|Founder Jack Daniel|
|Type Subsidiary of Brown-Forman|
Industry Manufacturing and distillation of liquors
Founded Lynchburg, Tennessee (1875; 142 years ago (1875))
Headquarters Lynchburg, Tennessee, US
Key people Jack Daniel (founder) Lem Motlow (proprietor, 1911–47) Jeff Arnett (7th master distiller)
Jack Daniel's is a brand of Tennessee whiskey and the top selling American whiskey in the world. It is produced in Lynchburg, Tennessee, by the Jack Daniel Distillery, which has been owned by the Brown-Forman Corporation since 1956. Despite being the location of a major operational distillery, Jack Daniel's home county of Moore is a dry county, so the product is not available for purchase at stores or restaurants within the county.
- Early history
- Lowering to 80 proof
- Sales and brand value status
- Master distillers
- Tennessee Squires
- Production process
- Legal status
- Special bottlings
- 1970s and 1980s
- Series bottling
The product meets the regulatory criteria for classification as a straight bourbon, though the company disavows this classification and markets it simply as Tennessee whiskey rather than as Tennessee bourbon. As defined in the North American Free Trade Agreement, Tennessee Whiskey is classified as a straight bourbon authorized to be produced in the state of Tennessee. Packaged in square bottles, a total of 11 million cases of the flagship "Black Label" product were sold in the company's fiscal year ended April 30, 2013.
The Jack Daniel's brand's official website suggests that its founder, Jasper Newton "Jack" Daniel, was born in 1850 (and his tombstone bears that date), but says his exact birth date is unknown. The company website says it is customary to celebrate his birthday in September. The Tennessee state library website said in 2013 that records list his birth date as September 5, 1846, and that the 1850 birth date seems impossible since his mother died in 1847. In the 2004 biography Blood & Whiskey: The Life and Times of Jack Daniel, author Peter Krass said his investigation showed that Daniel was born in January 1849 (based on Jack's sister's diary, census records and the date of death of Jack's mother).
Jack was one of 13 children fathered by Calaway Daniel and was the youngest of his mother's 10 children. After Daniel's mother, Lucinda Cook Daniel, died, his father remarried and had several more children. Jack Daniel's grandfather, Joseph "Job" Daniel, emigrated from Wales along with his Scottish wife, Elizabeth Calaway, to the United States. He was of Welsh, Scottish, English, and Scots-Irish descent. Daniel's father died in the Civil War, and he despised his step-mother, and as a result he ran away from home and was essentially orphaned at a young age.
Daniel was taken in by a local lay preacher and moonshine distiller named Dan Call and began learning the distilling trade as a teenager from Call and Call's Master Distiller Nearis (sometimes spelled Nearest) Green, an enslaved African American man, who continued to work with Call after emancipation. In 1875, on receiving an inheritance from his father's estate (following a long dispute with his siblings), Daniel founded a legally registered distilling business with Call. He took over the distillery shortly afterward when Call quit for religious reasons. The brand label on the product says "Est. & Reg. in 1866", but his biographer has cited official registration documents to assert that the business was not established until 1875.
After taking over the distillery, in 1884 Daniel purchased the hollow and land where the distillery is now located. By the 1880s, Jack Daniel's was one of 15 distilleries operating in Moore County, and the second-most productive behind Tom Eaton's Distillery. He began using square-shaped bottles in 1897, with the square shape of the bottle intended to convey a sense of fairness and integrity.
According to Daniel's biographer, the origin of the "Old No. 7" brand name was the number assigned to Daniel's distillery for government registration. He was forced to change the registration number when the federal government redrew the district and he became Number 16 in district 5 instead of No. 7 in district 4. However, he continued to use his original number as a brand name, since his brand reputation already had been established.
Jack Daniel's experienced a surge in popularity after the whiskey received the gold medal for the finest whiskey at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, although his local reputation was suffering as the temperance movement was gaining strength.
Jack Daniel never married and did not have any children. However, he took his nephews under his wing – one of whom was Lemuel "Lem" Motlow (1869–1947). Lem, a son of Daniel's sister, Finetta, was skilled with numbers and was soon doing all of the distillery's bookkeeping. In 1907, due to failing health, Jack Daniel gave the distillery to two of his nephews. Motlow soon bought out the other nephew and went on to operate the distillery for about 40 years.
Tennessee passed a statewide prohibition law in 1910, effectively barring the legal distillation of Jack Daniel's within the state. Motlow challenged the law in a test case that eventually worked its way to the Tennessee Supreme Court. The court upheld the law as constitutional, however.
Daniel died in 1911 from blood poisoning. An oft-told tale is that the infection began in one of his toes, which Daniel injured one early morning at work by kicking his safe in anger when he could not get it open (he was said to always have had trouble remembering the combination). However, Daniel's modern biographer has asserted that the story is not true.
Because of the prohibition in Tennessee, the company began distilling operations in St Louis, Missouri, and Birmingham, Alabama, though none of the production from these locations was ever sold due to quality problems. The Alabama operation was halted following a similar statewide prohibition law in that state, and the St. Louis operation was halted by the onset of nationwide prohibition following passage of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1920. While the passage of the Twenty-first Amendment in 1933 repealed prohibition at the federal level, state prohibition laws (including Tennessee's) remained in effect, thus preventing the Lynchburg distillery from reopening. Motlow, who had become a Tennessee state senator, led efforts to repeal these laws, allowing production to restart in 1938. The five-year gap between national repeal and Tennessee repeal was commemorated in 2008 with a gift pack of two bottles, one for the 75th anniversary of the end of prohibition and a second commemorating the 70th anniversary of the reopening of the distillery.
The Jack Daniel's distillery ceased operations from 1942 to 1946 when the U.S. government banned the manufacture of whiskey due to World War II. Motlow resumed production of Jack Daniel's in 1947 after good-quality corn was again available. Motlow died the same year. He bequeathed the distillery to his children, Robert, Reagor, Dan, Conner and Mary, upon his death.
The company was later incorporated as "Jack Daniel Distillery, Lem Motlow, Prop., Inc." This has allowed the company to continue to include Lem Motlow, who died in 1947, in its marketing, since mentioning him in the advertising is technically just citing the full corporate name. Likewise, the advertisements continue to use Lynchburg's 1960s-era population figure of 361, though the city has since formed a consolidated city-county government with Moore County, and its official population had thus grown to over 6,000 by the 2010 census.
The company was sold to the Brown-Forman Corporation in 1956.
The Jack Daniel's Distillery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.
In 2012, a Welshman, Mark Evans, claimed to have discovered the original recipe for Daniel's whiskey, in a book written in 1853 by his great-great-grandmother, whose brother-in-law emigrated to Tennessee.
Moore County, where the Jack Daniel's distillery is located, is one of the state's many dry counties. Therefore, while it is legal to distill the product within the county, it is illegal to purchase it there. However, a state law has provided one exception: a distillery may sell one commemorative product, regardless of county statutes. Jack Daniel's now sells Gentleman Jack, Jack Daniel's Single Barrel, the original No. 7 blend (in a commemorative bottle), and a seasonal blend (on rotation) at the distillery's White Rabbit Bottle Shop.
Lowering to 80 proof
Until 1987, Jack Daniel's black label was historically produced at 90 U.S. proof (45% alcohol by volume). The lower-end green label product was 80 proof. However, starting in 1987, the other label variations also were reduced in proof. This began with black label being initially reduced to 86 proof. Both the black and green label expressions are made from the same ingredients; the difference is determined by professional tasters, who decide which of the batches would be sold under the "premium" black label, with the rest being sold as "standard" green label.
A further dilution began in 2002 when all generally available Jack Daniel's products were reduced to 80 proof (including the black label, which had been 86 proof since 1987 and was 90 proof before that), thus further lowering production costs and excise taxes. This reduction in alcohol content, which was done without any announcement, publicity or change of logo or packaging, was noticed and condemned by Modern Drunkard Magazine, and the magazine formed a petition drive for drinkers who disagreed with the change. The company countered that they believed consumers preferred lower-proof products, and said that the change had not hurt the sales of the brand. The petition effort garnered some publicity and collected more than 13,000 signatures, but the company held firm with its decision. A few years later, Advertising Age said in 2005 that "virtually no one noticed" the change, and confirmed that sales of the brand had actually increased since the dilution began (though it does not suppose any causes for that increase).
Jack Daniel's has also produced higher-proof special releases and premium-brand expressions at times. A one-time limited run of 96 proof, the highest proof Jack Daniel's had ever bottled at that time, was bottled for the 1996 Tennessee Bicentennial in a decorative bicentennial bottle. The distillery debuted its 94 proof "Jack Daniel's Single Barrel" in February 1997. The Silver Select Single Barrel was formerly the company's highest proof at 100, but is available only in duty-free shops. Now, there are 'single barrel barrel proof' editions, ranging from 125–140 proof.
Sales and brand value status
Jack Daniel's Black Label Tennessee Whiskey remains the flagship product of the Brown-Forman Corporation. In the fiscal year ended April 30, 2013, the company sold a total of 11 million cases of the beverage.
In the IWSR 2013 World Class Brands rankings of wine and spirits brands, Jack Daniel's was ranked third on the global level. In 2014, the brand evaluation consultancy Intangible Business ranked Jack Daniel's fourth on its global list of top wine and spirits brands.
From 2006 until 2015, Jack Daniel's sponsored V8 Supercar teams Perkins Engineering and Kelly Racing. Jack Daniel's also sponsored the Richard Childress Racing 07 car (numbered after the "Old No. 7") in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series from 2005 to 2009. Jack Daniel's also sponsors Zac Brown Band's tours.
Jeff Arnett, a company employee since 2001, became Jack Daniel's master distiller in 2008. He is the seventh person to hold the position in the distillery's history. His predecessor, Jimmy Bedford, held the position for 20 years. Bedford retired in mid-2008 after being the subject of a $3.5 million sexual harassment lawsuit against the company that ended in an out-of-court settlement, and he died on August 7, 2009, after suffering a heart attack at his home in Lynchburg.
Other former Master Distillers include Jess Motlow (1911–41), Lem Tolley (1941–64), Jess Gamble (1964–66) and Frank Bobo (1966–92).
A Tennessee Squire is a member of the Tennessee Squire Association, which was formed in 1956 to honor special friends of the Jack Daniel's distillery. Many prominent business and entertainment professionals are included among the membership, which is obtained only through recommendation of a current member. Squires receive a wallet card and deed certificate proclaiming them as "owner" of an unrecorded plot of land at the distillery and an honorary citizen of Moore County, Tennessee.
The mash for Jack Daniel's is made from corn, rye and malted barley, and is distilled in copper stills. It is then filtered through 10-foot (3.0 m) stacks of sugar maple charcoal. The company refers to this filtering step as "mellowing". This extra step, known as the Lincoln County Process, removes impurities and the taste of corn. The company argues this extra step makes the product different from bourbon. However, Tennessee whiskey is required to be "a straight Bourbon Whiskey" under terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement and Canadian law. A distinctive aspect of the filtering process is that the Jack Daniel's brand grinds its charcoal before using it for filtering. After the filtering, the whiskey is stored in newly handcrafted oak barrels, which give the whiskey its color and most of its flavor.
The product label mentions that it is a "sour mash" whiskey, which means that when the mash is prepared, some of the wet solids from a previously used batch are mixed in to help make the fermentation process operate more consistently. This is common practice in American whiskey production. (As of 2005, all currently produced straight bourbon is produced using the sour mash process.)
After being used for the aging of Jack Daniel's whiskey, many barrels go to Scotland to be used in the production of Scotch whisky. Some barrels are leased from Glenmorangie distillery. Some of the barrels are sold to McIlhenny Company of Avery Island, Louisiana, for production of Tabasco sauce and to both the Mount Gay Rum company of Barbados and Appleton Estate of Jamaica for use in the aging process of their distinctively flavored rums. Some barrels are also cut in half and shipped to Lowe's Home Centers to be used as planter pots. They retain the whiskey smell for some time after arriving there and must be watered every couple of days to keep them intact before they are sold and filled with soil.
On a state level, Tennessee has imposed stringent requirements. To be labeled as Tennessee Whiskey, it is not enough under state law that the whiskey be produced in Tennessee; it must meet quality and production standards. These are the same standards used by Jack Daniel's Distillery, and some other distillers are displeased with the requirements being enshrined into law.
On May 13, 2013, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed House Bill 1084, requiring the Lincoln County process to be used for products produced in the state labeling themselves as "Tennessee Whiskey", with a particular exception tailored to exempt Benjamin Prichard's, and including the existing requirements for bourbon. As federal law requires statements of origin on labels to be accurate, the Tennessee law effectively gives a firm definition to Tennessee whiskey, requiring Tennessee origin, maple charcoal filtering by the Lincoln County process prior to aging, and the basic requirements of bourbon (at least 51% corn, new oak barrels, charring of the barrels and limits on alcohol by volume concentration for distillation, aging and bottling).
In 2014, legislation was introduced in the Tennessee legislature that would modify the 2013 law to allow the reuse of oak barrels in the Tennessee whiskey aging process. Jack Daniel's Master Distiller Jeff Arnett vehemently opposed the legislation, arguing the reuse of barrels would require the use of artificial colorings and flavorings, and would render Tennessee whiskey an inferior product to scotches and bourbons.
The company also has been the subject of a proposal to locally surtax its product. It is claimed that the distillery, which is the main employer in a company town, has capitalized on the bucolic image of Lynchburg, Tennessee, and it ought to pay a tax of $10 per barrel. The company responded that such a tax is a confiscatory imposition penalizing it for the success of the enterprise. The proposed tax faced a vote by the Metro Lynchburg-Moore County Council and was defeated 10-5.
The company has done special bottlings, sometimes to commemorate special events.
1970s and 1980s
The Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg is situated in and around a hollow known as "Stillhouse Hollow" or "Jack Daniel's Hollow", where a spring flows from a cave at the base of a limestone cliff. The limestone removes iron from the water, making it ideal for distilling whiskey (water heavy in iron gives whiskey a bad taste). The spring feeds into nearby East Fork Mulberry Creek, which is part of the Elk River watershed. Some 1.9 million barrels containing the aging whiskey are stored in several dozen barrel houses, some of which adorn the adjacent hilltops and are visible throughout Lynchburg.
The distillery is a major tourist attraction, drawing more than a quarter of a million visitors annually. The visitor center, dedicated in June 2000, contains memorabilia related to the distillery and a gift shop. Paid tours of the distillery are conducted several times per day and a premium sampling tour is also offered.
In February 2016, a $140 million expansion was announced for the distillery. The company will be expanding the visitors center and adding two new barrel houses.