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Jack Daniel

Jasper Newton "Jack" Daniel was an American entrepreneur who founded the Jack Daniel's Distillery. He led a fascinating life, some of it shrouded in mystery, some steeped in legend. His legacy is not in dispute though: he created one of the most famous whiskies in the world.

 

Jack Daniel, founder of Jack Daniel's Distillery

Mystery surrounds even a simple fact like Jack Daniel's date-of-birth. No one really knows when he was born as a fire destroyed the official records and his headstone has dates which conflict with that of his mothers. The best guess is 5 September 1846.

Jack Daniel was born into a family of 13. His father and mother - Calaway Daniel and Lucinda Cook - were of Welsh and Scottish descent. His mother died when Jack was five months old.

By the age of seven Jack was living with businessman and Lutheran minister, Reverend Dan Call. Reverend Call and his wife owned a general store and a whisky still. By all accounts Jack picked up the whisky-making business very quickly because by the age of just 10, Reverend Call made him a partner in the still. Jack invested in and expanded the business by buying a wagon and mules to deliver whisky to other stores.

When Jack was 13, Reverend Call turned his back on whisky-making after an evangelist turned him against alcohol. Jack bought the business and eventually located his still at a place known as Cave Spring Hollow in Lynchberg, Tennessee. The Jack Daniel's Distillery remains there to this day.

Jack selected Lynchberg because of the water in the spring, which flows at a constant rate and at a constant temperature. It is also virtually iron-free. The location was also close to reliable railway transportation. Jack registered the business with the US government in 1862 making it the oldest registered distillery in the country.

As well as being a gifted whisky-maker, Jack Daniel was also an excellent businessman who marketed his whiskies tirelessly and uncompromisingly. He put the whisky into square bottles - still used today - even though round ones were easier to pack. And he demanded quality.

This was rewarded in 1904 at the World's Fair, held in St Louis. Jack Daniel's Old Time No.7 whisky won the gold medal and was named best whisky in the world.

Jack stepped aside from day-to-day work at the Distillery in 1907, handing over the reigns to his nephew, Lem Motlow. Lem would become the second master distiller at Jack Daniel's. Jack Daniel was the first in a list that only has seven names on it - Jeff Arnett currently has the title.

The safe that killed Jack DanielJack Daniel, who never married and did not have any children, died on 10 October 1911. The legend of his death is equal to others that surround his life. He died from blood poisoning, said to have originated in his toe. According to the story, Jack had trouble remembering the combination to his safe (pictured left, as it is today). One morning in frustration he kicked it, injuring his toe. He did not get it treated so it became gangrenous and eventually killed him.

Jack Daniel is buried at Lynchburg cemetery. His motto for whisky-making is still used at the Jack Daniel's Distillery today: "Every day we make it, we'll make it the best we can."

 

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