If you’ve never been to Lynchburg, you don’t know Jack! At least about Jack Daniel’s, purveyor of fine Tennessee whiskey and the first registered distillery in the United States. Today the facility is a working site that also welcomes visitors to go behind the scenes to see how the spirit is made, and, of course, sample and buy the famous bourbon in its birthplace.
“There’s nothing like being able to come to the distillery and walk though the place that every drop of Jack Daniel’s is made,” says JD distiller Chris Fletcher of the landmark, which has been placed on the US national historic register.
A native of tiny Lynchburg, which largely revolves around the distillery, Fletcher (whose grandfather was also a master distiller there) says visitors are often surprised to learn that Jack Daniel was a real person.
“He is not a myth,” he says of the founder of the distillery, who was born Jasper Newton Daniel and whose statue presides over the site.
Production began in 1866 at the distillery, which was sold in 1956 to the Brown-Forman Corporation of Louisville, Ky., And today, sells spirits in 170 countries, helping attract visitors from around the world to a site that Fletcher acknowledges is in the “Middle of nowhere” in a rural Tennessee town with only one stop light.
Nevertheless, it’s an outsized Tennessee tourist attraction in the category of Graceland and Dollywood, with Fletcher stating that “Tennessee is known for music and whiskey. People know Elvis, they know Dolly (Parton), and they know Jack! ”
Free tours (open to all ages) are offered daily from 9 am to 4:30 pm and typically last an hour and 15 minutes. Highlights include a barrelhouse holding more than 20,000 barrels of whiskey; the underground cave spring; the whiskey-making process including the whiskey stills, fermenting tanks, and charcoal-mellowing vats; Jack Daniel’s’ first office; and the White Rabbit Bottle Shop, a reconstruction of a saloon “Mr. Jack ”operated in Lynchburg before the advent of Prohibition.
Several at-a-cost “enhanced” tours, including sampling tours (age 21 or older), are also available.
Lynchburg and beyond
While JD has undoubtedly put Lynchburg on the map, there’s more to the small Tennessee enclave of about 700 people that Fletcher calls “small town America at its best.”
Fletcher urges visitors, in particular, to stop at Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House, now a restaurant that serves a traditional family-style midday meal every day except Sunday and which boasts a fascinating history dating to 1867. Serving southern staples like fried chicken and mac and cheese, it is a “phenomenal” place and must-stop venue, he says.
Other highlights include:
• The Old Moore County Jail: Replete with potted geraniums on the front porch, the site is now home to the Moore County Jail Museum.
• Jack Daniel’s gravesite: In the Lynchburg cemetery, Mr. Jack’s grave is adorned with two cast-iron chairs originally placed there for local ladies who mourned the passing of Lynchburg’s most eligible bachelor.
• The Lynchburg Hardware and General Store: A gathering place in the town, which has many historic general store and hardware items on display and sells a full line of Jack Daniel’s merchandise, which it should be noted is not sold at the distillery.
• The Moore County Courthouse: The bright red courthouse is the picturesque centrepiece of the downtown square.
Located about an hour so southeast of Nashville – an easy day trip – Lynchburg and Jack Daniels are also on the Tennessee Whiskey Trail, which features 25 distilleries across the state that can be visited.
But keep in mind, oddly enough, that though Lynchburg is synonymous with Jack Daniel’s, the town is located in a “dry” county, so you won’t be able to order drink there.
And now you know Jack.
With glass purposefully in hand, we at Travel Industry Today continue
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