A DROP OF WHISKEY COULDN’T ASK FOR A BETTER START
Lynchburg, Tennessee's greatest natural resource is by far Cave Spring Hollow. It draws nearly 800 gallons of water from below the Earth’s surface every minute and it is lifeline of the Jack Daniels whiskey. The water that comes from the spring emerges a cool, crisp 56-degrees year round. Jasper Newton "Jack" Daniel purchased the hollow and its surrounding land in 1884 for $2,148 with an inheritance he received from his father's estate. At that time that was considered a small fortune and then some and is an amount most people would have been hesitant to part with but Jack saw a great opportunity.
So what did Jack see in the water that made the cave spring such a necessity? Absolutely nothing. As in no sediment. No impurities. Just clean, crisp, pure, spring water. He saw it as natural as you can get. The cave’s layers of limestone naturally impart a variety of minerals to the water which contribute to the character of Jack Daniel’s. More importantly, the limestone also removes iron from the water. Iron definitely has its uses, but it’s absolutely horrible if you’re making whiskey. The distillery even claims that every bottle of Jack Daniel’s sold around the world is still made with the water from this source. Considering all the whiskey that’s has come from Jack’s $2,148 investment, I'd say he received a pretty good return.
Founded in 1866, the Jack Daniel’s Distillery is the oldest registered distillery in the nation and is famous for its sour mash whiskey. The charcoal mellowing process has been in use there for more than 100 years. Although the details of Jack's birth remain obscure, it is believed that Jasper “Jack” Newton Daniel was born five miles from what is now Jack Daniel's Hollow around 1849. While his exact day of birth is unknown, the distillery celebrate his birthday the entire month of September each year.
Jack was one of 13 children fathered by Calaway Daniel and was the youngest of his mother’s 10 children. Jack’s father later died in the Civil War and he despised his step mother so as a result he ran away from his home and was essentially orphaned at a young age. It was then, as a teenager, he began working for Dan Call, who ran a distillery at Louse Creek. It was there that Jack learned the art of whiskey making from a slave by the name of Nearis Green. After a few short years, Jack became Call's full partner, soon buying him out and making his own whiskey.
Jack officially established the very first registered distillery within the United States in 1866. According to legend there are many reasons why it was called Old No. 7. Such legends include:
“In Jack’s first distiller's competition he was assigned number 7 as an entrant”
“A shipment marked No. 7 was lost. The first part of it sold so quickly that the sellers requested more of the No. 7. When JD found the lost portion of the shipment, they stamped it Old No. 7 to make sure the customers knew it was a part of the original number 7 shipment and not a new brew”
“Some say that Jack Daniel had 7 girlfriends, or that the way he wrote his “J” looked like a 7”
“Some say he chose the number 7 simply because it’s lucky”
According to Jack’s biographer, the origin of the Old No. 7 brand name was the number assigned to the Daniel’s Distillery for government registration. He was forced to change the registration number when the federal government redrew the district and he became Number 16 in district 5 instead of No. 7 in district 4. Regardless, Jack continued to use his original number as a brand name since his brand reputation had already been established.
The mash for Jack Daniel's is made from corn, rye and malted barley, and is distilled in copper stills. It is then filtered through 10-foot stacks of sugar maple charcoal. The company refers to this filtering step as "mellowing". This extra step, which is also known as the Lincoln County Process, removes the impurities and the taste of corn. The company states this extra step makes the product different from bourbon. However, Tennessee whiskey is required to be "straight Bourbon Whiskey" under terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement. After the filtering, the whiskey is stored in newly handcrafted oak barrels, which give the whiskey its color and most of its flavor. A distinctive aspect of the filtering process is that the Jack Daniel's brand grinds its charcoal before using it for filtering.
The product label mentions that it is a "sour mash" whiskey, which means that when the mash is prepared, some of the wet solids from a previously used batch are mixed in to help make the fermentation process operate more consistently. This is common practice in American whiskey production.
Jacks whiskey experienced a surge in popularity after they received their first gold medal in 1904 at the World’s Fair in St Louis Missouri, which is the first of 7 medals they have been awarded. However at home in Tennessee his local reputation was suffering as the temperance movement was gaining strength.
A few years later in 1906, Jack broke his toe. The tale goes that Jack injured it one early morning at work by kicking his safe in anger when he could not get it open. It is said that this caused infections which later took his life in 1911. Jack never married and did not have any children so in 1907, due to failing health, Jack gave the distillery to two of his nephews, one of which was Lemuel Motlow. Lem soon bought out the other nephew and went on to operate the distillery for about 40’s years, including some of its greatest challenges; prohibition which began in 1910 and the great depression in the 30’s.
Because of the prohibition in Tennessee, the company began distilling operations in St Louis, Missouri, and Birmingham, Alabama, though none of the production from these locations was ever sold due to quality problems. The Alabama operation was halted following a similar statewide prohibition law in that state, and the St. Louis operation was halted by the onset of nationwide prohibition following passage of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1920.
In 1933 the passage of the Twenty-first Amendment repealed prohibition at the federal level, however state prohibition laws (including Tennessee's) remained in effect, thus preventing the Lynchburg distillery from reopening. Motlow, who had become a Tennessee state senator, led efforts to repeal these laws, allowing production to restart in 1938.
In 1941, Lem Tolley who is Jack’s grand nephew, took over as Master Distiller. He commissioned a life size statue of Jack to be erected in front of the cave spring. However the very next year in 1942, the distillery was forced to cease operations once again when the US Government banned the manufacturer of whiskey due to World War II. It wasn’t until 1947 that Motlow resumed production and also passed away that same year. In his last will & testament he left the distillery to his children: Robert, Reagor, Dan, Conner and Mary.
In 1956, the Motlow family sold the distillery to the Brown Forman Corporation who is based out of Louisville, Kentucky for $18,000,000. Sales for the Brown Forman Corporation that year with all of its subsidiaries were $97,387,577, of which $10,047,908 were the fiscal year sales of Jack Daniels. Some other interesting facts: When Brown Forman acquired the distillery, the assets were written up to their fair market value and of the total $8.9 million in tangible assets, the portion pertaining to barreled whiskey inventory was approximately $8.3 million. The Brown Forman Corporation also paid $51,696,026 in Federal Taxes that year and made a net income of only $2,529,664. In 1957 the Federal Tax rate per gallon of whiskey was $10.50 a gallon, today it is around $13.50 per gallon.
After Brown Forman purchases Jack Daniels in 1956, the Distillery’s first National Sales Manager, Winton Smith had an idea to create the Tennessee Squire Association. Following World War II, the demand for Jack Daniel’s Whiskey was higher than production could keep up with and Smith was looking for a way to keep customers around the country happy while supplies were low. He decided that loyal fans who had written the Distillery saying they could not get any Jack Daniel’s Whiskey would instead receive a plot of land, a square inch of unrecorded property on the Distillery’s grounds. This would make them part owners, or Squires.
In 1964, Jess Gamble became the first master distiller from outside of Jack’s family. He helped make the brand iconic and the black and white ad campaign famous.
In 1966, Frank Bobo oversees the transformation from a southern sippin whiskey into a whiskey recognized around the world. Under his guidance, Old No. 7 becomes as synonymous with rock and roll as the electric guitar.
Until 1987, Jack Daniel's black label was historically produced at 90 U.S. proof (45% alcohol by volume). The lower-end green label product was 80 proof. However, starting in 1987, the other label variations also were reduced in proof. This began with black label being initially reduced to 86 proof. Both the black and green label expressions are made from the same ingredients; the difference is determined by professional tasters, who decide which of the batches would be sold under the "premium" black label, with the rest being sold as "standard" green label.
In 1988, Lynchburg local Jimmy Bedford takes over as the 6th master distiller. He builds on the momentum of the previous two decades and ushers in an era of innovation with two new product launches; Double Mellowed Gentleman Jack and Single Barrel select. Also in 1988, the Distillery begins its annual World Championship Invitational BBQ Competition, which is now celebrating its 28th year.
A further dilution began in 2002 when all generally available Jack Daniel's products were reduced to 80 proof (including the black label, which had been 86 proof since 1987 and was 90 proof before that), thus further lowering production costs and excise taxes. This reduction in alcohol content, which was done without any announcement, publicity or change of logo or packaging, was noticed and condemned by Modern Drunkard Magazine, and the magazine formed a petition drive for drinkers who disagreed with the change. The company countered that they believed consumers preferred lower-proof products, and said that the change had not hurt the sales of the brand. The petition effort garnered some publicity and collected more than 13,000 signatures, but the company held firm with its decision. A few years later, Advertising Age said in 2005 that "virtually no one noticed" the change, and confirmed that sales of the brand had actually increased since the dilution began (though it does not suppose any causes for that increase).
Jack Daniel's has also produced higher-proof special releases and premium-brand expressions at times. A one-time limited run of 96 proof, the highest proof Jack Daniel's had ever bottled at that time, was bottled for the 1996 Tennessee Bicentennial in a decorative bicentennial bottle. The distillery debuted its 94 proof "Jack Daniel's Single Barrel" in February 1997. The Silver Select Single Barrel was formerly the company's highest proof at 100, but is available only in duty-free shops. Now, there are 'single barrel proof' editions, ranging from 125–140 proof.
In 2008, Jeff Arnett, who has been a company employee since 2001 becomes the 7th and current master distiller and his era already includes the biggest expansion to the family of brand in 150 years. In 2011, Jeff introduces Jack Daniels first flavored expression, Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey, inspiring a whole new generation of whiskey drinkers.
2014 – To keep up with Global demand, the distillery opens a brand new cooperage in Lawrence County, Alabama. Hundreds of barrels are built by hand there every day.
2015 – Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire and Single Barrel Rye introduced.
2016- - The distillery announces a $140,000,000 expansion and celebrates their 150th Anniversary.