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HomeGrown: Jack Daniel's Distillery

6:37 PM, Dec 4, 2012   |    comments
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With its amber color and black label, Old Number 7 has put this tiny Tennessee town on the map.

"Every drop of Jack Daniel's is made in Lynchburg- this very small, dry town where you're not even allowed to buy a drink of Jack Daniel's," says Jeff Arnett, Master Distiller.

Every year, a quarter of a million people visit Jack Daniel's Distillery to witness the major whiskey making operation first hand.

"We have 80 warehouses with about 1.9 million barrels in storage."

The whiskey's spirited story dates back 146 years to a man whose name is now famous.

"This was, of course, Jack's hometown."

At an early age, Jack Daniel lost both of his parents. A Lutheran minister took him in.

"About seven or eight, he took up an interest in making whiskey," says Jesse James, a tour guide, "He and the minister made whiskey together."

In 1866, Jack took over the whiskey business at age 16.

"This is Jack's old office. He built this shortly after he got the cave spring. It's really the life blood of the whole Jack Daniel's Distillery."

It's made of limestone which naturally filters iron from the water.

"It's never failed us in all these years."

They can't say the same for Jack's old safe.

"The safe is what killed Jack Daniel."

In 1911, he kicked it after he couldn't remember the combination.

"And, he actually died of a result of an injury he got kicking this safe."

Jack was 61 years old. His nephew took over the distillery after prohibition.

"The real mastery of Jack Daniel's lies in the employees here at the distillery," says Arnett.

Many are second and third generation. Some are even relatives of the late Jack Daniel himself.

"My great grandmother was Jack Daniel's sister," says Lynne Tolley, Miss Mary Bobo's Proprietress. "So, it is fun being related to someone that everybody in the world has heard of."

Tolley runs Miss Mary Bobo's for the distillery.

"Everyday we have southern regional food."

In Jack Daniel's day, it was a boarding house and his favorite lunch spot.

"Everyday we put a little bit of Uncle Jack's product in something."

And still today, the company makes the whiskey just like Jack did beginning with charcoal. It's made from sugar maple stacks
and fueled by 140 proof whiskey.

In copper stills, mash made of corn, rye, malted barley and the spring's water is distilled to a clear 135 proof spirit.

The next step, charcoal mellowing.

"We drip every drop of our whiskey, drop by drop, through 10 feet of charcoal which filters out a lot of the impurities that are left behind from the distillation process," says James. "That's what uniquely makes Jack Daniel's a Tennessee whiskey."

Otherwise, it would be a bourbon. Finally, the whiskey ages in handcrafted barrels.

"The whiskey gets all of its color and most of its flavor from the barrel."

Each batch living up to Jack Daniel's old standard.

"He always said, 'Everyday you make it, make it the best you can,'" says Arnett.

Jack Daniel's born and bottled in Lynchburg.

"I'm sure if Jack Daniel were alive today and knew that his whiskey was being drunk in Bosnia, he would fall over in a faint," says Tolley.

HomeGrown in Tennessee.

Today Jack Daniel's Distillery sells four different brands. It's the oldest registered distillery in the country and a national historic site.

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