It's no exaggeration to say that Jack Daniel's is legendary! Jack Daniel's has been at the forefront of whiskey-making for more than 150 years. Here are ten things you probably did not know about Jack Daniel's.
1. Jack Daniels Has Been Charcoal Leaching its Whiskey since the Very Start.
Nearly every spirit undergoes some sort of filtration. For Jack Daniel's distillery, it's charcoal filtration. Also, known as charcoal leaching (changed to the Lincoln County Process in the 1950s), the process of using charcoal to mellow whiskey before it goes into the barrel for aging has been at the center of Jack Daniel's whiskey production method since the beginning.
Jack was notorious in his day for insisting on using a large amount of charcoal, closely monitoring the vats and making sure the charcoal was replaced often. Since that time, the distilling process has largely remained unchanged.
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Jack Daniel's uses 14-feet tall filtration vats filled with 10 feet of charcoal. The charcoal, which is made on-site, lasts for approximately nine months before it's replaced. The whiskey distillate takes two days to gravity filter through the charcoal.
Contrary to popular belief, charcoal doesn't impart any flavor. Instead, it strips off some harsh congeners, allowing the other flavors imparted by fermentation and barrel maturation to shine.
2. Jack Daniel's is not Bourbon.
It's surprising how many people think Jack Daniel's is Bourbon. Some people insist that Jack Daniel's is Bourbon because it meets every legal requirement to be called a bourbon.
Although it is made almost exactly like Bourbon and pretty much tastes like Bourbon, Jack Daniel's is not Bourbon - it's a Tennessee Whiskey. The folks at Jack Daniel's have for decades refused to let the whiskey be classified as Bourbon.
After the prohibition, the Motlow family, then makers of Jack Daniel's, resumed production and applied for a label approval in 1941 for their first post-prohibition fully aged batch. In their submission, they didn't use the bourbon classification.
This raised issues with the government, who wanted Jack Daniel's labeled as Bourbon. However, after several rounds of negotiations, the government concluded that Jack Daniel's had "neither the characteristics of bourbon or rye whiskey but rather is a distinctive product which may be labeled whiskey."
The story goes that they would have preferred the government to create a Tennessee whiskey classification but had to settle for 'whiskey.' In the years that followed, they adopted the name 'Tennessee whiskey as a statement of product origin. That is how the designation 'Tennessee Whiskey' was born.
3. You Can't Drink Jack Daniel's if you're in Lynchburg.
As many will know, the Jack Daniel's Distillery is located in Lynchburg, Tennessee. Unfortunately, however, it is located in Moore County, which is still a dry county. That means outside of the formal tour; you won't be running into any Jack at any of the local eateries or watering holes.
Luckily, a few years back, Tennessee passed a state law allowing tastings during tours, and the distillery now sells "commemorative" bottles of whiskey at its gift shop.
Although prohibition in the United States ended in 1933, some areas of the country still have strict alcohol laws.
A dry county is a county in the United States where the local municipality forbids the sale of alcoholic beverages. Although people in a dry county cannot buy alcohol within this area, they can still drink legally in the comfort of their homes.
4. Frank Sinatra Took a Bottle of Jack Daniel's to His Grave
In our post: The Success Story of Jack Daniel's, we shared how Frank Sinatra is probably the most outstanding brand ambassador for this iconic Tennessee whiskey.
Sinatra was a long-time lover of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey and was often seen sipping a glass of it on stage while singing 'Fly Me To The Moon or 'My Way.’ One of his funniest quotes: "Alcohol may be man's worst enemy, but the bible says love your enemy." goes a long way to show how much he adored his favorite whiskey.
In fact, in 1955, Sinatra brought a rocks glass onstage with him and told the crowd, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is Jack Daniel's, and it's the nectar of the gods." He single-handedly took Jack Daniel's from a small, regional brand to a household name with that single statement.
When he died in 1998, he was buried with a bottle of his beloved Jack Daniel's Black Label. In 2012, Jack Daniel's released a special limited edition bottling—the Sinatra Select— to commemorate the legendary musician.
Frank Sinatra wasn't the only artist who loved Jack Daniel's. If you take a look on the internet, you won't be hard-pressed to find pictures of world-renowned stars holding the iconic square bottle. From Guns N' Roses, Led Zeppelin, Metallica to Rolling Stones among countless others.
5. The World's Best-Selling American Whiskey
In the title, we mentioned that Jack Daniel's is the number one best-selling whiskey brand in the U.S. Let's quantify this statement.
First, is Jack Daniel's the best-selling whiskey in the world? By that single-expression standard, yes. Jack Daniel's line, Black Label "Old No. 7," takes that honor.
According to data from the Spirits Business, Jack Daniels Old No. 7 is by far the best-selling American whiskey, with 12.3 million 9-liter cases sold in 2020! Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey, a unique blend of whiskey and honey liqueur, followed in fifth place with 2 million cases sold.
For the past 5 years, Jack Daniel's has consistently sold more than 10 million 9 liter cases of their leading product.
If you consider the brand as a whole, no. That honor goes to Scotch whiskey Johnnie Walker, with 14.1 million 9-liter cases sold in 2020.
6. Almost all of the Distillery's Employees are Local
All employees receive a free bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey on the last Friday of every single month. Now, who wouldn't want to work here!
Jack Daniel's currently employs 700 people. Two-thirds are generational and 95 percent are local to Lynchburg. Most of these employees are part-time because Brown-Forman (Jack Daniel's parent company) says they won't promise anyone full-time employment without guaranteeing that they'll have the job for life.
This means full-time employees are highly valued and can trust that they won't be let go.
7. The Origins of the Famous' Old No. 7' Name is a Mystery.
Centered near the top of the black and white label is the phrase "Old No. 7. To date, no one actually knows why the Old No. 7 is on the bottle of Jack Daniel's. In fact, this is the number one question asked by visitors to the Jack Daniel's Distillery.
Therefore, it's not surprising that whiskey enthusiasts have been speculating for years, leading to a variety of theories about what Daniel meant with the inclusion of the wording.
Some popular and interesting rumors include:
- Seven was the founder's lucky number.
- With Daniel's reputation as a ladies' man, some claim Jack had seven girlfriends.
- The number seven train was the one that carried his whiskey barrels.
- Jack lost one of his prized barrels of whiskey for seven years.
- It was the seventh batch or recipe attempt that proved successful.
It's anyone's guess which story rings true, as Daniel apparently took his reasoning with him when he died in October 1911.
One thing is clear - there's no denying that the air of mystery adds another element to the label's allure.
8. Jack Daniel's Does Not Specify How Many Years it Ages its Whiskeys
Generally speaking, if you're a Jack Daniel's drinker, you're not a whiskey fan who cares about age statements. As you might already know, legally, Tennessee Whiskey doesn't have to be aged for a minimum period of time.
According to Jack Daniel's website, "To this day, our whiskey is only deemed ready for bottling when it tastes ready. Because a date on a calendar can't tell you all the things a sip can.
We rely on our team of accomplished whiskey tasters to sample each and every barrel, looking for tell-tale subtleties of flavor and character that tell them when a whiskey is ready for bottling."
This means the traditional Old No. 7 does not carry any age statement on the label. In fact, only this year (2021) did Jack Daniel's unveiled its first age-stated whiskey in more than a century.
This will be an annual release, with each year's release being slightly different. The first edition is a 10-Year-Old Tennessee Whiskey is available while stocks last.
It's important to note that all Jack Daniel's whiskey is aged at least four years in new, charred American oak barrels that the distillery makes itself.
9. Just Eight Master Distillers in 155 years
At the Jack Daniel's Distillery, people tend to stick around. Jack was the face of the brand from its inception 155 years ago and since then, only 7 other men have held the prestigious position of Jack Daniel's Master Distiller.
Jeff Arnett, who's worked at the distillery since the turn of the 21st century and rose to the helm of Jack Daniel's whiskey operations in 2008, announced his retirement in 2020.
He was replaced by the newly-appointed master distiller, Chris Fletcher, who was previously an assistant master distiller for six years. Chris happens to be the grandson of a fifth Jack Daniel's head distiller, Frank Thomas Bobo.
As a master distiller, Chris now serves as a brand ambassador and also oversees the overall whiskey-making operations.
The longest-serving master distiller was Jess Motlow (1911–41), while Jess Gamble, the first of head distillers to come from outside Jack's family, held the position for only 2 years (1964–66).
10. Unlike Your Favorite Wine, Jack Daniel's Doesn't Age Gracefully.
While whiskey doesn't usually "expire" and go bad, neither does it get better with age like wine. Generally, whiskey stops aging once it is bottled up. Stored correctly (kept in a cool, dry, dark environment), a never-opened bottle has a shelf life of 10+ years, whereas an opened bottle will probably last for 6 months up to 2 years.
Therefore, you should not save your already opened Jack Daniels indefinitely; rather, enjoy it more frequently before it starts to get funky. Oxygen is considered whiskey's biggest enemy.
The more oxygen a whiskey absorbs, the faster it deteriorates in quality.
And the longer you leave your open bottle of Jack Daniel's unattended, the worse its quality will get, and you might end up throwing it away.
There is no benefit to storing your whiskey in a fridge or freezer as it is not going to go bad. Just make sure to reseal it tightly after drinking or transfer it to smaller sealed bottles to minimize exposure to oxygen.