Have you ever taken a drive to a destination and found yourself halfway to another cool destination? For instance, Louisville to Lynchburg TN is nearly four hours. That’s way to far for a day trip. That’s akin to driving from Detroit to Toronto just for the afternoon. It’s not something I’d do on a whim. Nashville, on the other hand, is only 2.5 hours. Which feels like a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
I’d love to take in a Predators game at Bridgestone Arena! They were in the Stanley Cup Finals last year. Too bad they lost.
Whilst enjoying BBQ, a live band on Sunday afternoon, and a glass of bourbon, I looked at Google maps and realized I was only an hour and 21 minutes from Jack Daniel’s and I could make it before closing. Of course I couldn’t miss an opportunity like that!
The welcome center has the obligatory historical items for review before the tour starts.
I’m going to say something controversial, bordering on sacrilege, but Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey meets all the legal criteria for bourbon. The distiller doesn’t want it to be called “bourbon” because they want to stand out from their northern crowd for marketing reasons. Just like the bourbon called Maker’s Mark 46 has a finishing process where oak staves are stuck inside the barrels for a period of time, JD has a finishing process that doesn’t alter the bourbon they’ve aged. They pour the bourbon through a charcoal filter they create.
The charcoal is essentially the remnants of a bonfire of aged and dried sugar maple. Light it up, control it until the fire has consumed the wood to their satisfaction, and then grind up the remaining charcoal into the proper sized pieces.
Once the charcoal is created they fill a 10 foot tall cylinder with charcoal. The bourbon is dripped in at the top and collected at the bottom. It’s very similar to the chill filter process everybody else uses to get rid of the fatty acids that can turn whiskey cloudy.
The source of water used for Jack Daniel’s is a prominent top on the tour. It flows from a cave through the property and the buildings are all right on top of the creek.
When I visited the fermenting and distillation was on hiatus due to some refurbishment. One of the stills was sitting on the ground.
Every tour talks about how vital the yeast strain is to the taste of the end product and the lengths the master distiller goes through to protect it. Safes are ubiquitous. This one is significant because it caused the untimely death of Jack Daniel himself. The story is he messed up the combination a few times and became as frustrated as I do when I forget an internet password. Jack was so mad he kicked the safe, hard enough to break his foot. The foot became infected and it eventually took his life. Pretty sad.
I wasn’t allowed to photograph anything inside the building, but we were shown the filtering process before heading to the aging warehouse.
The barrel house is not where all the barrels go, of course. The volume of alcohol produced wouldn’t fit in that little building. Inside are tasting areas. The offerings are quite extensive, including the Frank Sinatra Select. I walked away with a greater appreciation for what Lynchburg contributes to the world of whiskey. There’s far more to Jack Daniel than the Jack and Coke that got me through college.
Keep in mind, the only place in the county in which alcohol is sold is the gift shop at the distiller.
Now I had a 4 hour drive home. Ugh. What was I thinking? Ah well, it’s only an hour and a half to Nashville.
Jack Daniel’s Distillery Tour
133 Lynchburg Hwy
Lynchburg, TN 37352