Jack Daniel's

World's most famous whiskey was first distilled by a 13-year-old boy

JACK DANIEL (1846-1911)

"Some can't outsource anything," reads the photo caption in the ad. 'Jack Daniel's also has its own sawmill. Why on earth, many visitors ask us. Well, the freshly distilled Jack Daniel's is purified through a layer of charcoal.

Drop after drop. This gives Jack Daniel's its mild taste.

And because we don't want to depend on anyone for the quality of our whiskey, we have our own sawmill. Here the maple wood is stored, sawn into pieces and burned to the purest charcoal. That way we can't blame anyone else for the way our whiskey tastes like that.'

For decades, Tennessee whiskey ads have consisted of simple black-and-white photographs designed to convey craftsmanship: a man smoking a pipe in front of a pile of wood; three men pose as some of the rare people 'who can turn a pile of hard maple wood into small pieces of charcoal'; a mule "solid and stubborn like a Tennessee whiskey maker"; a resident of the town of Lynchburg gets ready to clean up the statue of Jack Daniel, 'because if Lynchburg, with its 361 inhabitants, is known all over the world, it's thanks to Jack.'

Jasper Newton Daniel, nicknamed Jack, was born in 1846 in Franklin County, Tennessee. His mother died shortly after giving birth to her tenth child. His father remarried and Jack grew up with a neighbor.

When he was 7 he found work with Dan Call, a Lutheran minister who made his own whiskey and sold it in his shop.

Jack showed himself to be a good student and concentrated on the distillation process. After a few years, Call made him a shareholder. In 1860, the pastor was ordered to devote himself entirely to his ministry and sold his business to Jack.

He was 13 at the time. The young entrepreneur wanted to make the best whiskey in the region and usually used grain, supplemented with rye and barley malt.

He applied the sour-mash process typical of America. During the second stage of the distillation, not only is yeast added to the mash, but also an amount of spent stillage, the remainder of the batch distilled from the previous day.

Sourmash whiskeys are not Tennessee whiskies.

They only become that if they do not immediately go into the barrel to mature, but are first passed through barrels that are filled with a layer of charcoal three meters thick. This charcoal mellowing (charcoal maturing) takes more time than the distillation itself.

It takes twelve days for the drink to seep through the layer of charcoal and literally be collected drop by drop. "Nobody knows exactly where the idea of the coal coal originated, but some say a slave brought the idea from Africa and taught it to young Jack Daniel," the company chronicle says.

As his whiskey became more famous, Jack Daniel needed more limestone water. He searched and found a source with the right water in a cave in the neighboring town of Lynchburg: iron-free and always 13 degrees Celsius. This water and the charcoal process made his whiskey unique.

After the Civil War in 1866, the United States government began to regulate whiskey production and the Jack Daniel Distillery became America's first recorded distillery. Jack was 20 at the time.

Pressured by the success, he felt the time had come to do something about his image. On his 21st birthday, he bought himself a big hat, a white shirt, a frock coat and a wide bow tie. Those clothes became his everyday uniform, his trademark.

Jack, no taller than five feet, never married, but was rarely without female company. Having no children, he took Lem Motlow, a son of his sister, under his wing.

One day, sometime in 1905, Jack arrived at work before Lem, who was responsible for accounting. Jack tried to open the safe, but the number combination of the lock appeared to have changed.

In a fit of rage The safe that sparked Jack Daniel's wrath, he savagely kicked the fire which eventually killed him and injured his big toe.

The toe became inflamed and Jack started to limp slightly. His leg was subsequently attacked by gangrene. In 1911, six years after the fatal staircase, the most famous whiskey maker in the United States died.

To accommodate the many women who mourned his passing, two chairs were placed at his tombstone.

They can still be seen in Lynchburg Cemetery today. Lem Motlow, to whom Jack had donated his business in 1907, died in 1947, leaving the business to his four sons.

To avoid fragmentation from inheritance problems, they sold their distillery in 1956 to Brown-Forman Corporation in Louisville, Kentucky, also known for its Southern-Comfort whiskey.


More than half of Moore County's 4,721 resident district—capital Lynchburg, a population of 361—now makes a living at the Jack Daniel's distillery.

The charcoal whiskey is extremely popular in the United States: good for a turnover of more than 52 million liters per year. The drink is exported to more than a hundred countries.
There are currently 967,872 barrels, containing nearly 182 million liters, in 48 warehouses across Lynchburg. The maturation period is between four and six years.

In this district, between Nashville and Chattanooga, Prohibition, the ban on the sale of alcohol, has never been lifted. The drink must be bottled, sealed and shipped out of county before it can be sold.

So that even to this day tourists in Lynchburg cannot buy a bottle of Jack Daniel's.
Lynchburg has become a major tourist destination. The distillery alone attracts more than 250,000 visitors each year.