Everything about Jack Daniel’s speaks of perfection and excellence. Even the hard sugar maple pallets used for the whiskey’s charcoal mellowing (the Lincoln County Process) are doused with raw unaged whiskey before being set ablaze.
The Jack Daniel’s Distillery also relies on a team of accomplished master whiskey tasters to sample each and every barrel, looking for telltale subtleties of flavor and character that tell them when a whiskey is ready for bottling. Even the water used has special qualities as you will learn later on in the post.
Today we cover the success story of the Jack Daniels’s brand over the past 150 years.
The birth of The Jack Daniel’s Distillery
Jack Daniel’s was established by its namesake Jasper Newton "Jack" Daniel in the second half of the 19th century. His journey in whiskey making trade began when he ran away from home after his father died in the Civil War. He was then taken in by Reverend Daniel Call, a local lay preacher and moonshine distiller. Daniel and his Master Distiller, Nathan "Nearest" Green (an enslaved African-American man) are the ones who taught Jack how to make whiskey.
In 1866, Dan and Jack established The Jack Daniel Distillery, making it the first registered distillery in the U.S. Though his exact birth date is unknown, Jack was probably in his early twenties at that point in time.
Soon Reverend Call’s congregation and wife gave the preacher an ultimatum: walk away from making whiskey or walk away from his work as a minister. Call decided to sell his business to Jack. Sometimes after 1881 Jack bought Cave Spring Hollow in Lynchburg and moved his operation there.
This investment cost him $2148, a huge amount of money at the time! But it was an amazing investment to make. The cave spring to date produces clean spring water with no sediment or impurities. Also, the cave’s limestone deposits add minerals like magnesium and calcium that yeast needs to thrive. This is great because yeast is one of the basic ingredients for making whiskey together with water and grain (barley, rye, or corn).
Jack Daniel’s in the 20th Century
In 1907, due to failing health, Jack gave the distillery to two of his nephews. One of the nephews, Motlow, soon bought out the other nephew. He ran the distillery as its master distiller for about 40 years.
However, twice during Motlow’s reign, the Jack Daniel Distillery had to be closed.
In 1910 Tennessee banned the production of liquor in the state. As a result, Motlow had to move production to neighboring states, Missouri and Alabama. But because of the poor quality of the whiskey produced at these new distilleries, no sales were ever made. The nationwide prohibition in 1920 resulted in the ban on the production and sale of alcoholic drinks in the whole United States.
Following this, Motlow had to shut down production. Though the prohibition was repealed at the federal level in 1933, state prohibition laws (including Tennessee's) remained in effect, thus preventing the Lynchburg distillery from reopening. The Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg remained closed for another five years until it reopened in 1938.
World War II
From 1942-1946, Motlow shut down whiskey production at the Jack Daniel’s distillery again. This was as a result of a government directive to reserve quality corn for human consumption. Motlow didn’t want to deviate from his uncle’s whiskey preparation recipe.
Also during this period, whiskey production in most distilleries virtually stopped. Distillers were more focused on producing industrial alcohol for the war effort. The distillery resumed production fully in 1947. In the same year, Motlow passed away.
The 2nd half of the 20th century
Motlow left the distillery to his children. Nine years later, in 1956, the Brown-Forman Corporation bought the company. The corporation runs the distillery to date. The Brown-Forman Corporation is the producer of some of the most well-known wines and liquor brands in the world. Some of the most popular whiskey brands produced by the corporation include Jack Daniel's, Woodford Reserve, and Canadian Mist.
Since Motlow passed on, Jack Daniel’s has had only five other master distillers. The current one Jeff Arnet has been the master distiller since 2008.
Jack Daniel’s First Brand Ambassador: Frank Sinatra
Halfway through the movie, GoldenEye James Bond is drinking Jack Daniel's whiskey with M in her office. This is not the only movie the whiskey appears in. It's been featured in dozens of movies and songs. But the Brown-Forman Corporation claims it has never paid for product placements. If this is true, it can only mean that the Jack Daniels brand is extremely popular.
One well-known celebrity who formed a close relationship with Jack Daniel’s whiskey was Frank Sinatra. He was a long-time fan 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'. He even kept a bottle of the classic whiskey on his private plane to enjoy while on the way to his next show.
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.” At that moment, without a contract or paycheck or any official partnership, he took Jack Daniel’s from being a small, regional brand to being a household name. When he died in 1998 he was buried with a bottle of his beloved Jack Daniel’s Black Label. 15 years later in honor of the legendary singer Jack Daniel’s created Sinatra Select.
Jack Daniel’s Today
Jack Daniel's has only one distillery to date. The Jack Daniel’s Distillery has 90 seven-story barrel houses, each of which stores 1 million gallons of whiskey. With two to three more being built every year. That’s a lot of whiskey! I guess that’s why a lot of people tour the distillery. In fact, over a quarter-million people visit it every year.
Jack Daniel’s sells 7 products. All of which are excellent whiskeys for a gentleman with refined taste.
- The Jack Daniel’s Sour Mash Tennessee Whiskey/Old No. 7
- Tennessee Straight Rye Whiskey
- The single Barrel Collection
- Gentleman Jack
- Tennessee Fire
- Tennessee Honey
- Special Limited and Collectible Editions
The Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey popularly known as Old No.7 is the top-selling whiskey in the world. It’s sold in over 170 countries. In case you’re wondering where that Old No. 7 title on your Jack Daniel’s Black label bottle came from, to date no one knows.