Two months later...

1.22.2009
Recap: We love Jack Daniel's. We spent Thanksgiving in Nashville. The Jack distillery is less than two hours away from there. We visited. It was magical. And onto the photo adventure. So, you arrive, you hop into a tour group, you watch a wonderfully cheesy video about the heritage and history of how Jack is made, and then you hope in a (bio-diesel!) bus to take you to the start of the tour, and you walk the rest of the way. There will be no walking involved with this photo tour, lucky you. Clearly, I don't remember everything...just the stuff that relates to the photos. So, one of the last steps before the whiskey is barreled, it is "mellowed" through charcoal. This means it is literally, drop by drop, passed through huge barrels, 12 feet tall of (wooden) charcoal, which removes impurity and ensures a smooth taste. The distillery actually makes it's own charcoal by harvesting certain types of wood, and cutting and charring it on their own property. Our tour guide thinks the reason Jack tastes so good is because the distillery is built on a clear, deep natural spring. The water is clean, free of pollution, and it has never run dry. Bad news for when that day comes I guess. This is me, being incredibly happy, walking into the still house, where they drop off, measure, and add the corn, rye and malt into the alcohol to make the sour mash. (Which is why it's called sour mash whiskey on the label) The mash sits in enormous steel drums and looks...gross. But wow, it's ridiculously high proof at that point, it makes your eyes water just smelling it. After the icky mash stage, the gunk goes through the stills, and then goes through the mellowing process. Our tour guide was telling us about the taste testing processes as well - one group tests it before the mellowing (where it runs through the charcoal) and one group tests it before bottling. If it is rejected before bottling, it's mellowed again. If it's rejected AGAIN, it is used...somewhere else along the line, I forget where. After this, it's barreled, in barrels that the distillery also makes by hand. The barrels are charred on the inside to give the whiskey it's color, and some of the taste. Every barrel is only used once. They're aged in barrel houses, like the one below. There are 77 of them across the county, each one holding about 1 million gallons of whiskey. I remember the tour guide mentioning that the barrel houses have to be a certain distance apart due to fire concerns, but it was only like 200 feet or something. In my head, I'm thinking...1 million gallons of highly flammable liquid, only 200 feet apart...whatever. Inside one of the barrel houses They actually make four different "types" of Jack - one is the kind that you see all the time, and Dan and I bring to many a party. Each batch is actually blended from several different barrels to maintain a consistent color and taste. At liquor stores, sometimes they have Jack Green label, which is Jack, but is actually of what the distillery has deemed lesser quality than most of their whisky. Gentleman Jack is one step up - it is actually mellowed twice, and is the reason you get charged more. There is also Jack Single Barrel - any size bottle you get will be from one barrel of Jack - not blended from several batches like the other types. At the distillery, you can buy an *ENTIRE* barrel of your very own, and all the bottles that that one barrel can produce (which is something like 250). Each bottle is hand bottled and numbered, and sent to you along with the barrel itself. Pretty much, Dan and I have a new life goal. Jack Daniel was only 5'2" tall - there are two statues of him on the distillery property. JD, Dan and I are BFF. The first Friday of every month, every employee at the distillery is given a pint of Jack, just because. Giving the liquor away is legal, drinking it is legal - buying it in the county, not so much. It's a dry county. While we were there, we visited all the cute little stores - bought chocolate fudge made with Jack, souvenirs, heard gossip about the distillery and the new master distiller (draaaaaaaaaaaama about the outgoing guy) and we brought home a Jack decanter. Once we got back to CA and put our Jack actually in it, we felt pretty fancy. James is still debating how he feels about it. And yeah, that was our tour. I won't lie - we have about 45 times as many photos as you see here because every five seconds, I was all "Take a picture!!" or "Did you get that?" of like...trees or other completely non memorable things. But you should ALL go if you're anywhere near there. You won't find yourself actually IN Lynchburg unless you're specifically going for the distillery tour because there isn't anything else there, but yeah. Make the pilgrimage (Franklin, I'm looking at you).

2 comments:

ro! said...

FREAKING FINALLY!
looks delicious.

Franklin said...

Yes I am jealous. So who is coming with me?