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7 Surprising Facts from the Jack Daniel Distillery

SmarterTravel

Whether you’re a whiskey lover or a history buff, you’ll find plenty to savor at the Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. The famous distillery, located in a small town near Nashville, offers tours packed with gripping history, cool facts, and a behind-the-scenes look at the whiskey-making process. Here are seven surprising facts we learned on the tour.

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The Distillery is Located in a Dry Town

The distillery has been a key part of the town of Lynchburg, Tennessee since the mid 1800s. But Lynchburg is located in Moore County, which has been dry since Tennessee enacted prohibition laws in 1910. While prohibition ended in 1933, Moore County has yet to pass a countywide “local option” referendum to allow the sale of alcohol (all Tennessee counties are dry by default unless this referendum passes). You can still purchase a commemorative product under a state law that allows the distillery to sell its bottles at the White Rabbit Bottle Shop.

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Until recently you could not do a sampling tour at the distillery, but recent laws have changed that. Sampling tours are just under two hours, cost $12 (plus tax), and include samples of four whiskeys (you must be 21 or older for this tour). The general distillery tour is just over an hour and is free, with tours running from 9am to 4:30 pm seven days a week.

Other Facts: The distillery on the National Register of Historic Places and is the oldest registered distillery in the United States.

The town of Lynchburg is small (about 600 people) and embraces the distillery in its downtown (about two blocks from the distillery) with local souvenir shops and even a chocolate shop and ice cream store that use Jack’s product—just because they can’t sell it doesn’t mean they don’t drink it.

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The Secret Is in the Water

The limestone cave that Jack used as the original water source is still where the distillery gets its water from today. The limestone removes iron from the water, making it ideal for distilling.

Other Facts: The distillery is very environmentally friendly with less than one percent impact on the environment currently and a goal of getting to zero percent in the next few years.

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Every Bourbon Is a Whiskey, But Not Every Whiskey Is a Bourbon

Whiskey, bourbon, and scotch all start out using the same sour mash, but charcoal mellowing is what makes a Tennessee whiskey a whiskey. This is often referred to as the Lincoln County Process.

The distillery makes its own charcoal onsite during the weekdays by burning ricks of sugar maple wood. It’s then ground and placed in 14-foot barrels, then the whiskey is filtered through the charcoal to remove some of the grainy flavor.

Other Facts: Post-mellowing, the charcoal is then sold in bags and can be purchased for smoking purposes. There has never been a fire at the distillery, but the brand has its own fire brigade just in case.

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There Are a Million Gallons of Whiskey in One Warehouse

Each warehouse holds one million gallons of whiskey, and there are 87 warehouses at the distillery, with two to three more being built every year—that’s close to a billion gallons of whiskey onsite.

Other Facts: The whiskey will then sit in a barrel for four to seven years, after which a master taster will determine if it’s ready. The warehouses are not temperature controlled since the Jack Daniel brand believes in letting nature take its course on the taste.

For a pretty penny, you can also purchase your own barrel of whiskey that will get you around 240 bottles of Jack. You get to taste from three barrels and pick your favorite. You’ll also get your name on a plaque put on the wall in a room in the bottling building.

The distillery has its own cooperage, and after serving its purpose, every barrel is reused or repurposed. Some are sent to Scotland for the production of Scotch whiskey, others are used for the production of Tabasco sauce, and some are sold to Mount Gary Rum Company. You can also buy a used barrel in the town’s gift shop.

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Jack Wasn’t Mr. Daniel’s Real Name

Jack Daniel’s real name was Jasper Newton Daniel, but his nickname was Jack, and it stuck with him. His birthday is also unknown since there are no birth records.

Other Facts: Jack was one of 10 siblings and ran away at age seven after losing both his mother (she died soon after his birth) and father (who remarried and then died in the Civil War), and because he hated his stepmother. He was taken in by a local minister and moonshine distiller where he learned the trade. He then bought the still (a piece of equipment used to make whiskey) from the minister for $25 when he was just 16 and started the business on the current distillery grounds.

He never married or had children, so he passed the distillery down to his two nephews. Lem Motlow bought out his cousin and then passed it down to his children. Motlow’s four children sold the distillery to the Brown-Forman Corporation in 1956.

Jack Was Killed by His Own Safe

Jack died from blood poisoning in 1911 after developing an infection in his toe, which he had broken from kicking his safe in frustration. He then lost his leg after developing gangrene, the disease that eventually took his life a few years later.

Other Facts: Two metal chairs sit next to his grave. The seats were rumored to host the many ladies he had in his life as they mourned his death.

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No One Knows the Real Story Behind ‘No.7’

There are numerous variations on where the number came from—some say it was his lucky number (he was a gambler), while others say it was the registration number assigned to him by the government. Other theories: he had seven girlfriends or it was the number of the train that carried his barrels for distribution.

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Ashley Rossi traveled to Nashville courtesy of Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. Follow all of her adventures (big and small) on Instagram and Twitter.

(Photos: Ashley Rossi)

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