s ensure the quality of their products.

After fermentation it is time for the whiskey to be distilled. Jack Daniel uses copper stills to distill its products. Due to the large volume of distillate produce, the company has to replace their stills every 10-13 years because over time copper wears down. The product is single distilled, meaning that it runs through the still once as opposed to being run through the stills multiple times. The whiskey exits the still at 140 proof (70% alcohol by volume) and then goes through charcoal filtering. This method is known as the Lincoln County Process. Jack Daniel makes its own charcoal for the filtration process by burning four ricks of hard sugar maple wood that stand five feet high. The wood is covered in unaged 140 proof Jack Daniel’s distillate and then set on fire thus creating charcoal. The burning of the wood is a very controlled burn and fire is something that the distillery takes very seriously. So serious that it has its own fire department. The town of Lynchburg is so small that if there ever was a fire that it would be difficult to rely solely on the town’s fire department. Since the company deals with highly flammable high proof alcohol a fire would be catastrophic. In the case that there ever would be an incident their state certified firefighters are trained each week both in the classroom and live scenarios. Since high proof alcohol can burn clear, the team is trained to spot fires with more than their eyes but also by changes in the air quality. Each of the warehouses are equipped with their own sprinkler system, smoke detection measurements and plans if one were to catch on fire. The company’s plan if there ever is a fire in a warehouse would be to contain the fire to that one warehouse and not have it spread to anywhere else. The charcoal making process occurs three days a week and is done three times a day.

There are over seventy vats of charcoal that the distillate runs through, filtering and mellowing it out on its journey down. This process is not rushed and gravity does its job taking the 140 proof distillate through the coal. It takes about 3-5 days for distillate to pass through the vat. It takes sixteen ricks of wood to make enough charcoal to fill each vat. Every six months the charcoal needs to be replaced in each vat. The used charcoal is used by a company to create wood chips and pellets for smokers. At the rate of the distillery’s production, they are changing out two to three vats each week. There are over 70 charcoal vats at the distillery.

Once filtration is complete it is time for the distillate to enter the barrel. The distillery has its own cooperage to make its own barrels so it does not have to outsource them. Each barrel is made with 33 virgin American oak staves and then charred. Barrels are set to age at any one of the 87 warehouses the distillery owns. When aging is complete the barrels are dumped and bottled according to the product. Since the distillery only uses new barrels, once the barrels have been dumped they do not reuse it themselves, rather it gets repurposed. Some barrels may make their way to the market to be turned into pieces of furniture, some to wineries, others to tequila, some to Canada for Canadian whiskies but most get used in the Scotch industry as Scotch whiskies can and often use barrels that have previously contained some sort of alcohol.

It is no secret that Jack Daniel’s is labeled and marketed as Tennessee whiskey, but many people often question whether the whiskey is considered a bourbon. The answer is both yes and no. We take a really deep dive into the age old debate in Settling the Debate: Is Jack Daniel’s Bourbon? All bourbon is whiskey but not all whiskey is bourbon. To be considered a bourbon a product must meet very strict requirements that include being at least 51% corn, made in the United States, cannot come off the still at any higher than 160 proof, must be aged in new oak containers and not enter the barrel at any higher than 125 proof. Jack Daniel’s whiskey products meet all of these restrictions. On the other hand, they also meet all of the restrictions to be considered a Tennessee whiskey. In order to become a Tennessee whiskey the product must be made in Tennessee, go through the Lincoln County Process and meet all of the same requirements as bourbon. The company chooses to market their product as a Tennessee whiskey, but if the company wanted to could call their whiskey a bourbon.

Jack Daniel’s takes their whiskey further than the beverage industry, but into the barbeque world. The Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbeque hosts the top barbeque teams in a yearly competition. The event draws many hungry visitors to the small town of Lynchburg. Jack Daniel’s also has other licensed products on the market such as barbeque sauce and marinades. Through food is just another way to let their whiskey shine through.

It is no secret that the Jack Daniel Distillery is rich and robust in history and flavorful bourbon. It is a product that not only makes Tennessee proud but makes the American whiskey industry proud. Next time you find yourself with any of the Jack Daniel’s products in your glass, raise your cup and give a toast to Jack himself and the history that he began and created. Remember you are sipping more than what’s in your glass, you are sipping history.

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