Last week my husband and I went to Tennessee for a business trip. On previous trips we have had the chance to drive through the state whose state fruit is the trivial tomato but never have we stayed there for more than a few hours. My husband had a few important afternoon meetings while I had a few hours of freedom from my work. When you are staying in Tullahoma, Tennessee, that can only mean one thing – a 25 minute trip to the world famous Jack Daniel’s Distillery.
Since 1875 Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey brand has been located in the minute town of Lynchburg, Tennessee, U.S. It started with a visionary which lends the brand its namesake, Jack Daniels. According to the tour guide, Jack Daniel’s had a love of his homemade whiskey so much that the entire stock was hidden around the time of the state’s prohibition in and around 1910 to assure it wasn’t destroyed. The entire lot continued to be under lock and key during America’s years of prohibition in 1919 to 1933. Thankfully it was never found and today the distillery is legal and fully functioning.
Driving to the distillery, it is unlike any other companies’ production site. It’s as if you are making the voyage over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house. There’s no bustling traffic, large population noise or the feeling of being rushed. What you do get is a nice relaxing hour of a Tennessee history lesson, a musical of birds chirping, roaming the grounds with wild turkeys, a view of the official cave and a lesson on how whiskey is actually produced. Word of warning though, the county is dry and that basically means you won’t find a drop of whiskey on the tour. It’s possible to purchase bottles in the gift shop but it its actually $10-20 more per bottle than in other stores.
If you want to take the history tour of the distillery, start out in the main tour building. Signs will direct you to this building without any problems. Walk to the desk located on the right side of the main room and ask for a number ticket to take the tour. The day I adventured to the distillery, it was quite busy so there were multiple tours. Tour guides will call out the ticket numbers and your group will be directed into a dark room for a short movie on Jack Daniel and his whiskey.
Thanks to the guys at Jack Daniel’s, the complete tour is free to everyone. It takes around 1 hour in total and can be completed by all ages; however, there are 150 stair steps in total. These steps aren’t all at once though, so it’s not really a big deal. Those tourists in wheelchairs though will not be able to take the entire tour, since the tour goes into the tight-fitting distillery with only steps available to get around.
The tour follows along the production of the naturally produced whiskey. It starts with a short two-minute bus ride to the top of the property. It is here the three whole-grains are put to heat in the first process. Then it goes through the fermentation, charcoal filtering, addition of water from the natural cave spring water on the property, the final resting stop for aging in barrels in the storage barn for the next 4-7 years, and at last back to the gift shop in the main tour building.
All in all, I found the tour was a great experience, especially since it is a free one. For me I’m not that big of a drinker, so I have never had whiskey of any kind but at least I now know the entire process of production. It was not a strenuous walking tour and all of the other members in the group (around 15) enjoyed the tour and had rave reviews afterwards. My only complaint was the tour guides strong southern drawl, at times I had no idea what he was explaining. Other than that and it being a dry county (no free samples), it really couldn’t have been a better tour. It’s a tour that if you are in the area, I highly suggest. Then after the tour, make sure you go to the city (a short 2 second drive next to the distillery site) to visit the historic city. Tip: Take your tour number ticket and most stores will give you a free souvenir shot glass, oddly enough even though they can’t fill it up in the city with anything.
Jack Daniel’s Distillery
182 Lynchburg Highway
Lynchburg, Tennessee 37352
Located off from TN 55; 23 minutes from Tullahoma, TN
Tours Run: 9A.M-4:30P.M.