Saturday, December 31, 2016

Tennessee Detour - Jack Daniel's Distillery and Nashville

Recently we were in Huntsville, Alabama for the Rocket City Marathon. While Holly and our friend Stan were running, the snow storm up north started. All the weather people were predicting a large amount of snow for the entire weekend so getting home Sunday night did not seem like a reality. By Saturday afternoon the airline sent us a note that our flight for Sunday evening was cancelled and we should call them to make arrangements. Being quick thinkers we decided that we would extend our car rental for a day, drive to Nashville, stay over by the airport, and fly out on a 5am flight Monday morning so we could be at work on time.

On Sunday we had a lovely Waffle House breakfast, toured the Huntsville Space Center (details in another report), then headed for Tennessee. Our first stop really excited Dave (as opposed to the Space Center - not his thing): the Jack Daniel's Distillery. We booked one of several tours while driving through Tennessee and we were excited to see that we could actually taste product in the dry county. Jack Daniels gets "a pass" as long as it's only a small amount served.

The visitor center was very nice. Outside the building was a stream created from the mountain spring, area, picnic tables, pathway to town (Lynchburg), and a Christmas tree made of whiskey barrels.

Inside the building were a few displays of bottles, marketing artifacts, and explanations of the distilling process. The "gift" shop only sold liquor, which could be packaged for shipping. All other tourist items were available at a shop in town. There were a few items on display related to the company's 150th anniversary.

Our tour group of twenty-eight was summoned to go to the bus boarding area. We certainly did not expect to have to bus anywhere. Most of the production buildings were not visible from the visitor center because of the large property layout and hills/forest areas. Our first drive-by was through the town of Lynchburg where we saw the courthouse, the Jack Daniel's gift shop, and a few other shops. Next we made our way up in the hills passing many of the warehouses where the whiskey is aged. These tin barns can get very hot in the summer and the temperature differs greatly depending on the floor of the building. The different brands are aged on different floors based on temperature ranges. We disembarked the bus near one of the barns and made our way to the charcoal production area. All their whiskey is filtered through charcoaled wood made on premise by three men (one of them is named Stick).

Other areas we toured while outside included the old fire truck display, the cave where the mountain spring water comes from, and a small building that used to be Jack's office.

When we went in the production facilities we could see the distillation vessels in action and watched the raw product drip into the charcoal filters a drop at a time. Total time for a drop in the filter tank is five days. We toured through one (non-operating) bottling line and watched a video on how the oak storage barrels are crafted then charred. Jack Daniel's uses each barrel once then sells them to other distillers and brewers. The final stop was the original barrel house where batches were still being stored and where the tastings would be conducted. Because of the tour we chose we were able to sample 5 different premium products.

Holly is still not a fan of whiskey
The tour and tasting was almost two hours long. It was enjoyable (for Dave) and educational. The tour guides kept it informal and handled the group well. The only downside is there's not much else to do in this small section of Tennessee. The dry county could benefit by adding a brewery or two in the area and capitalize on the captive audience they have coming into see Jack Daniel's.

We walked to town quickly to check out the branded merchandise. Lots of fun stuff from glasses, Christmas villages, statues, and almost anything else you can slap a logo on. Dave would have bought a t-shirt, but since Jack Daniel's signature colors are black and white he found nothing that suited his color palette.

Later that evening we enjoyed a few hours out with our friend Bill in Nashville. We had a quick BBQ dinner before heading to Nashville Crossroads to watch one of his favorite bands - Eskimo Brothers. Great live performers!


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