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Jack Daniels Distillery Tour (Tennessee, USA)

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Journey back in time to the oldest registered distillery in the United States, the Jack Daniel Distillery. Located in Lynchburg, Tennessee, see how the famous ¿sippin¿ whiskey¿ is made.

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      07.05.2009 17:16

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      Fantastic, well worth a visit. The guides are extremely knowledgable and the tour itself is conducted at a nice leasurely pace. Having dropped in on one of my visits to the US from the UK i will definately be visiting Jack again.Well done to all involved

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      30.08.2005 10:13
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      Home of the great Tennessee Tipple

      I am not much of a whisky drinker. I am, however, partial to a drop of Jack Daniels, that smooth, smoky Bourbon produced in Lynchburg, Tennessee (although the Jack Daniels people insist that it is "Tennessee whisky" rather than strictly a bourbon). I was thrilled, then, when I won a competition last year, sponsored by Jack Daniels, to see the Flaming Lips play a private gig at the Jack Daniels Distlillery which would include a guided tour of the site for a chance to see how the whisky is made.

      We made our way to Lynchburg by coach from Nashville, a journey of around ninety minutes during which the scenery grows progressively more beautiful as you near Lynchburg until, just as the narrow rod opens up again out of a wooded canopy, you are met by the immaculately kept grounds of the Jack Daniels Distillery and Visitors Centre (or Center if you’re American and don’t know how to spell properly!). Beautifully tended flower beds and manicured greener than green lawns are laid out in an almost quintessentially English style in front of the main building. The building is quite new but does not look out of place in its surroundings with its darkened windows and pale timbers.

      Inside is a permanent exhibition devoted to the history of the distillery at Lynchburg which uses some fantastic old photographs of former staff at their work going way back to the very early days of the enterprise. It’s a good idea to have the exhibition at this point because this is where you come first to collect the ticket for your tour. While you may have booked for a particular time, you will usually be given a card for the next available tour when you announce yourself at the desk and the exhibition is a good diversion while you wait for the guide to announce your tour is about to commence.

      The guides are tremendous and are clearly selected on a number of criteria – the ability to tell a story in an interesting and even enthralling way, a good knowledge of the area, the process of making Jack Daniels and, by no means least, looking the part. Our guide was Randy – a huge bear of a man with a silky voice like honey being poured. He was an expert story teller and really made the Jack Daniels story come to life.

      At the appointed time Randy, clad in blue denim dungarees, a red neckerchief and a straw hat, announced that the tour was about to start and led us through an interesting looking door behind which, it transpired was a tiny cinema. Randy explained how the tour would proceed and then a short film was shown, very briefly outling the history of the Jack Daniels concern and giving some statistics illustrating how big the brand has become globally.

      From there it was through another interesting looking door which led outside where a Jack Daniels minibus was waiting for the group. It took us up to the top of the site where the tour proper began. But before you set off, there is important business; a photographer is waiting for groups to reach this point and a group photograph is taken (which includes your charismatic guide)which will can a couple of days later be seen on the Jack Daniels website.

      THE TOUR

      The tour takes in the manufacturing process from start to finish, beginning with the area where the charcoal through which the liquid will be filtered is made. A wonderfully aromatic heap of maple chippings smoulders constantly during working hours - the first of many delightful smells during the tour.

      Next stop is to see the vats of fermenting barley bubble away creating the "sour mash" with which the name of Jack Daniels is synonymous. Standing something like 17 feet high theese containers look like they contain boiling porridge; in fact the contents are cold but the intense fermentation taking place within them causes them to bubble like an alchemist's experiment.

      So we continued under the expert guidance of Randy who patiently answers the most mundane of questions and regales his guests with all manner of curious facts. Most importantly the guides advise visitors exactly where they may or may not take photographs - this is crucial since flash photography in the wrong place could have catastrophic consequences.

      On the tour visitors also get to see the source of the spring water which is used for making Jack Daniels and the old office building complete with original furnishings and the infamous boiler where one of the Jack Daniels family met an untimely end!

      Everything is covered right down to the bottling room and the store - an enormous wooden building where the barrels of bourbon patiently mature until it is time to send them to relieve thirsty drinkers.

      At the end of the tour you arrive back at the Visitors' Centre bar where a welcome complimentary glass of chilled homemade lemonade is waiting for you. You can enjoy this while you buy a bottle or two of Jack Daniels from the "White Rabbit" factory shop. Here you can buy not only the usual black label Jack Daniels but other less well known varieties and special presentation bottles too.

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      Aside from the short bus ride all of the tour is on foot and involves climbing lots of stairs. It is possible to see a fair bit without the climbing but seeing the most interesting parts of the process do involve climbing stairs. I would not say, though, that wheel chair users or people with reduced mobility would find the tour too difficult to negotiate.

      Children would probably grow bored quickly as they might not understand the commentary or what they were seeing. There are not really any facilities for children although they might enjoy the small intereactive area at the end of the tour where you can send a virtual postcard from the distillery to your friends or family at home.

      Tours run from 9.00 am through to 4.30 pm each day except public holidays (see the website for details). The "White Rabbit" shop is not open on Sundays or public holidays (due to the bizarre licensing laws - Lynchburg is actually a dry county and the only place you can buy liquour is at the distillery!). The tour, unbelievably, is free! I still can't get over this! In England not only have I been regularly disappointed at assorted attractions but I have also found them to be seriously over-priced. The folks at Jack Daniels certainly know how to entertain and for it to be free just makes it even more impressive.

      The website is a veritable mine of information with directions, suggestions for getting there other than by car, opening hours, a history of the company and details for the barbecues held there as well as fun games and competitions.

      THE PAVILLION

      Up on the hill above the distillery is the Jack Daniels Pavillion. This was the venue for the concert later that night but it is also the venue for the weekly barbecue. Visitors to Lynchburg can buy tickets for the barbecue and having experienced one at the concert I can thoroughly recommend it!

      The pavillion is a rustic looking (but fairly recently constructed) wooden building which sits at the edge of a beautiful wood and on the edge of the hill which overlooks the town of Lynchburg. As you look over rolling valleys spread out before you; it really is the most fantastic spot for a typical southern barbecue.

      There are tables scattered here and there so you can choose to sit overlooking the town or at a more remote table up on the hill. The barbecues are self-service although the food is brought to the serving area and not actually cooked outside. Vegetarians are catered for but may be a little disappointed since the emphasis is well and truly on meat. There were chicken pieces marinaded in a delicious syrupy liquor - which I'm sure contained some Jack Daniels, salad, corn bread, coleslaw, southern style beans, grits - my mouth waters to recall it all! Drinks consist of - what else - Jack Daniels based cocktails (my favourite being the "Lynchburg Lemonade")or soft drinks. As you eat a lone guitarist plays a steel guitar and the sound of bluegrass accompanies your meal. Great food in wonderful surroundings. Just perfect!

      Barbecues run from May through to October, usually on Fridays but you can check via the website.

      LYNCHBURG

      The town of Lynchburg must vie for the title of, if not America's most pretty, Tennessee's at least. It is small ( it's population is only 361) but it makes a delightful extension to a trip to the distillery. If you're hoping to buy some Jack Daniels souvenirs, other than a bottle or two of the nectar, then its a must because this is where you'll find the Lynchburg County Hardware Store. The store is crammed with any possible item you can think of with the Jack Daniels logo added to it. However, it never feels tacky, just quaint and charming. You can buy marinades and rubs for meat (all containing JD), sauces and jams (again containing JD), boiled sweets (including "Whorehound Drops" - they were great!), filter coffee (again with JD) as well as t-shirts, pens, note books, door mats, mugs, table mats, tea towels - and so it goes on.

      Life in Lynchburg centres on the downtown square which is absolutely beautiful. The old courthouse, a bandstand, wooden clapboard houses, quaint shops selling riding tack, cowboy hats and lovely handmade wooden furniture (no room in my luggage by this point!).... It does only take a short while to explore Lynchburg but it is certainly worth a visit.

      To sum up, I cannot recommend highly enough a visit to the Jack Daniels Distillery. Its a fascinating look at the distillery's history and that of the area with the help of excellent guide, a stroll through one of the loveliest settings you could imagine and all free. So, if you ever find yourself near enough to make a visit, stop by and see Randy and - I insist - have a Lynchburg Lemonade for me!

      www.jackdaniels.com

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      Journey back in time to the oldest registered distillery in the United States, the Jack Daniel Distillery. Located in Lynchburg, Tennessee, see how the famous ¿sippin¿ whiskey¿ is made.