Today in #CocktailCulture the history of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey.
Jasper Newton “Jack Daniel” was born in 1850 (and his tombstone bears that date, but says his exact birth date is unknown).
The company website says it is customary to celebrate his birthday in September.
The Tennessee state library website said in 2013 that records list his birth date as September 5, 1846, Daniel’s father died in the Civil War, Daniel was taken in by a local lay preacher and moonshine distiller named Dan Call and began learning the distilling trade as a teenager from Call and Call’s Master Distiller Nearis (sometimes spelled Nearest) Green, an enslaved African American man, who continued to work with Call after emancipation.
After taking over the distillery, in 1884 Daniel purchased the hollow and land where the distillery is now located.
By the 1880s, Jack Daniel’s was one of 15 distilleries operating in Moore County, and the second-most productive behind Tom Eaton’s Distillery.
He began using square-shaped bottles in 1897, with the square shape of the bottle intended to convey a sense of fairness and integrity.
According to Daniel’s biographer, the origin of the “Old No. 7” brand name was the number assigned to Daniel’s distillery for government registration.
He was forced to change the registration number when the federal government redrew the district and he became Number 16 in district 5 instead of No. 7 in district 4. However, he continued to use his original number as a brand name, since his brand reputation already had been established.
Jack Daniel’s experienced a surge in popularity after the whiskey received the gold medal for the finest whiskey at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, although his local reputation was suffering as the temperance movement was gaining strength.
The mash for Jack Daniel’s is made from corn, rye and malted barley, and is distilled in copper stills. It is then filtered through 10-foot (3.0 m) stacks of sugar maple charcoal.
The company refers to this filtering step as “mellowing”. This extra step, known as the Lincoln County Process, removes impurities and the taste of corn.
The company argues this extra step makes the product different from bourbon. However, Tennessee whiskey is required to be “a straight Bourbon Whiskey” under terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement and Canadian law.
A distinctive aspect of the filtering process is that the Jack Daniel’s brand grinds its charcoal before using it for filtering.
After the filtering, the whiskey is stored in newly handcrafted oak barrels, which give the whiskey its color and most of its flavor.
The product label mentions that it is a “sour mash” whiskey, which means that when the mash is prepared, some of the wet solids from a previously used batch are mixed in to help make the fermentation process operate more consistently. This is common practice in American whiskey production.
The Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg is situated in and around a hollow known as “Stillhouse Hollow” or “Jack Daniel’s Hollow”, where a spring flows from a cave at the base of a limestone cliff. The limestone removes iron from the water, making it ideal for distilling whiskey (water heavy in iron gives whiskey a bad taste).
I hope you enjoy it and let me know your opinions in the comments.