Jack Daniel, one of 13 children, was born in 1850. He was raised by a family friend before being hired out to work with the Dan Call family at the age of seven. Call, a Lutheran minister, also owned a whiskey still on the Louse River.
Over the next several years, Jack learned everything he could about whiskey making from Call. Then, in September of 1863, under increasing pressure to devote his life to lifting spirits rather than selling them, Call sold his still to Jack, who was just 13 at the time.
Jack Daniel, like Dan Call, believed in mellowing fresh whiskey through hard maple charcoal. While this process was widely used, the time and expense involved made it less popular with penny-pinching whiskey makers. But Mr. Jack thought it was essential, so he perfected his charcoal mellowing process back in 1866. To this day, this still gives Jack Daniel's its smooth character and unique taste. In anticipation of government taxes, Mr. Jack registered his distillery in 1866. He was the first to do so. Making it the nation's oldest registered distillery.
Though only 5'2" tall, Mr. Jack's stature as a distiller kept growing. To mark his 21st birthday, Jack went on a shopping spree in the city. He returned wearing a formal knee-length frock coat and a broad-brimmed planter's hat, which would become his daily uniform for the rest of his life. Those acquainted with the man claim, "Once he got something the way he liked it, he never changed it." It was a personality that would characterize his whiskey.
In 1904 Mr. Jack entered his Old No. 7 Tennessee sipping whiskey at the World's Fair held in St. Louis, Missouri. Of the 20 whiskeys from around the world, his was the only one awarded the World's Fair Gold Medal and honoured as the world's best whiskey.
Around 1905, Mr. Jack arrived at work early one morning and tried to open the safe in his office. He couldn't remember the combination and so he kicked it in anger. The blow broke his toe and an infection set in. He eventually died from blood poisoning in 1911. He's buried in Lynchburg. It's the headstone with the two chairs. Mr. Jack never married, but the chairs were placed there for the many ladies who mourned his passing.
Because Jack Daniel never married or had children, he deeded his Lynchburg distillery to his hard-working nephew, Lem Motlow, who oversaw the distillery through Prohibition, and with a flair for numbers, looked after the distillery's books with Jack's guidance.
A town fire that destroyed courthouse records and conflicting headstone dates on Mr. Jack's and his mother's graves have left Mr. Jack's exact date of birth in question. All that's certain is the month of September.
In 1909, three years after Mr Jack deeded his distillery over to his nephew Lem Motlow, Tennessee went dry and the Jack Daniel Distillery closed its doors. Ten years later the entire country followed suit and passed an amendment to the U.S. constitution that ushered in National Prohibition.
During this time, Lem founded other business interests that including farming, mule trading, running the town's hardware store and banking, before eventually becoming a member of the Sate House of Representatives and helped passed a law for renewed whiskey making in Tennessee and, that could be sold to other states.
Lem thankfully chose to reopen the distillery, and when it did, he insisted the whiskey be made just as his Uncle Jack had made it. Using its now famous charcoal mellowing process using maple wood.
Lem Motlow's name as proprietor therefore appears on every bottle of JD along with jack Daniels himself.
Production at Lynchburg
Today, at the distillery, the old ways and methods of production continue alongside modern technologies of computerisation, but the mashing, distilling and charcoal mellowing are as if time's stood still since the 19th century.
The mash compound is still the original recipe comprising of 80% corn, 12% malted barley and 8% rye, still unique today.
The distillery's water is naturally filtered through limestone that filters out the iron content resulting in 'smooth' water, derived from a spring to the side of the distillery that proved ideal for the mash compound, where no enzymes are added to convert starch to sugars, with just the natural enzymes from the barley doing their work.
There are a total of 64 fermenters on site with a capacity of 40,000 gallons! Using their own yeast strain which ensures consistency and quality of the fermentation process, it is added to the sour mash and after a few days, the 'beer' is ready for distillation. This is where it is then pumped into their copper column stills and then cooled through their condensers. If this spirit were then filled to barrels and aged, it would be called bourbon.
However, Jack Daniel's unique charcoal mellowing process is next for the white spirit's journey, where it runs through over 3 metres of compressed sugar maple tree charcoal, before beginning its ageing process in the company's own-made American white oak barrels, before being placed in the 'correct' location of their huge warehouses. Different temperatures in their warehousing allows the master distiller to choose the barrel locations depending on the desired taste and finish of the whiskey.