We left Huntsville early to drive over the state line to Lynchburg, Tennessee where Adam’s highlight attraction of the trip is – the Jack Daniel’s Distillery. We chose to take the back roads to see the side of America off the tourist trail and rarely seen. We passed the cotton fields of Northern Alabama before crossing into the rolling hills of Tennessee.
This is Jack, all 5’2″ of him. He ran away from home when he was 5 and got taken in by a pastor where he was taught about making moonshine. He purchased the property in Lynchburg due to its iron free spring water he thought would make the best Tennessee whiskey. This spring is still the source of every drop of Jack Daniel’s produced today.
Corn, barley, rye, yeast and water are left to ferment for 6 days to create sour mash. This gets put into 7-storey tall stills where the alcohol vapour is drawn from the top and condensed ready for charcoal filtering.
We were fortunate enough to catch them making their charcoal from sugar maple, lit using their own 140 proof whiskey to avoid tainting the taste of the end product with petroleum. The raw whiskey is filtered through 10ft of this charcoal, taking 7 days to reach the bottom of the silo.
They get barrels specially made for them with no glue or resin to taint the taste and each barrel is only used once before being sold. There are over 80 barrel houses on the property with each one capable of holding 1 million gallons of whiskey.
If you wanted to buy a whole barrel then you get a private meeting in the big house where you can sample 3 different barrels to pick your favourite. A barrel can cost upto $14k but you do get 46 cases of bottles.
We also saw their old fire engines. The one on the left still works and is used for weddings on the property. It is a REO Speed Wagon (apparently this is also a band?).
As they say, the proof of the pudding is in the tasting, something that Adam was obviously more suited to than I was, although I did all of the smell testing! We have learnt that Adam has exceptionally refined (or expensive) taste in alcohol, settling on a special edition dedicated to Frank Sinatra. The tasting room was set up within an old barrel house, with the walls stacked high with old barrels, really adding to the event.
No trip to Lynchburg would be complete without the obligatory struggle on whether to buy a bottle whilst we were on site or not. Somewhat thankfully Adam decided to hold off and so we made a stop in at the Lynchburg General Store and picked up some Jack Daniels merchandise as a memento of a great experience that I would definitely recommend – even as a non-drinker!