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.
- 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).
Cave Spring2.JPEGCharcoal vat.JPEG
Mouth of Cave Spring, left, and a maple-charcoal mellowing vat, right (viewed from the top)