Tour Americas Oldest Distillery

October 3rd, 2017 by Mariah

Even if you aren’t an avid whiskey drinker, you are most likely familiar with the name Jack Daniel’s. Jack is the bestselling whiskey in the world, a global behemoth that moved 12.5 million cases in the fiscal year ending in April.

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“What we would love to be able to do is carry people through their [whiskey] journey,” says master distiller Jeff Arnett. “Our target demographic is hard to figure out. We say, as a brand, it’s bikers to bankers. But from an age standpoint it’s LDA to DND — that’s legal drinking age to damn near dead.”

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Although Jack meets all the requirements for bourbon, it’s classified as a Tennessee whiskey. This means that it undergoes something called the Lincoln County Process, in which the new-make spirit is filtered through 10 feet of sugar maple charcoal before barreling. This “mellows” the whiskey, as Jack likes to put it. The filtration process does not add any flavor to the liquid; it softens it and removes some of the bitter elements. Or as locals like to say, charcoal mellowing “takes out the hog tracks” or adds an “extra blessing.” Without this step, Jack would be another bourbon.

Jack Daniel’s was established in 1866, making it the oldest registered distillery in America. The brand has garnered attention recently for revealing a previously unpublicized part of its history. It is now officially recognized that Jack Daniel was taught how to distill by Nathan “Nearest” Green, a slave at the farm where Daniel lived, which was owned by the Lutheran reverend Dan Call. After Daniel arrived, Nearest taught him the ins and outs of running a still and making whiskey. He subsequently worked as Daniel’s master distiller after emancipation until about 1881.

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In 1947, Jackie Gleason introduced Frank Sinatra to Jack Daniel’s, cementing its future status as an iconic whiskey. For the rest of his life, Sinatra would espouse the virtues of Jack — he was even buried with a bottle of Old No. 7. Over the years, the brand continued to grow in popularity, helped along by bands like the Rolling Stones bringing bottles of Jack onstage and characters seen drinking the whiskey onscreen in Hollywood films like Hud.

 Other expressions have joined Old No. 7 as part of the Jack Daniel’s lineup, including Gentleman Jack, Single Barrel and Sinatra Select, along with some flavored whiskies. This month, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Rye is rolling out, the brand’s first new mash bill (70% rye) since Prohibition. There have been a few single barrel and un-aged Jack Daniel’s Rye releases over the years, and this new release is a blend of barrels that will be priced at $27.99, making it more of a rye companion to the classic Old No. 7.