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8 Surprises from a Tour of Jack Daniel Distillery

8 Surprises from a Tour of Jack Daniel Distillery


By avatar  Stacy
Posted On 07/23/2019 16:34:28
Trip Date 04/18/2019  

Destinations | Camping | Tennessee | Lynchburg | Jack Daniel Distillery | Tennessee Whiskey | Distillery Tours in the United States | Historic Lynchburg | Lynchburg Hardware and General Store



After just over 1 1/2 weeks on the road, our spring RV camping journey took us to south central Tennessee. A big reason that we planned the route that we did was to include a stop at the Jack Daniel Distillery. Located in Lynchburg, Tennessee, our tour of the working distillery was filled with surprising historical and current information. We topped off our time with a stroll around Historic Lynchburg where we enjoyed a great start to our afternoon.

Whether you are a lover of Tennessee Whiskey or not, a visit to the well-known Jack Daniel Distillery can be a fun addition when Tennessee is your destination. While there are many distilleries open for tours in the United States, only one can claim to be the oldest! Take a look at this post for some of the surprises that we heard during our visit. We learned so much that there's no way to include it all here ... so use this as inspiration to make a plan to see and hear about Jack Daniel for yourself. While you're there, don't miss seeing the Lynchburg Hardware & General Store, the official gift store of the distillery.



A Brief History of Jack Daniel Distillery

Established in 1866, the Jack Daniel Distillery is the oldest registered distillery in the United States. As our tour guide told the story, seven year old Jack Daniel ran away from home to help a Lincoln County minister make whiskey. According to the congregation, whiskey production and preaching didn't mix so he was eventually forced to choose between the two. Lucky for Jack, he chose to continue in his role as minister.

Jack bought the distillery for next to nothing and a little while later moved it to today's Lynchburg location. Jack registered as a distiller at the ripe old age of 16. The never married Jack had no children, so his nephew Lem Motlow inherited the business upon Jack's death in 1911. After Motlow's 1947 death, the business was taken over by his children until they made the decision in 1956 to sell to today's owner, the Brown-Forman Corporation.


Approaching the Jack Daniel Visitor Center

Approaching the Jack Daniel Visitor Center

Tickets for Jack Daniel Distillery Tours

Jack Daniel Distillery offers four tour options:
  • The Dry County Distillery Tour is perfect for either visitors under the age of 18 or those who prefer not to sample. At 70 minutes in duration, guests get an overview of how whiskey is made on this tour priced at $15.00 for adults and $7.00 for those 10 - 17 years of age.
  • Joining the Flight of Jack Distillery Tour is limited to those over the age of 18. In addition to seeing first-hand how whiskey is made, guests over the age of 21 have the opportunity to sample a flight of five whiskeys and liqueurs in a tasting room inside of Barrelhouse 1-14. The 1 1/2 hour tour is priced at $20.00 per person.
  • Similar to the "Flight" tour, the Angel's Share Distillery Tour includes both a tour and tasting. Rather than sipping on some of the most popular products, visitors on this tour sample from limited edition and single barrel products. Priced at $30.00 per adult, the tour is 90 minutes in length.
  • For those wishing to add a meal with their tour and tasting, the Taste of Lynchburg Distillery Tour is only offered twice daily on Fridays and Saturdays. The tour combines the "Angel's Share" tour with lunch at Miss Mary Bobo's Restaurant. The tour is three hours in length and priced at $125.00 per person.



Tickets can be purchased online (must be 21 or over) or at the distillery. During weekends and holidays, it's best to make an online reservation or plan to arrive early in the day to hopefully secure a reservation for the time of your choosing. (Since we did not make online reservations before the cut-off time, we headed to the distillery early in the morning.)


Jack Daniel Distillery Visitor Center

Jack Daniel Distillery Visitor Center

Whiskey Making in Action

Whiskey Making in Action

Preparing for a Tour of the Jack Daniel Distillery

As with most any tour, there are some do's and don'ts. Based on our experience, they mean what they say at the distillery! When you arrive to either purchase or pick-up your tickets, make sure that:
  • you are wearing comfortable walking shoes as you'll be on your feet for about 1 1/2 hours;
  • you are dressed for an outdoor tour (while part of the tour is indoors, you will be walking outside between buildings); and
  • you bring your valid identification as you will most certainly be asked to show it. (I wish that I could say that I might look younger than 21 years old. In reality, no one in their right mind would think I'm not of drinking age. But that doesn't matter. They WILL check your ID before handing over your tickets! Because of the many restricted items, I just left my purse and all contents in our car - not thinking about the need for an ID. Fortunately I had enough time to run out to the car to retrieve my ID with a few minutes to spare before our tour began.)

The following items are not permitted on tours:

  • bags;
  • backpacks;
  • purses;
  • weapons;
  • strollers;
  • tobacco of any kind including smokeless, e-cigarettes and vapor devices; or
  • open containers.
While on tour, visitors are welcome to carry babies in a baby sling. Fanny packs, cameras and clutches or wallets are allowed to be brought on tour. Service animals are also welcome to accompany guests.



Experiencing the Flight of Jack Distillery Tour

An announcement was made just as promised calling all who had tickets for the 9:30 AM "Flight of Jack" tour. With our tickets in hand, we headed to the meeting point where we met our guide Jon as well as the rest of our touring companions. What luck! We ended up on a near private tour - it was just the two of us and one other couple. Jon's enthusiasm and sense of humor came out almost immediately and we could tell that we would thoroughly enjoy our tour!


Jack Daniel's Historic Delivery Truck

Jack Daniel's Historic Delivery Truck

After an obligatory photo of our small tour group, we boarded a shuttle bus for a ride which took us to the starting point for our mostly downhill walk around the distillery. Early on during our tour, Jon advised us that photos were welcome throughout most of the tour. He also let us know that there were a few locations where no photos were allowed. Finally, he warned us to expect some temperature changes as we entered and exited various areas and to be prepared for some strong smells!

Learning some surprising things about the company started while on our ride ... and the learning didn't stop until our tour was almost over. (Surprise # 1: Who knew that all Jack Daniel employees have a nickname for the first Friday of each month? They call it "Good Friday" as they each receive a bottle of Jack Daniel's along with their paycheck!)



The Rickyard

Our first stop was at The Rickyard where charcoal is made for use in mellowing the whiskey.


The Rickyard at Jack Daniel Distillery

The Rickyard at Jack Daniel Distillery

Stacking pallets of sugar maple wood, dousing them in whiskey and setting them on fire only happens on three days each week. Although the odds were against us, we actually got to see the early steps of the making of charcoal in action.


Whiskey for Destruction!

Whiskey for Destruction!

Charcoal Making in Action

Charcoal Making in Action

It is understandable why the distillery is serious about fire safety. In addition to the very flammable alcohol throughout the site, fire temperatures reach over 2,000 degrees! The charcoal remains are then raked until cool and ready to use later in the distilling process. (Surprise # 2: I never would have thought that the distillery had its own on-site fire department. It is always ready to prevent any mishaps from getting out of control!)


Antique Fire Truck at Jack Daniel Distillery

Antique Fire Truck at Jack Daniel Distillery

Cave Spring Hollow

After standing near the heat from the fires, we walked to the cooler temperatures near Cave Spring Hollow. It was here that we learned that Jasper Newton Daniel ("Jack") purchased the land with the hollow for just over $2,000. He found that the natural spring water stayed at a constant 56 degrees and was free from any impurities which might impact either the taste or color of his whiskey.


Cave Spring Hollow

Cave Spring Hollow

Surprise # 3: Every single ounce of Jack Daniel has been made in Lynchburg from the founding of the company until today. There are no satellite locations anywhere in the world and there are absolutely no plans to change that. Yes, that includes every bottle purchased anywhere in the world, any poured worldwide at a bar and even the whiskey used for making the charcoal!



Standing just in front of the Cave Spring is a statue so aptly dubbed "Jack on the Rocks". As Jack stood just over five foot tall, the statue is actually larger than life!


Jack on the Rocks

Jack on the Rocks

Jack Daniel's Historic Office

Next up on our tour was a visit to the office in which Jack conducted business and ran the company.


Jack Daniel's Historic Office

Jack Daniel's Historic Office

It was here that we saw the safe that, according to legend, was ultimately the cause of Jack's death. As the story goes, Jack went to his office early one morning and had trouble opening the safe. Filled with frustration, he kicked the safe which caused him to break a toe. The story continues with his toe getting infected which eventually led to his entire leg being amputated before he passed away from blood poisoning. Our guide Jon told us that the moral of the story is "Don't go to work early ... you could die!".


Legendary Safe

Legendary Safe

In addition to some antique furnishings, pictures of each of the company's Master Distillers are on display. The Master Distiller is the one person who has responsibility for overseeing the entire whiskey making process.


Inside the Historic Jack Daniel Office

Inside the Historic Jack Daniel Office

Surprise # 4: In over 150 years, there have only been 7 Master Distillers. The first, of course, was Jack Daniel himself, who held the position for over 40 years and longer than any other. Jeff Arnett, today's Master Distiller, has held the post since 2008.



Fairbanks Scales and The Grain Mill

We passed the Fairbanks Scales building. It was from this building that government employees verified that proper tax payments were being submitted during years gone by. According to Jon, the building is not currently in use since the government no longer closely monitors the company's accounting. Surprise # 5: Federal tax payments today total about $8 million dollars every two weeks!


Fairbanks Scales Building

Fairbanks Scales Building

We passed the Grain Mill where the corn, barley and rye are ground and readied for mash preparation.


Grain Mill at Jack Daniel Distillery

Grain Mill at Jack Daniel Distillery

We also paused to learn about the curious black coating on trees and buildings in the surrounding area. Apparently a small percentage of whiskey evaporates during the aging process. The vapors cause this naturally occurring mold often called a "whiskey fungus" to grow. Surprise # 5: During the prohibition years, the black coating on trees was a dead giveaway that there was distilling going on in the area!


Whiskey Fungus or Mold on Trees at the Distillery

Whiskey Fungus or Mold on Trees at the Distillery

Still House

It is inside the Still House where the grains are combined in the same proportions as called for in Jack's original recipe.


Jack Daniel Distillery Number 1

Jack Daniel Distillery Number 1

After adding the pure water from Cave Spring Hollow along with some starter mash (similar to a sourdough bread starter), the mash is left to ferment in large vats.


Grains Used in Jack Daniel's Whiskey

Grains Used in Jack Daniel's Whiskey

We walked upstairs to get an up close look at the fermentation process in action. Although this was one of the areas where photos were not allowed, I still have vivid memories of both the smell and taste. Yes, that's right - taste! We each peered inside one of the vats to see, smell and even taste the bubbling mash. Jon gave us advance warning that the smell would be strong. In reality, strong may be an understatement!



Charcoal Mellowing

The next step in the distilling process is what distinguishes a Tennessee whiskey from a bourbon. Remember the sugar maple wood doused with whiskey and lit on fire to become charcoal that we witnessed at the beginning of our tour? The distilled alcohol (really a bourbon at this point) passes through the charcoal to further remove any remaining impurities. (Surprise # 6: In Tennessee, all whiskeys are bourbons but not all bourbons are whiskeys! While they start out the same, the charcoal filtering makes the difference.)

The Warehouse

The final step before taste-testing and bottling is aging the whiskey until it is just right. At Jack Daniel Distillery, not just any barrel will do. Just as with every other part of the process, there are specific requirements for the barrels. Each barrel is hand made on-site out of American White Oak. That's it! No glues, no nails, nothing else!


Examples of Jack Daniel Distillery Whiskey Barrels

Examples of Jack Daniel Distillery Whiskey Barrels

The inside of the assembled barrel is charred and toasted according to a secret recipe in order to bring out the sugar in the wood. (Surprise # 7: Each barrel is used a total of ONE time for aging whiskey. Barrels are never reused in the whiskey making process. They are, however, used for other things including planters, chairs and trash cans. They're also sold to companies who manufacture other products.)


Whiskey Barrel Planters, Chairs and Trash Cans

Whiskey Barrel Planters, Chairs and Trash Cans

The barrel is an important part of the process as it imparts both color and flavor to the finished product. The amount of time that whiskey is left to age varies - it's not based on temperatures, where it was stored nor a specific number of days. It is only ready when the taste is just right. Every single barrel of whiskey is sampled by experienced whiskey tasters who give it a thumbs up or thumbs down. Wouldn't that be a fun job?


Aging Whiskey in a Warehouse

Aging Whiskey in a Warehouse

The Historic Barrel House 1-14

After making a stop to see the Bottling Line, it was finally time for our tasting experience. We headed inside the Historic Barrel House 1-14 where a private Tasting Room was already set up especially for the four of us.


Tasting Room at Jack Daniel Distillery

Tasting Room at Jack Daniel Distillery

After taking our seats, Jon explained the set-up in front of each of us. In addition to the all important flight of whiskey plus a cup of water, we each had tasting cards and an "autographed" pencil for making notes about our favorites. Fortunately for us (since we aren't really big drinkers), Jon took us on a proper tasting journey! He explained the process, aroma, taste and finish of each of the five different whiskeys which we got to sample:

  • Jack Daniel's Gentleman Jack;
  • Jack Daniel's Old No. 7;
  • Jack Daniel's Rye;
  • Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey; and
  • Jack Daniel's Tennessee Fire.


Tennessee Honey & Tennessee Fire (left) and Gentleman Jack, Old No. 7 & Rye

Tennessee Honey & Tennessee Fire (left) and Gentleman Jack, Old No. 7 & Rye

Individual Whiskey Tasting

Individual Whiskey Tasting

We even each left with a souvenir Jack Daniel glass!



The White Rabbit Bottle Shop

We said our goodbyes to Jon and our tour companions in the "collectibles store" named after the saloon with the same name opened years ago by Jack Daniel, himself. Surprise # 8: The county in which the distillery stands is dry, so the bottle shop sells souvenir bottles rather than selling liquor. Yes, the bottles are still filled with products distilled right on site, but selling the souvenir bottles is legal in this dry county!



Historic Lynchburg

If you are headed to Lynchburg to tour the Jack Daniel Distillery, plan to spend some time in the historic town just a short walk away. A stroll around the town square takes you by the four sides of the historic County Courthouse. Make sure to check out the clock perched atop the building to see if the time is the same on any two sides!


Historic Moore County Courthouse

Historic Moore County Courthouse

The square is also home to plenty of souvenir, gift and antique shops as well as a variety of restaurants. The long standing Lynchburg Hardware & General Store is actually the distillery's official gift shop packed full of Jack Daniel keepsakes of all kinds. Plan to enjoy a meal following your tour, or at minimum, spend some time exploring before getting behind the wheel to drive after your taste testing experience! You can even sit outside and play a game of checkers while waiting on your traveling companions!


Lynchburg Hardware & General Store

Lynchburg Hardware & General Store

Playing Checkers in Lynchburg

Playing Checkers in Lynchburg

United States Distilleries

Interested in learning about more distillery tours within the U. S.? Check back in the coming months to read our post titled Crossing the United States . . . one Distillery at a Time!. It's truly amazing how every tour is actually different from the last making each a fun and informative way to spend some time.

Favorite Distilleries

Thinking back on any distillery tours which you have joined, which have been your favorites and what makes them rank so high on your list?




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8 Surprises from a Tour of Jack Daniel Distillery






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Created On 07/22/2019 17:31:23  
Updated On 07/25/2019 10:47:26
Scheduled On 07/22/2019 23:34:28
Posted On 07/23/2019 16:34:28
Last Editor Scott
Location  Jack Daniel Distillery, Lynchburg, TN, United States
LinkId  JackDanielDistilleryLynchburg2
StoryId  1563831083121





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