Jasper Newton Daniel was born in 1848 as the tenth child of thirteen. At the age of 12 Jack Daniel started a career that would last him a lifetime. He was hired out to work for a man by the name of Dan Call, a preacher at a Lutheran church. At Mr. Call’s distillery he learned the trait of making whiskey. Three years later he and Mr. Call were full partners in the whiskey making business. Mr. Call was a dedicated Lutheran. Just after the civil war his family and church told him to make a decision between the church and his business of making whiskey. Mr. Call decided to go with the church. So Jack bought out his share of the business. Jack had found a perfect cave spring and bought 500 acres around it. Jack then moved his distillery to this location and over 130 years later the distillery stands here today.
In the rolling hills of southern middle Tennessee lies the city of Lynchburg where Jack was born and lived all of his life. This is the county seat of Moore County, which is Tennessee’s smallest county. This town, like most other small towns in middle Tennessee has a square for the hub of the town. One of the major structures here is the Courthouse. Back in 1885 people of Lynchburg built this structure with bricks made in the town. Now, my favorite item of historic relevance in Moore County is the Jack Daniel Distillery. This is at the same site Jack decided on in 1866. This is a National Historic site that has had its license since 1866. The quality Tennessee Whiskey goes through the same processes that it did when founded by Mr. Jack Daniel. To this day they are sticking by Mr. Jack’s motto: “Each day we make it, we will make it the best we can.”
To help Mr. Daniel hold down the fort in Lynchburg he introduced the business to his nephew Lem Motlow. Mr. Motlow and Mr. Daniel kept the whiskey business going in high gear until the death of Mr. Daniel in 1911.He died from blood poisoning after he had kicked his safe when it didn’t open correctly six years ago. Lem Motlow then became the second head distiller. He kept the process the old fashioned way as his mentor had showed him in previous years. He was also a very respected businessman in Lynchburg. Out of respect for Jack Mr. Motlow had a life-sized statue of Jack Daniel made. The statue was crafted from fine Italian Marble and is still viewable today. This statue now stands 100 feet from the cave spring Mr. Daniel found in 1866.
Jimmy Bedford holds the title of being the present and last one of the six Head Distillers since 1866. From Mr. Bedford, all the way back to Mr. Jack Daniel himself, only Tennessee boys have held this position. I guess it takes someone from Tennessee to keep the traditional drink the way it sipped in 1866. Mr. Bedford will continue to produce this fine sour mash whiskey that came out of the distillery in 1866.
When Jack Daniel selected the site in 1866 it was because of the cave spring that flowed in the Lynchburg hollow. The aquifer that the water flows out of is limestone. Limestone takes the iron out of the water and Mr. Daniel knew this. He also knew that iron would affect the taste of his whiskey. Another plus about the spring was the temperature. It is a constant 56 degrees. This temperature is perfect for making whiskey. This water is one of the key differences in Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey.
The spring water when combined with barley malt, rye and corn forms the “mash.” This combination of substances according to Jack’s original recipe will be cooked and placed in a copper still. The copper still is just another step to a better sipping whiskey. The mixture will ferment once it gets placed in the vat that contains yeast from the previous batch. This process is close to the same as that for making sourdough bread. This is the origin for these types of whiskey to be called “sour mash.” The whiskey that flows out of the still packs a 140 proof punch.
Another key process in the making of Jack Daniel’s is the charcoal mellowing process. This process passes the clear 140 proof whiskey at the top of the ten feet vat of packed charcoal lowering the whiskey to 110 proof and smoothing it out. The rickyard is the place where the charcoal is made. To make pure maple charcoal, they do the impossible. They make their charcoal in the open air. This process takes sections of a sugar maple tree and burns them in the open air. To keep the wood from burning up someone controls the flames with a water hose.
After charcoal mellowing the Jack Daniel’s whiskey will be placed in barrels made of charred white oak. Every day these barrels of Jack Daniel’s whiskey are rolled up into barrelhouses that are scattered throughout the hills. The whiskey will sleep deep in these hills until it is smooth enough to come out. During this process the whiskey develops its brown coloring. This is due to the whiskey barrels expanding and shrinking as the weather shifts temperatures. This causes the whiskey on the inside of the barrels to be pushed in and out of the wood.
For 29 years Jack sold his whiskey in jugs, kegs and barrels. But in 1895 Jack’s nephew Lem Motlow suggested to Jack they sell their whiskey in a glass bottle. After you have this original whiskey you can not put it in a regular bottle. So the quest for a perfect bottle design was on. After evaluating many sizes and designs they agreed on the square bottle with a fluted neck. This along with mostly everything else associated with Jack Daniel has not changed that much because they like to keep up the old time traditions. This bottle held one U.S. quart of the precious sour mash whiskey just the modern bottle does today.