Sitting on Highway 55 in the cozy town of Lynchburg, Tenn., resides a famous tourist attraction. The town’s population may be small, but it hosts the Jack Daniel’s Distillery—home to world renowned Tennessee whiskey.
Tourists or anyone looking to have a leisurely afternoon are welcomed to visit and take a tour at no cost. The ride to the distillery itself provides a peaceful drive through scenic Tennessee countryside.
The distillery was licensed in 1866 and is the oldest registered distillery in the United States. Upon entering the visitor center, staff present guests with a numbered tour card. The number will be called when that group’s tour begins. While waiting for the tour to start, guests can stroll through the lobby and check out the information displayed about the distillery and Jack Daniel. A guestbook is available to sign and holds signatures of visitors from Murfreesboro or all the way from Germany.
Once a group’s number is called and everyone is ushered into a small theater, a brief film is shown that showcases the town and distillery.
After the film everyone is informed that a group photo will be taken before the tour begins, which involves walking, and is displayed on the Web site and kept up for four months.
“So if you’re playing hooky from work or here with someone you’re not suppose to be with, four months is a long time to have your picture up,” jokes Jack Daniel’s distillery tour guide Murlyn Whitaker.
The first destination on the tour is to the rickyard and shows the wood stacks that are made from sugar maple. The stacks are reduced down to charcoal and the charcoal is what gives the whiskey its flavor.
Next stop is to the iron-free spring that is one of the ingredients in the whiskey. It stays at a constant temperature of 56 degrees. The location for the distillery was chosen especially because of this spring. A life-sized statue of Jack Daniel rests outside it and visitors can put their arm around the whiskey-maker and have their picture taken.
The tour then heads to what used to be Jack Daniel’s office. Inside the old office, which looks like it dates back to the Civil War era, sits a safe with a story.
“Mr. Daniel came in one morning and could not remember the combination,” Whitaker explains. “He struck the safe with his foot which led to an infection and developed into gangrene. Gangrene is said to have been what led Jack to his death.”
As you approach the grain mill, the smell of sour mash permeates the air. Inside the mill, the sour mash is kept in silos that can hold 40,000 gallons. Tourists can also see in the mill whiskey tested at 140 proof.
After this, tourists are led to the mellowing process of the whiskey-making. During this process, the whiskey slowly filters through vats of the sugar maple charcoal. This is the part that actually turns the liquor into whiskey; up until here it is considered bourbon.
During the next portion of the tour, visitors can watch the ready-to-go whiskey bottles being sent down the line and packaged for distribution.
The last walk of the tour is through the barrel house that stores floor to very high ceiling stacks of barrels containing whiskey. The barrels are made from white oak and give the whiskey its color and finishing taste.
The final destination ends at the White Rabbit Bottle Shop where visitors can purchase a bottle of Jack Daniel’s whiskey or enjoy a nice glass of complementary lemonade, non-alcoholic though. Ironically, Moore County, where the distillery is located, is a dry county, so no taste testing is allowed.
The Jack Daniel’s Distillery is about an hour from Murfreesboro. The drive takes travelers into Shelbyville then down scenic Highway 82 and next onto Highway 55 where the distillery is located. It is open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. all-year except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
The distillery is a laid-back travel destination that provides the history behind Tennessee whiskey and provides an afternoon activity for anyone looking to quench their boredom.