We had another two hours or so from Chattanooga to our campground at Tims Ford State Park. The park is on another huge reservoir built to bring stimulus to the local economy through recreation and development. There were marinas, walking paths and trails and a Jack Nicklaus designed golf course on the grounds. We settled into a nice lakeside campsite, set up our tent and relaxed for a bit in the shady woods. The campground was mostly empty so it was very quiet and peaceful.
Later on we had dinner at the Bluegill Grill which was on a built on a barge floating at one of the marinas. It was a cool little place with friendly service, good food and cold beer. It looks like it really gets hopping on the weekends when everyone is out boating on the lake.
We packed up the next morning and headed over to Lynchburg, TN for our visit to Jack Daniel’s. We went into town and coffee and a muffin at a coffee shop on the town square. Lynchburg is the county seat for Moore County and the impressive county courthouse sits in the center of the square. It’s a quaint setting with the square lined with a combination of touristy stores, a few restaurants and some local businesses.
The Lynchburg General Store is owned by Jack Daniel’s and features every conceivable Jack related merchandise you could imagine, except for the whiskey itself. Moore County is still a dry county so you can’t buy their famous product or get a drink at any of the restaurants. The exception is that you can now buy whiskey right at the distillery which I understand is a fairly recent change.
The visitors facilities at the distillery are top notch and very impressive.
The visitors center has tons of information on the whiskey making process, the life story of Jack Daniel and the history of his distillery. There are shuttles that run from the parking lots to the visitors center and reserved parking for Tennessee Squires (more on that later).
The visitor’s is where you buy tickets for the various distillery tours. There are some souvenirs available here but nothing like the general store back in town. The White Rabbit Bottle Shop at the visitor’s center is the only place in the county to buy the actual whiskey.
We had already purchased our tour tickets online so we had plenty of time to check out all of the displays before our assigned tour time.
Were introduced to Jed, our guide for the afternoon, loaded on a bus and brought way up the hill overlooking the distillery.
Jed first explained the aging process, pointing out one of the many barrel houses on the grounds in addition to many others scattered throughout the county. The barrel houses contain stacks upon stacks of oak barrels filled with whiskey and left to age naturally in the varying temperatures which help force the whiskey into the wood and give it its mellow color and flavor. Summer temperatures at the top of the barrel house can reach over 140 degrees and workers are only allowed to work in those conditions for fifteen minutes at a time.
Jed did the math for us and said that this one barrel house would be converted to millions of dollars in tax revenue once the whiskey was finished, bottled for sale and Uncle Sam took his cut. That’s not even counting the value of the whiskey sold to the consumer.
We meandered down the hill to the rickyard where stacks of hard maple are carefully burned and converted into the charcoal used to filter the whiskey. This charcoal filtering is what defines Tennessee whiskey and differentiates it from bourbon. A cannister of 140 proof whiskey is kept close by to spray on the wood and get the fires roaring along with a couple of rocking chairs to keep the crew comfortable while they monitor the fire and wait for the piles to burn down to charcoal.
The next stop was a shed housing some old fire engines. Jed emphasized that alcohol and fire are not a good mix and with all the fumes and liquid all over the place the distillery takes fire safety very seriously. Jack Daniel’s maintains its own fire brigade with the most modern equipment.
Just beyond was Cave Spring. As we walked back into the damp coolness of the cave, Jed explained that this was the source for every single drop of water that goes into Jack Daniel’s whiskey and was the key factor in Mr. Jack’s decision to locate his distillery here.
The natural limestone filtering makes the water pure, fresh and clean. Perfect for making whiskey. This spring is so important that a statue of Jack Daniel stands guard over its entrance. The statue is affectionately named “Jack On the Rocks”.
We were led on through Jack’s old office building and then the main distillery where the mash is cooked, fermented, distilled and filtered through huge vats of charcoal. Jed was a great guide with lots of interesting facts and stories about the company, workers and the area around Lynchburg. It seems like a great place to work with many families having multiple generations of experience in crafting whiskey here.
We passed by the bottling line where bottles of Gentleman Jack were being filled, inspected and packed. Next was the Single Barrel Room where multiple plaques designate individuals or groups who have purchased an entire barrel of whiskey selected and custom bottled just for them. The cost: $9,000-$10,000 per barrel which will fill approximately 240, 750 ml bottles.
The tour ended in another barrel house where we saw the massive oak barrels lined up in rows and stacked to the ceiling.
This is the only spot in Moore County to get a taste of Jack. The tour includes a sample tasting of five different varieties of Jack Daniel’s products.
Jed warned us against gulping the entire sample like doing a shot, taught us the proper tasting technique and talked us through the subtle differences of each variety. Our sampling included Old No. 7, Gentleman Jack, Single Barrel Select, Tennessee Honey and Tennessee Fire.
We bought our commemorative bottle of Red Dog Saloon Old No. 7 and were given a ride over to the Squire’s House which is reserved for members of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Squire Association, of which I am a proud member.
A Squire must be nominated by an existing member and is granted a ceremonial one square inch undeeded plot of land in Lynchburg. We receive a nice calendar each year and an occasional amusing letter about maintaining our square inch so the neighbors bull doesn’t wander over or chastising us about keeping the grass mowed. If anyone would like to be nominated please contact me for consideration.
We received some nice souvenirs, had a cool drink of lemonade and enjoyed a nice chat with our friendly hostess about the distillery and life around Lynchburg. She shared some fun stories about Squires believing they actually owned the one square inch and how the lawyer for another Squire delayed settling his estate after finding the souvenir deed for his square inch of land.
The entire experience was a lot of fun. We learned a lot and were very impressed by friendly atmosphere of our visit to Lynchburg and the Jack Daniel Distillery.