View Full Version : A Tour of Jack Daniel's

04-07-2006, 15:02
I revisited Jack Daniel's today with an ear toward learning instead of simply sightseeing, and found out a number of things I found interesting -- although, quite possibly, most of you already know them.
For example:

The JD stillhouse contains five 40-foot column stills. They do not, however -- and this may be why the rumor goes around occasionally that they only single-distill -- each contain a doubler. The single 'doubler' sits at the base of the five columns, which direct their flow to it. The guide indicated, however, that JD definitely is double-distilled.
The whiskey comes off the still (before the 'doubler') at 140 proof, and goes into the barrels at 115 proof. It comes out of the barrel anywhere from 115 to 130 proof.
The green-label Old #7 comes from the bottom floor(s) of each warehouse, where it does not mature in a short enough period of time to reach the maturity desired for black-label Old #7. That's why, too, there is so little of it and they can only distribute it narrowly. Single Barrel only comes from the 7th (top) floors.
Old #7, both black- and green-label, and Gentleman Jack are from 4-6 years old. Single Barrel is 6-8.
The five stills, when all operating at the same time, can put off 80 gallons of 140-proof whiskey a minute.
The heads and tails are removed twice (sort of) from some Jack Daniel's -- off the still, and when the charcoal is changed in a mellowing vat. The first and last batches to be put through each vat is redistilled. Each vat of charcoal is changed about every 6 months.
They soak the sugar-maple ricks with 140-proof whiskey as 'lighter fluid' in order to burn them.
There are 78 Jack Daniel's warehouses scattered in the hills around Lynchburg, containing 20-30 million gallons of barrel-proof whiskey -- or, about 9 years worth at the current proof and rate of sales.
the cave from which Cave Spring get its name burrows a mile back into the hill before it becomes too narrow to be further explored. The water exits the cave (see below) at 56 degrees F year-round, and is used as is during fermentation. Demineralized water is used to lower the whiskey from barrel- to bottle proof.
Jack Daniel's propagates its yeast naturally (not from powdered yeast) onsite.
Other miscellania: The Lem Motlow brand was made from 1939 to 1992 (I thought it ended much earlier); the safe Jack Daniel kicked which indirectly led to his death several years later, still sits in his old office, which is part of the tour; a largely unknown Daniel hand-carried his whiskey by train to the 1904 World's Fair competition in St. Louis, where it was judged 'best' of 20 submitted; there is no on-site gift shop, but nearly all of downtown Lynchburg -- just two blocks away -- carries JD items (a Jimmy Bedford-signed, finished barrel is $120).

Mouth of Cave Spring, left, and a maple-charcoal mellowing vat, right (viewed from the top)

04-07-2006, 15:19
Tim, this is really interesting stuff. Whats the deal with him kicking a safe though?

04-07-2006, 16:25
Tim, this is really interesting stuff. Whats the deal with him kicking a safe though?

Mr. Jack, as he was referred to, tried unsuccessfully several times one morning (in 1905 or '06, I'd have to look it up) to open his office safe, lost his temper and kicked it, breaking his toe. It became infected, and eventually was amputated, but too late. Gangrene spread, and he later had his leg removed, first to the knee, then higher still. Finally, in 1911, the infection became systemic blood poisoning, and killed him.
The lethal appliance (the door reportedly was repainted for each new 'proprietor')

04-07-2006, 16:36
That's great data, Tim, many thanks for taking the time to elicit this information.

Now we know: Jack Daniels IS doubled.

I wonder about Silver Select, do you think it is a special version of the top floor whiskey?


04-07-2006, 16:42
I was wondering the same thing and I still haven't tried the stuff.

04-07-2006, 16:53
That's great data, Tim, many thanks for taking the time to elicit this information.

Now we know: Jack Daniels IS doubled.

I wonder about Silver Select, do you think it is a special version of the top floor whiskey?


Coincidentally, Gary, we watched them bottle the last couple of cases of a Single Barrel, and they immediately broke out the glass and boxes for Silver Select as we were standing there today. They were about to bottle it.
So, of course, the question was asked: "What's the difference?" Apparently, the only difference is the proof -- Silver Select, also single-barrel, is bottled at 100.

04-07-2006, 17:15
That's great Tim, many thanks. It means that proof makes a difference to the taste of JD. Maybe the extra ethanol "dilutes" the candy-like taste.

This may explain too why I like HH in higher proof versions (e.g. Fighting Cock), the eucalyptus-like scents (talk about Cab analogies) are dampened yet oddly enhanced by the high proof background, I find.


04-08-2006, 06:59
Thanks Tim for the info. Post more pictures if you have them! I have wanted to get down there and see JD for a long time. Maybe this summer.

04-08-2006, 10:27

I must thank you for a very informative post. I did know some but there were many new things to learn. Biggest one of cause the fact that JD is double distilled. There did one of my illusions fly away. Another is the fact that silver select is the same whiskey as the normal SB. To be honest I could have taken poison for the opposite.


04-08-2006, 20:05
Keep in mind that, being single-barrels, there are going to be some differences between any two barrels, whether JD Single Barrel or Silver Select, even besides proof. No two barrels will be exactly alike. To say that they are the 'same', to me, just indicates that the selection process is the same. Whiskeys from two different barrels, whether within or across the two labels/proofs, may be either similar or remarkably different.

04-08-2006, 20:56
...Post more pictures if you have them!..

Well, okay, Jeff -- but let me apologize in advance for the limited scope and quality of these. In the latter case, I've just never bought a more-than-serviceable digital camera, and in the former instance, the most interesting parts of the distillery -- where whiskey was actually being made -- were off-limits to flash photography.

The interesting thing here is not the tour guide, Chris -- who answered, "I don't know." in a couple of instances, which made the answers he did provide seem more reliable -- but the stacked ricks of sugar maple in the background. The 4"X4"X4' 'planks' are stacked 4'X4'X6' and burned in the formation in which they appear here, under a hood which first soaks them in 140-proof whiskey as 'lighter fluid'.

This is the computerized control room for the 5-column stillhouse.

This display represents a single barrel, with the original barrel and the 240 or so bottles that come from it after 6-8 years of aging. This particular one shows 2001 as a bottling date.

This is an example of a barrel stave -- charring still adhering to the reverse -- I purchased ($20) at the barrel shop in nearby Lynchburg, the town of which serves as the 'gift shop' for the distillery. The labels are of historical Jack Daniel's brands. Most interesting to me is the middle one, "Belle of Lincoln", a bottle of which goes for huge dollars when offered for sale. Jack Daniel, though never married, was considered a ladies' man, and many identities have been offered as the "Belle of Lincoln" (County). The simplest and probably accurate one is his step-sister, Belle, for whom he provided a home through much of her childhood.

Here are the whiskey 'safes' -- all padlocked -- at the top of the middle three of five 40-foot column stills producing at Jack Daniel's.

04-09-2006, 04:58
The single barrel display is great - it really makes it easy to see the actual end results from one barrel.

Thanks for the pictures.

04-09-2006, 11:28
Thanks for this very informative and interesting thread. This is a great plus to the online distillery tour on their website, especially for me, becouse I had to be contended with the low-band-width version (I'll switch to DSL this summer). Besides, this is from the eyes of a visitor, to the eyes of a very far away visitor, who is not much likely to be there in the short run :)

04-10-2006, 08:54
Good stuff Tim!

Lots I didn't know in your original points.

Great pics - nice to see the open box of Jack in the control room - bet a free bottle a night would make the nightshift fly by!

04-11-2006, 09:23
Thanks Tim, great thread.
How about we pass a hat around to buy you a better camera and send you off to all the other distilleries we can find. The amount we'd learn from you would be phenomenal.:bowdown:

The bar has been set guys, we need reviews of other distillerys now, who's next.

04-17-2006, 19:38
I took the JD distillery tour last April and while the tour was great, the guide was a wise guy. Someone in the group said something to the effect that JD was bourbon. The tour guide said, around here, we don't use the word for that inferior stuff from up north. I immediately raised my hand and asked him about Old Forrester and Woodford Reserve. Somebody else in the group asked me what I meant. I told them that not only were they brands of Kentucky bourbon, they were brands produced at distilleries owned by Brown Forman, parent of Jack Daniels. I received a dirty look from that guy like I don't ever remember getting in my 40+ years on this earth. This guy was serious and totally out of bounds. I used to drink JD regularly until they dropped it down to 80 proof. Now, it is a last resort brand if nothing else worth drinking is available. Contrary to what this individual might be thinking, there are any number of brands of bourbon that completely blow JD out of the water. The more I read about JD, the more I consider it to be a trumped up, mumbo jumbo brand. It didn't start out that way, the marketers at Brown Forman allowed it to become that way. Long live Kentucky and its native drink!


04-17-2006, 21:33

16 gallons of gasoline (enough to get me to Lynchburg): $44.80
Distillery Tour: $0
The look on a public relations flack's face when you call him on his BS: Priceless.