One of the most favorite travel destinations in the south-central Tennessee is the Jack Daniel’s distillery, situated in the small town of Lynchburg. It is a 4 hr 11 min drive (236.2 mi) via I-40 from Memphis, Tennessee. (Excellent week-end get-away!) The drive is refreshing, through the green pastures with an uninterrupted view of the barns, alluring old-fashioned farm-houses, horses and cows, corn fields and occasionally deer! (Depending on which season you chose for travelling.)
Lynchburg, is an ideal South American town, lost in its old world charm, where nothing much has changed over the years. With a population of just 6,336 people, it is a small rustic town reminding us of its glorious old days of mule trading, cotton ginning and confederates! With just one ATM, one district school and a few stores, Lynchburg boasts of being the home ground for one of the best whiskeys in the world! (Even though the town is located in a DRY COUNTY! Crazy huh?)
Upon arriving at the Visitor Center (where your tour will begin and also where you can buy tour tickets), you’ll find yourself amidst the wonders of Jack Daniel’s history and nitty-gritties of whiskey manufacturing. It’s like a little “whiskey museum” where you can browse around and enhance your whiskey manufacturing expertise. (Never too late to dream!) There are five kinds of tours in offering, depending upon your budget, time constraint and craziness levels! Ranging from DRY COUNTY DISTILLERY TOUR for 1 hr 11 min, which is worth $14.00 Adult (18 +) $7.00 Youth (10-17) and free to children (UNDER 10) to TASTE OF LYNCHBURG TOUR for 3 hr, which is worth $75.00. (Know more, here.)
We booked ourselves the ANGEL’S SHARE TOUR – a guided tour of the Jack Daniel’s distillery followed by a tasting of five premium Jack Daniel’s whiskeys – Old No.7 Tennessee Whiskey, Gentleman Jack, Single Barrel, Tennessee Fire and Tennessee Honey! (Remember, you have to be 21 years or older to take the tour with sampling benefits.)
Note – There are no restrooms available inside the manufacturing facility. (Hence, do the needful before you start your tour!)
The intriguing journey starts with a group photo (where you say “whiskey” instead of “cheese!”) A short bus ride takes us to the facility to experience the magic of manufacturing the world’s finest American whiskey in person!
First Stop – Is the Rickyard, where maple wood is received in organized palates and is burned in a controlled fire to produce the charcoal which is subsequently used to filter the whiskey. Cruising through the facility, passing by antique fire engines, you reach the next stop – The Cave Spring. It is Lynchburg’s greatest natural lime stone spring water resource and it is from here the magically delicious Jack Daniel’s water comes from, iron free and at constant 56 degrees! (One of the main reasons as to why the distillery still remains at this site).
You now move on to Jack Daniel’s Original Office, where you will learn about the history of Jack Daniel’s company, its ideologies and operations. The office is adorned with black and white pictures dated back to 19th and 20th century, showcasing how the business went down then. Also placed there, is the famous Safe (that killed Jack Daniel!) – The story is that Jack Daniels forgot the combination to the safe and in his frustration, kicked the safe breaking his toe. But as stubborn as he was, he did not seek any medical attention. Eventually it became infected and he died of blood poisoning.
The next stop is the Milling Plant, where three grains (corn, barley, rye) are combined in a ratio that Mr. Daniel’s developed originally (long-long time back!) It is here that the grain combination is ground, mixed with water from the nearby spring, and some previous fermented stillage is added to begin the fermentation process anew. This mixture is known as “mash” or “sour mash” and it is subsequently cooked in the Fermentation Tanks. (The leftover “grain mash” is sold to the farmers for livestock fodder, breeding some of the most happiest cows in the World!)
Highlight – You get to peep in the huge (may be a million of gallons) bad-smelling goo (fermentation) tanks! Even though, it smelled as bad as it sounded, the experience was exhilarating!
Next up is the room where whiskey charcoal is Mellowed. The 140 proof ‘moonshine’ is now filtered through 10-foot stacks of sugar maple charcoal, drop by drop. This extra step, also known as the Lincoln County Process (aka The Extra Blessing), removes the impurities and the taste of corn from the whiskey and supposedly is responsible for the smokey odor and taste that JD is famous for! (This is where you realize that patience is a virtue not for the fainthearted!)
After this you are shown a video of how their American White Oak Whiskey Barrels are made. Within these barrels the whiskey is allowed to mature for at least four years “until it’s ready” by taste. The period of maturity varies, depending on where the barrel is located in the large storage facility (those closer to the ceiling tend to be ready more quickly than those near the floor – Thanks to Mother Nature and Father Time!). These barrels impart most of the flavor and all of the color to the whiskey (from originally being just plain colorless to the beautiful amber!) Just so you know, the barrels are not reused by Jack Daniel’s again. They are either sold to distilleries in Scotland or Ireland or are used as decorative items – pens, bars, bar stools, planters, tables etc..
Fact – Jack Daniel’s is the only distillery in the world that makes their own barrels! Each barrel is hand crafted meticulously and interestingly no glue or nails are used to bind them up.(Epitome of The Great American craftsmanship!)
Finally, you are at the Bottling Area, where is the whiskey is subsequently bottle, labelled and packed.
In the words of the company – “Crafting something that endures for over 150 years takes time and character. You’ll find plenty of both in the people and history that make Jack Daniel’s.”
Next up is the Barrel House and Whiskey Tasting. In here you’ll sample five kinds of Jack Daniel’s whiskey – Old No.7 Tennessee Whiskey, Gentleman Jack, Single Barrel, Tennessee Fire and Tennessee Honey. (Ah, Heaven!) Tasting cards for taking down notes and a handful examples of whiskey variations (coupled with whiskey jokes) by your tour guide gets this mind-blowing tour to an interesting break.
Last stop is the White Rabbit Bottle Shop. Here you can pick up any Jack Daniel’s whiskey that you like. The collection is colossal! The bottles purchased, can even be engraved with a personalized message. (To make memories last for ever, or, for as long as you hold on to your drinking urges!) Also, remember the initial “say whiskey” picture that we took earlier – is up for grabs here. (Sadly, saying whiskey didn’t to justice to my good looks!)
Fun Fact – If you are the rich kinds, you can also purchase your own barrel of whiskey that will get you around 240 bottles of Jack! You can pick your favorite from the three barrels that you “test tasted” from. Also, you get your name on a plaque put on the wall in a room in the bottling building. (Show off!)
Jack Daniel’s merchandise can be purchased from the Jack Daniel’s Distillery’s Official Gift Shop, which is two blocks away from the main distillery, in the Lynchburg town square. The Hardware Store, as it is called, is where you’ll find Jack Daniel’s merchandise, T-shirts, Bar and bar stools, Shot glasses, Bar accessories and various other items.
The entire tour is an impressive and exciting experience! Hats off to the wonderful guides and the people at Jack Daniel’s Distillery who made this experience of ours, both delightful and enjoyable. Never knew that there’ll be so much to see and learn. (Southern American hospitality at its best!) This place is a must-visit for anyone with an appreciation for the World’s No 1 American Whiskey and all things Southern. From just “plain whiskey drinkers” to “enriched whiskey connoisseurs”, the Jack Daniel’s Distillery Tour was indeed an experience to cherish and treasure! The world comes to Lynchburg! So should you!
Where To Eat– The town is just 5 minutes walk from the distillery and worth your time. A few of the most famous places to eat are – Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House, Barrel House BBQ, Lynchburg Fix’ns, The Bar-B-Que Caboose Cafe and Southern Perks. The food in Lynchburg is yummylicious and you have the huge Southern themed menu to chose from. You may also WANT to get your hands on snacks infused with JD. (Whiskey Ice-creams and Whiskey fudge! Yum!)
Where To Stay – Read here (Just in case, you’ll like to stay in the alluring town for more than a day)
What To Take Back Home – Souvenir engraved bottles, Jack Daniel’s merchandise, a dash of Southern hospitality and the special JD Recipes straight from the makers themselves!
Here’s to travelling, discovering new places, witnessing history and scaling new heights! Cheers!