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Visiting a major whiskey distillery is always a fun experience. These massive operations are typically located on huge plots of land and can be steeped in rich American history, and you quickly realize the scope and size of the whiskey industry when touring one. This rings especially true for the Jack Daniel distillery.

That’s why when the brand reached out to see if I’d like to spend a night onsite at the distillery, how could I pass that up? How many times have you walked through a distillery and thought about what it would be like to be there after dark once the lights are turned off and all the visitors had left for the day. Visions of Night at the Museum quickly come to mind as the ghosts of whiskey past come alive and the rickhouses are raided with child-like abandonment. While my night at the distillery wasn’t quite like those visions, it was still a unique opportunity to experience something that most individuals don’t get an opportunity to try.

Located a quick hour and a half drive from Nashville, Tennessee, resides one of America’s iconic brands in the form of the Jack Daniel distillery. The city of Lynchburg, where the distillery resides, is small, with a last published population count of just 6,742. This means that aging whiskey barrels outnumber every resident by an enormous factor. Ironically, Lychburg is located in Moore county, which is a dry county.

As you pull up to the distillery, you’ll notice something that’s familiar to anyone who has ever been to a major Kentucky distillery. Rickhouses reside far off in the distance, production buildings dot the land, and a visitor center is ready to greet you and sign you up for a tour, along with a bottle shop to help meet your needs. However, as I spent the day exploring the distillery, I began to notice some traits that are unique to Jack Daniel’s and made the tour all of its own.

To kick off my tour of the distillery, I was offered my choice of a Jack and Coke or a Jack and lemonade slushie. Choosing the Jack and Coke option, I came to realize that every distillery should offer you a fun “walking drink” as you explored the grounds, as it was a refreshing beverage to partake in as the sun shined down. Speaking of shining down, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the constant buzzing sound of a drone above my head. Looking up, I quickly noticed a commercial-level drone looking down on the vicinity where tours were taking place. I was told by the brand that these drones are deployed to keep track of all of the visitors walking around the distillery campus. While understandable, it was slightly unnerving and definitely took away from the charm of the distillery experience.

Next up on our stop was the “Charcoal Production” house, where the company makes all of the charcoal used in the famous Lincoln County Process that helps give Jack Daniel’s its distinct flavor. I had the opportunity to help light the wood that eventually turns into charcoal, using unaged whiskey marked for “destruction,” and it was just as fun as you would think it would be. The massive pile of wood is strategically placed so that it collapses unto itself to produce the most efficient controlled burn as possible.

Walking through the distillery grounds, you pass the natural spring where the distillery pulls its water from, along with Jack Daniel’s original office from where he once worked. Included in the office is the safe that eventually lead to his demise. The story goes that he got frustrated trying to open it, and a swift kick led to a broken toe which eventually led to a calamity of errors, eventually resulting in his death a few years later. The rest of the tour lined up with most any other large distillery you might visit, that is until you get to the building housing the massive charcoal mellowing vats.

The charcoal mellowing vats are what gives Jack Daniel’s its distinct flavor. These massive, 10-foot-tall white oak wooden vats are filled to the brim with charcoal that the company makes onsite. Each vat has pipes on top that slowly drip in the unaged whiskey, as gravity does the rest and the distillate is gently mellowed as it flows through the vats before being barreled for aging.

As the standard tour wrapped up, Byron Copeland, Jack Daniel’s Barrel Maturation manager and Master Taster, greeted us to lead us on an intimate tour of one of the rickhouses. Walking up the neverending flights of stairs to the top of the well-aged rickhouse, you get a sense of just how cold and hot these rickhouses must get throughout the year, as these totally uninsulated buildings offered little in the way of protection from the elements. Drilling into a rye barrel and sampling the whiskey straight from the barrel, I was reminded how familiar yet also how totally unique each Jack Daniel’s single barrel truly is.

The tour wrapped up with a tasting of the standard brand lineup along with this year's 10 and 12-year-old limited edition offerings before we moved on to the Backstage Camp for the night. Nestled on top of a hill overlooking the distillery grounds, the Jack Daniel’s Backstage Camp is a whiskey nerd's dream. Here, modern well-equipped airstream trailers named after various grains or distillery landmarks dot the surrounding area. A short walk away is the outdoor pavilion where a full kitchen, fireplace, and entertainment stage welcoming guests. It was here that I settled in for the night taking in a gorgeous sunset over Lynchburg.

Interestingly enough, directly below the pavilion is Motlow Cave. The cave was discovered on the grounds, and the entrance opened up by the brand which allowed for a fun short hike into the belly of the beast. In this case, you’re greeted with a large cavernous cave that gives you a feeling of being transported hundreds of miles away from the working distillery that surrounds you. The cave is rumored to have been used by soldiers during the Civil War, and you can even find markings from those in the 1800s who explored it.

Settling in for the night with a glass of Jack 12 Year around the fire, I was taken back by just how normal it felt to be staying at the distillery overnight. It really felt like any other modern day camping experience, sans the fact that surrounding you is a working distillery pumping out whiskey for the world over to enjoy. While I wasn’t tossed a drill and the keys to a rickhouse, it was still an incredibly unique location to be spending the night in. The airstream trailer that I was assigned to was aptly named “Rye,” and was a suitable place to lay my head down for the night.

Written By: Jordan Moskal

April 10, 2024
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Spending a Night at Jack Daniel’s
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