In more than 130 countries, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey is revered for its individual character, a character shared by the mysterious man who pioneered the brand: Mr. Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel of Lynchburg (pop. 361), Tenn.
A runaway at the age of six, a distiller by 13 and a remarkable innovator his whole life, Jack Daniel wasn’t only a real person — he was a real character. His strong, individual spirit was evident at an early age. At six, with his mother dead, nine siblings at home and his father newly remarried, Jack left his family. Ironically, running away because he felt neglected would eventually bring him to the world’s attention. “Young Jack came to live and work with the Call family,” said Roger Brashears of the Jack Daniel Distillery. “A Lutheran minister and a whiskey-maker, I guess you could say Dan Call was Lynchburg’s leading spiritual advisor.” The Reverend Call made Jack Daniel a partner in his whiskey-making operation and eventually sold him the entire business, after deciding he needed to devote his full attention to other spiritual matters: his ministry.
It was Mr. Jack who had the foresight to move the distillery to a source of limestone water flowing from a cave spring in Lynchburg. The water flowed at a constant 56 degrees and was free of good whiskey’s worst enemy, iron. Mr. Jack was also the first to register his little distillery during the early 1860s when the federal government began its regulation and taxation of whiskey. Today, the Jack Daniel Distillery remains America’s oldest registered distillery and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Always an independent character, with a mind of his own, Mr. Jack sold his whiskey to both sides during the War of Northern Aggression (also known by some as the Civil War). It was a daring stance that endeared him to both sides of conflict, but could have just as easily seen him shot as a spy.
Mr. Jack also showed his individual nature by holding on to the charcoal-mellowing process when others abandoned it for cheaper methods of making whiskey after the war.
He mellowed his whiskey drop by drop through 10 feet of charcoal made from hard sugar maple. That made Jack Daniel’s whiskey about twice as expensive and three times as long to make, but it also gave it a smooth, refined character. Mellowing changed the whiskey enough that the government gave it a special designation as “Tennessee Whiskey.” So while others turned to less costly methods of making whiskey, Mr. Jack remained true to charcoal mellowing, a tradition that continues at the Jack Daniel Distillery.
“He was all of five-feet-two-inches tall and I think his stature may have had something to do with his individual nature,” explained Brashears. “He was hardheaded and unchanging when it came to charcoal mellowing.” Here in Lynchburg we like to say, ‘Don’t ever kick a pulling mule.’”
Naturally, when everyone else went to bottling their whiskey in round bottles, Mr. Jack chose a square bottle. That shape has since become synonymous with his Tennessee sipping whiskey. The little-known Tennessee distiller finally came to the attention of the world at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair and Centennial Exposition. That year, Mr. Jack traveled by train to the Fair, where unbeknownst to his friends in Lynchburg, he had the audacity to enter his charcoal-mellowed sipping whiskey in an international competition. He returned to Lynchburg four days later with the World’s Fair Gold Medal for the best whiskey in the world. It was the first of seven gold medals his whiskey would win. As dedicated as Mr. Jack was to his unchanging method of crafting fine whiskey, it’s ironic that something unchanging did him in — a simple combination to his office safe. One day Mr. Jack’s spirited nature got the best of him when he had trouble with the combination and kicked the safe in frustration. At first, he only suffered a limp, but eventually gangrene set in. Six years later, on October 10, 1911, Mr. Jack died.
Because he had never married, the distillery passed down to his nephew Lem Motlow. Lem, whose name still appears in the fine print on every bottle of Jack Daniel’s whiskey, played an important role in the growth of the distillery.
It was Lem who saw the distillery through the 29 years of National and Tennessee Prohibition. When Prohibition ended, he reopened his Uncle’s distillery and returned to the charcoal-mellowing tradition in spite of the extra costs it involved.
In 1956, the Motlow family entrusted the distillery to another great American whiskey family, the Browns.
Today, the Brown-Forman Beverage Company in Louisville, Kentucky continues to charcoal mellow Jack Daniel’s whiskey drop by drop, remaining true to the strong, individual character of the man … and his whiskey.
“Yes sir, if Mr. Jack were alive today, he’d be happy to see that not a whole lot has changed here in his hometown,” mused Brashears with a grin. “The Farmer’s Bank and Courthouse are still standing. There’s still no USA Today box on the square. And his distillery is still operating in a dry county and still charcoal mellowing his whiskey drop by drop. “Some things just aren’t subject to change.”
Jack Daniels is not a Bourbon
Like bourbon, however, it’s strictly a product of the United States…and more specifically, the hills of Tennessee. The production of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey begins with the careful selection of the finest corn, rye and barley malt.
These choice grains are mixed with the water from their own cave spring to form a fermentable mixture called ‘mash.’ Jack Daniel’s is made by the old ‘sour mash process.’ Of course, there is nothing really ‘sour’ about Sour Mash Whiskey.
It’s called sour mash because the distiller uses part of the previous day’s mash to start the fermentation in each new batch. Therefore, all of the mash is ‘related. The end result of the fermentation process is stiller’s beer, which is sent on to the still for distillation.
If Jack Daniel’s were to be placed in a barrel and aged immediately after distillation, it would be a bourbon.
However, that is not the case. The whiskey is trickled very slowly through 10 feet of hard maple charcoal, right after distillation.
It’s this extra step in the whiskey-making process that makes Jack Daniel’s more than a bourbon…and provides the special character known only to Tennessee Whiskey. This mellowing process is accomplished by the use of hard maple charcoal that is produce in a very special and traditional way. In the fall of the year, when the sap is down, hard maple trees from high ground are cut. The logs are aged for a year, sawed into slats and carefully stacked into ricks.
The ricks are burned in the open air to produce a pure charcoal, which is ground up and tightly packed in the mellowing vats. Following the charcoal-mellowing process, Jack Daniel’s is placed into charred white oak barrels for storage and aging in our warehouses.
As the whiskey ages, the extreme temperature changes of the passing seasons cause the whiskey to expand and contract, driving the whiskey deeper into and out of the wood of the barrel each year. Hot summers age whiskey faster than cool ones.
At Jack Daniel’s they have found the optimum aging to be between four and six years. Maturity, therefore, is a matter of judgment…taste judgment…and not a matter of counting days, months or even years.
The Jack Daniel Distillery Family of Tennessee Whiskeys
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskeys share a family resemblance. Each of them calls Lynchburg (pop. 361), Tennessee, and America’s oldest registered distillery home. They’re all made with the same ingredients:
Corn, rye, barley malt and iron-free water from a limestone Cave Spring.
Each one comes of age on the Moore County hillside, maturing in newly charred, white oak barrels. And, they all acquire their smooth charcoal-mellowed character by making the same journey drop by drop through 10 feet of hard sugar maple charcoal.
Although they share these family traits, they enjoy their own individual tastes.
Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Tennessee Whiskey (94 proof)
Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel whiskey is as individual as the variations in the oak wood from barrel to barrel. As a result, bottles drawn from individual barrels will offer subtle differences in nose, color and taste. It is a mature dark amber single barrel whiskey, aged in the upper floors of the warehouses where the whiskey’s color and taste deepen and mature an extra measure. Master Distiller Jimmy Bedford and a team of tasters select the whiskey when it reaches its peak maturity.
They taste for a singular combination–the robust flavor of a single barrel and the smooth character of Jack Daniel’s. What finally emerges from the wood is a bold full-bodied whiskey with heightened flavors of toasted oak, vanilla and caramel. Stands up to the richest of cigars.
Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Black Label Tennessee Whiskey (80 proof)
Jack Daniel’s Black Label is the world-famous whiskey awarded seven international gold medals, including the one collected by Mr. Jack Daniel himself at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. It received highest honors then as the “world’s best whiskey.”
The secret of its international success is the unique taste that comes from our old-time charcoal-mellowing process. Today, Jack Daniel’s Black Label continues to make new friends around the world.
And folks still have plenty of nice things to say about it. Because it is matured to peak perfection, this well-rounded and balanced medium amber whiskey has a pleasant mix of caramel, vanilla and wood notes highlighted by a slightly fruity aroma.
Pleasingly dry on the finish.
Gentleman Jack Rare Tennessee Whiskey (80 proof)
During his life, Mr. Jack Daniel tried his hand at charcoal mellowing his whiskey twice to heighten the benefits imparted by hard sugar maple charcoal. Based on Mr. Jack’s early notion, the Jack Daniel Distillery introduced this whiskey in 1988, because some occasions call for a gentler Jack. Gentleman Jack is crafted from a slightly different recipe and, unlike any whiskey in the world, is charcoal mellowed twice, once before and once after aging. It’s been called Tennessee’s answer to a fine cognac…silky and soft…caramel and fruit (black currant and mandarin), laced with vanilla and smoke. It’s a light amber, delicate, yet balanced Tennessee whiskey.
Folks in Lynchburg simply admire it for its “gentle” farewell.
Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Green Label Tennessee Whiskey (80 proof)
Like its well-known brother Black Label, Jack Daniel’s Green Label is an old-time charcoal-mellowed Tennessee Whiskey that’s aged at least four years.
But because of where it came of age–the difference in warehouse locations, the place it occupied in the warehouse and the weather from year to year–the whiskey matures slower than others resulting in a slightly lighter color. It’s still a delicious, well-balanced whiskey.
According to our friend and spirit writer Mr. John Hansell, it’s “straight forward and unpretentious.” It features “delicate notes of fruit, caramel and vanilla, with subtle charcoal and wood flavors.”
Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Tennessee Whiskey
A fine, hand-crafted single barrel whiskey with a robust flavor and Jack Daniel’s smooth charcoal-mellowed character. The world’s only charcoal-mellowed single barrel whiskey.
Proof: 94 proof
Color: Dark, amber whiskey
Crafting: Made with corn, rye, barley malt and iron-free water from our limestone Cave Spring. Twice distilled, charcoal mellowed, aged to desired maturity in new, charred, white oak barrels on the upper floors of selected warehouses. Selected and tasted by Master Distiller Jimmy Bedford and a small team of expert whiskey tasters.
Crafted by the Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg (pop.361), Tennessee.
Taste Profile: Bold, full-bodied whiskey with complex character and heightened flavors of toasted oak, vanilla and caramel. Due to the differences in the oak wood used for each barrel, bottles drawn from individual barrels will have subtle differences in nose, color and taste. Packaging: 750ml glass decanter bottle bearing Mr. Jack Daniel’s signature, with a wood and cork closure. Each bottle is hand-labeled with the rick number, barrel number and bottling date.
Cost: $35 – 45 for 750ml in U.S.
Size: 750ml glass decanter
Availability Introduced into the U.S. beginning February 1997, with limited availability. Also introduced in Germany as 90-proof in March 1997.
Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Black Label Tennessee Whiskey
Description: The world-famous Tennessee Whiskey with a smooth character and flavor, true to Mr. Jack Daniel’s original recipe. The nation’s best-selling premium distilled spirit brand.
Color: Medium amber whiskey
Crafting: Made with corn, rye, barley malt and iron-free water from our limestone Cave Spring. Twice distilled, charcoal mellowed, aged a minimum of 4 years in new, charred, white oak barrels on all levels of warehouses. Crafted by the Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg (pop. 361), Tennessee.
Taste Profile: Well-rounded and balanced whiskey with a pleasant mix of caramel, vanilla and wood notes highlighted by a slightly fruity aroma. Consistent taste from bottle to bottle.
Packaging: Mr. Jack’s traditional square bottle with widely recognized black and white label and black screw cap.
Cost: $16 – 20 for 750ml in U.S.
Size: All sizes
Availability: Throughout the U.S. and more than 110 other countries around the world.
Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Green Label Tennessee Whiskey
An old-time charcoal-mellowed Tennessee Whiskey that’s less mature than its well-known brother Black Label.
Proof: 80 proof
Color: Light amber whiskey
Made with corn, rye, barley malt and iron-free water from our limestone Cave Spring. Twice distilled, charcoal mellowed, aged a minimum of 4 years in new, charred, white oak barrels on all levels of warehouses. Crafted by the Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg (pop. 361), Tennessee.
Taste Profile: Less mature than Black Label. Well-balanced, straight-forward and unpretentious whiskey. Features delicate notes of fruit, caramel and vanilla, with subtle charcoal and wood flavors.
Packaging: Mr. Jack’s traditional square bottle with green, white and gold label and green screw cap.
Cost: $13 – 16 for 750ml in U.S.
Size: All sizes except 50ml
Availability: Distribution limited to the U.S.; not available in all states.
Gentleman Jack Rare Tennessee Whiskey
Description: The only whiskey in the world mellowed twice for ultimate smoothness.
Proof: 80 proof
Color: Light amber whiskey
Crafting: Gentleman Jack is made from a recipe that uses corn, rye, barley malt and iron-free water from our limestone Cave Spring. Twice distilled, mellowed twice (once before and once after aging), aged a minimum of 4 years on all levels of all warehouses. Crafted by the Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg (pop. 361), Tennessee.
Taste Profile: A balanced whiskey with well-developed traces of vanilla, caramel and almond. An exceptionally smooth Tennessee whiskey with a rich, rewarding taste and a gentle farewell.
Packaging: Fluted glass bottle (and cork closure) that is a replica of the decorative Gold Medal decanter Mr. Jack Daniel made to commemorate his Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey winning a gold medal at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri.
Cost: $20 – 25 for a 750ml in U.S. and Canada
Size: 50ml, 375ml, 750ml, 1L, 1.75L
Availability: Available in markets throughout the U.S., Canada, UK
Jack Daniel’s master distiller Jimmy Bedford
As master distiller for the Jack Daniel Distillery, Jimmy Bedford has what many consider the ultimate dream job. He’s the person with chief responsibility for making Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey. While he’s not a household name, his position is recognized around the world as one of the most enviable jobs. “It’s funny to see the reaction I get from people when I tell them what I do,” Bedford admits. “Most people find it hard to believe at first, but when they realize I’m telling the truth, most of them will ask me for my autograph.”
While many say, “the only constant in life is change,” nothing could be further from the truth in Lynchburg (pop. 361), Tenn., the county seat of Moore County and one of the few that remains “dry.” “The biggest constant in Lynchburg is Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey, and it’s my job to see that it never changes. If it does, I’m in trouble,” Bedford said. “I remind myself every day that there are millions of people the world over counting on me to do my job right.”
While his job involves overseeing the entire whiskey-making process of milling, yeasting, fermentation and distillation, Bedford admits one of the more important parts of his job is the tasting part. He regularly tastes new batches of Jack Daniel’s whiskey against old batches to ensure the whiskey remains consistent. However, when doing the taste testing, Bedford is not allowed to swallow. He has to spit it out. “People tell me I have more will power than anyone they’ve ever known.”
Only five others have held the position of master distiller at Jack Daniel’s during the 130-year history of the distillery. Jack Daniel held the position first, serving from 1866 to 1911. The other four were Jess Motlow (1911-1941), Lem Tolley (1941-1964), Jess Gamble (1964-1966) and Frank Bobo (1966-1988).
Despite having grown up on a farm only two miles from Lynchburg and having worked at the distillery for 20 years before assuming his current position, Bedford says he never envisioned that one day he would have one of the most important jobs in America. He admits it’s a pretty unique career path.
Officially registered by the U.S. government in 1866, Jack Daniel Distillery, Lem Motlow, proprietor, is the oldest registered distillery in the United States and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Based in Lynchburg, Tenn., the Jack Daniel Distillery is the maker of the world-famous Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey, Gentleman Jack Rare Tennessee Whiskey, Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Tennessee Whiskey and Jack Daniel’s Country Cocktails.
The Jack Daniel’s Distillery Tour
Lynchburg,Tenn. The Jack Daniel Distillery is located 70 miles southeast of Nashville. Take I-24 east to Route 55 (exit 111). Take Route 55 through Tullahoma to Lynchburg. Or, from I-65, take US 64 through Fayetteville to Lynchburg and Route 55 through Lynchburg to the distillery.
Registered in 1866 by Jack Daniel, the Jack Daniel Distillery is the oldest registered distillery in the United States and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Every year about 250,000 people tour the distillery and visit the small town of Lynchburg. In any two-month period, visitors from all 50 states and over 30 foreign countries will stop by to see where their favorite whiskey is made and to meet the people they have come to know through Jack Daniel’s advertising campaign.
TOUR SCHEDULE: see website, below
A barrelhouse holding more than 20,000 barrels of whiskey, each holding about 50 gallons and weighing more than 400 pounds
The rickyard where cords of hard sugar maple wood are burned to make the famous charcoal used to mellow the whiskey drop by drop.
The underground cave spring — the source of the iron-free water that runs at a constant 56 degrees.
The whiskey making process, including the whiskey stills, the fermenting tanks and the charcoal-mellowing vats.
Jack Daniel’s first office.
The White Rabbit Saloon, a reconstruction of a saloon Mr. Jack operated in Lynchburg before the advent of Prohibition.
Official Website: https://www.jackdaniels.com/