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Jack Daniel's


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The Jack Daniel's Distillery in Lynchberg, Tennessee is in a place called Moore County. It is a dry county and has been that way since the prohibition era in the United States (1910 to 1933). That means it is illegal to sell alcohol in the county where the most famous American whisky in the world is made. Jack Daniel's is produced in Lynchberg and tourists visit the distillery, but no-one can buy a drink.


Jack Daniel's


It is an experience-like-no-other to visit the town. Over 250,000 people arrive each year for one reason - to see the Jack Daniel's Distillery. On any given day the town square - a quaint, rather pretty but small town that could be described as quintessential mid-west American - is full of people, but no-one is drinking and there are no bars. So you will not see weathered rye farmers debating the quality of Ford's latest Mustang. However, it would not be unusual for you to find a sheet-metal worker from Detroit - who arrived after riding for three days on his Harley Davidson - eating a strawberry ice-cream on a rickety wooden chair outside a second-hand bookshop sympathising with a 70-year-old woman - also there to visit the Distillery - about the challenges of cooking a turkey dinner for a family of five.


Jasper Newton "Jack" Daniel

The Jack Daniel's Distillery was licensed 1866 and claims to be the oldest registered distillery in the US. The founder was one Jasper Newton "Jack" Daniel.


Jack Daniel, founder of the Jack Daniel's DistilleryJack Daniel learned how to brew whisky as a young boy. His teacher was a Lutheran minister and storekeeper, Reverend Dan Call. According to legend, an evangelist convinced Reverend Call to give up his distillery, so the God-fearing pastor sold his whisky-making business to his apprentice, Jack Daniel. It is thought Mr Daniel was only 13 at the time, although his exact date-of-birth is a matter of some debate.


Jack Daniel settled the business in Lynchberg, Tennessee on a piece of land that included a limestone cave and spring. The spring flows at a constant rate and temperature and is virtually iron-free. This is why Jack Daniel selected Lynchberg and it is the reason the Distillery is still there today.


Jack Daniel relentlessly promoted his whisky. It is thought to have been the first company in the world to use hot-air balloons as a method of advertising. Jack Daniel also started the practice, alive to this day, of producing commemorative bottles.


In 1904 Jack Daniel entered his whisky in a competition at the World's Fare. This was an important event at the time and pitted Jack Daniel's whisky against 20 others, some from renowned European distilleries. Jack Daniel won the Gold Medal which came with the title World's Best Whisky. This was in the days before television, phones or the internet so was incredibly important.


Jack Daniel never had children so he gave the Distillery to his favourite nephew, Lem Motlow. Jack Daniel died in 1911.



The state of Tennessee past prohibition into law in 1910 forcing Lem Motlow to move the Distillery to St Louis, Missouri, and Birmingham, Alabama. This was a bad period for the Jack Daniel's Distillery. It suffered production problems so very little of the whisky made in Missouri or Alabama was sold.


Barrels of whisky in a Jack Daniel's Distillery warehouseAccording to legend, even when it did sell bad luck prevailed. One story has it that Lem Motlow sold an entire warehouse in St Louis Missouri to a local businessman, but when the buyer arrived all he found were empty barrels. The whisky had been drained by mobsters working for Al Capone.


Lem Motlow continued to produce, promote and innovate despite the difficulties. In 1912 he launched a black label whisky to be sold alongside his uncle's green label. The black label was aged longer than the green and is the forefather of the famous No.7 we drink today.


With the country-wide introduction of prohibition in 1920 all production stopped. Lem Motlow kept the business alive by diversifying - he started selling mules, becoming the biggest mule-seller in the south-east of America at the time. Brewing whisky was never far from his mind though.


Prohibition ended in 1933, but not in Lynchberg. Lem Motlow, by then a state senator, had to fight to get the state-laws changed. He won and in 1938 production at the Jack Daniel's Distillery started again. Lem Motlow immediately began work on improving the whisky.


Jack Daniel's signIn 1944 Lem Motlow received what he viewed as the most important official US government document to apply to the Distillery. It concerned the word bourbon, which technically refers to a type of whisky made in Kentucky. The Jack Daniel's distillery was in Tennessee. The report from the government said: "Your charcoal mellowing process produces characteristics unknown to bourbons, ryes and other whiskeys and thus Jack Daniel's is officially designated as a Tennessee Whiskey." This allowed Lem Motlow to promote Jack Daniel's as a unique brand.


The Second World War brought on another Government-ban on production - the alcohol produced was used as fuel for torpedos - but the Distillery got back to full strength in 1947. This is the year Lem Motlow died.


The Distillery was first incorporated as Jack Daniel Distillery, Lem Motlow, Prop Inc, but in 1956 it was bought by Brown Forman Beverage Worldwide Inc, now known as the Brown-Forman Corporation. It still owns Jack Daniel's.


Jack Daniel's Master Distillers


1866 to 1911 - Jack Daniel

1911 to 1941 - Lem Motlow

1941 to 1964 - Lem Trolley

1964 to 1966 - Jess Gamble

1966 to 1989 - Frank Bobo

1988 to 2008 - Jimmy Bedford

2008 to present - Jeff Arnett


Related articles

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Making Jack Daniel's



Picture source

Barrels of whisky in a Jack Daniel's Distillery warehouse



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