Jack Daniels Special Edition- by Bert
Go back with me in time a bit, no, not to when Jack Daniel started making whiskey at the age of 13, but to Monday, May 23rd when we went to the Jack Daniels Distillery in Lynchburg, TN. It was a great way to spend a Monday, or any day really. It took us about 45 minutes to drive there from our campground. We had decided to get there for the first tasting tour at 10:30am and have lunch after. I think we were both a little extra excited about the tasting because we had recently decided to not purchase any alcohol until the end of June and we had started rationing our existing supply. (We are now questioning that decision and it may need to be modified somehow.) Anyway, I was super surprised at how beautiful the site was. It was clean, really well landscaped and just seemed like a little village or touristy area, which I guess it is, but not what I was expecting. There are many barrel houses around the area (87?) and since you can’t see them unless you drive around it seems really small. It smelled like fresh bread!
Our tour guide’s name was Jed. Despite his name he didn’t seem like a Tennessee boy because he lacked the accent. His family lives local though and I bet they have an accent. The tour started with a quick drive through the Lynchburg square and we got the red signal and the only stoplight in the county. Yes, Lynchburg is very small. You can’t buy liquor in the county, so you have a drive 12 miles one way and 13 another if you want to buy Jack Daniels anywhere other than the Visitor’s store on site at the distillery. Jed was really good and told us a lot of little tidbits of information and stories, as tour guides should, without pressuring or ever mentioning that we should tip him.
We were dropped off by where they burn ricks of sugar maple wood to get the charcoal to filter the 140 proof liquor through for the flavor of Jack Daniels. That and the combo of corn, barley and rye which later gets fermented with their own 130 year old yeast.The water they use is another key to the flavor. It comes from the mountain range behind the site. It is a constant 59 degrees and amazingly clear. The storing of the liquor in their specially made barrels is key to the flavor as well. There are a lot of things that make Jack Daniels what it is. That is the only place in the world it is made! I thought that was cool. It is now owned by a corporation, but they pretty much run the place they always have and the way they want…why mess with something so good?
Some other interesting things:
Kat liked this one…You can buy your own barrel of Jack and have it bottled with your own special label. You get to pick out your own barrel and then everything in there gets bottled – 1 barrel is around 240 bottles, and you get to keep the barrel afterwards! It only costs just under $10,000. Maybe someday we can organize a group barrel with those interested. There are tons of plaques on the wall showing those who have done it. I was surprised to see Walmart of Germany had done it 3 times.
They really try to recycle their waste by selling the mash to local farmers for cows, pigs, etc. For those of you who are unlucky enough to not know anything about brewing liquor that is the waste of the corn, barley and rye in this case after all the liquid is removed. Yeah, the cows are probably drunk a lot because I bet you can’t get it all out.
Also, the barrels are specially made for them after they are emptied they are only filled and used one time by Jack Daniels, but other companies buy them to get the flavor. Most interesting was Tabasco! They pack them full of peppers and let them sit for 4-5 years and then make the tabasco.
How can I remember all of this you ask after we had the tasting, well, the tasting at first looked a little disappointing because if you let that tiny bit of alcohol sit for too long I bet it would evaporate! But, when we did the tasting we took tiny little sips after smelling and dipping our tongues into the glass. Way better than just doing a shot. We tasted 5 different varieties and the Honey Jack and Cinnamon Jack were our very least favorite. I preferred the regular old Jack Daniels. It wouldn’t be bad to work there because during the tasting it slipped out that the little old lady who was pouring our shots had already done her own tastings! They also said sometimes you might find a bottle or four open in the breakroom. But, the best part was that every first Friday of the month when they get paid, they also get a bottle of Jack. If you get a chance to go to Lynchburg, do it!