It was on a Tuesday that we decided to visit Jack Daniels Distillery. Jack Daniels, in case you have never heard of him, was a whiskey maker back in the day. He learned his skill when he left home while still a child and was put in the care of a preacher who ran a still on the side. He taught Jack everything he knew about whiskey making.
The church flock discovered the preacher’s sideline and did not approve, to put it mildly. They gave him a choice, give up whiskey making or give up preaching. Luckily for Jack, the preacher chose the church, and Jack bought his whiskey business as a teenager.
The whiskey business flourished in the hills of Tennessee, survived Prohibition, and is now one of the largest distilleries in the world. All Jack Daniels whiskey is made in the small town of Lynchburg, Tennessee, and distributed worldwide.
Now, less you think otherwise, I must admit that I am not a whiskey drinker. Not to worry, one can also take a dry tour. “Why would anyone who is not interested in drinking whiskey want to tour a distillery?” you may wonder. Actually, we were looking for things to do while my sister was visiting from out of town, and the distillery is a popular tourist attraction.
We had a choice of different tours of the facility, prices depending on how many different whiskeys you were interested in tasting. I might have indulged, however, the premium tours were longer and involved much more walking. My sister cannot get around too well, and I’m no sprinter myself. So we had to select the modified tour which was shorter, had fewer stairs to climb, and was also dry. So much for temptation.
We were first shown the building where charcoal is made for filtering and mellowing the whiskey. Different grains are mixed and allowed to ferment. I don’t know the exact combination of grains, but it doesn’t matter anyhow unless you are planning to run off a batch of your own. The fermented whiskey is distilled and drips out completely clear — white lightening. The amber color comes from aging it in wooden barrels.
The distillery makes their own barrels and they are used only once. We saw the barrel house where whiskey is stored to age. The barrel house had racks and rows of aging whiskey stacked to the roof. A whiskey master draws off a taste of each whiskey barrel and knows when it is ready to bottle.
The bottling house was automated and quite interesting. Bottles were fed into a machine, filled, and went down a conveyer belt to be inspected. It reminded me of an “I Love Lucy” show where Lucy and Ethyl were working in a candy factory. I could imagine Lucy drinking bottles, shoving extra bottles in her blouse, and hiding them in her pants. The lady inspector at Jack Daniels, however, simple sat staring at the bottles. I don’t know what she was looking for or how she stayed awake.
We saw the cave where the limestone spring water used to make Jack Daniels comes from. It supposedly is what makes Jack Daniels whiskey so good. We then were rushed through the tasting room without a whiff. As I said, we showed great restraint and did not partake. However, they did serve us a sample of Jack Daniels lemonade, which was delicious. While we were enjoying our lemonade, though, it started pouring rain outside, so we sat on the visitor center’s porch and rocked until the shower was over.
And that’s the story of how we spent the day at a whiskey distillery and stayed completely sober. You can believe it or not.