Monday Marginalia – The Safe That Killed Jack Daniel


Before we went to visit the kids they came down and visited us. One of the things we did with them was drive over to Lynchburg to visit the Jack Daniels Distillery.  We took the flight tour so we got samples at the end.   The odd thing about it is Moore County where the Distillery is…  is a dry county.  Yep, except for the distillery property you can’t buy Jack in the county where it is made. Still if you’ve had Jack Daniels any where in the world it came from this one place in a dry county in the town of Lynchburg, Tennessee.

So first thing you learn is to be Tennessee whiskey it’s charcoal filtered and they make their own charcoal.  We got there after a burning and it was set up for another burning. Here are a few shots of where they make their charcoal.  There’s a shot in several of their commercials of the area with burning going on. Here’s their latest Gentleman Jack ad. Check it out for a few other places I’ll show you from the tour.

Here’s my photos from the charcoal area. Oh the cover is for EPA air regulations. Also the distillery has it’s own fire truck and fire response in case something goes wrong with the process. Yep they use something they have a lot of to start the fire – whiskey unaged, aka moonshine.

Then it was over to the source for all water used in Jack Daniel. Yep they have been drawing from here since he set up distilling. The original office with the infamous safe is right next to the grotto. In the grotto is a statue of Jack Daniels. Sadly it’s not to scale but 7 inches taller than the man, Yep you read that right 7 inches taller. He was a very small man with a very big idea. Here’s a picture of Mike and I with him for scale.

Then we were over to the original office. It’s just a small white house and was used for over a century as the office for the distillery. Inside is the safe. The story goes that Jack’s accountant usually arrived at the office first and would open the safe to start the day. One day in 1911 Jack got there first. He needed something in the safe and went to open it. He’d forgotten the combination. So after a few tries he did what many of us would do – he kicked the safe. Unfortunately he broke his toe. From that injury an infection set up and with no way to treat it Jack died. Now recent biographers contest this story but according to our guide it is true. As for what the 7 is in Old No. 7 no one knows. Jack died never having married and having no children. He left his distillery to his nephew Lem Motlow, who was the bookkeeper when he kicked the safe.

As we went from the office to the distill house we passed these Wild Turkey spies… and went into the best smelling building ever, where they distill the whiskey.

From there we learned that barrells used for aging are new ones especially made for Jack Daniel’s. Once used they are sold, burned, or oddly sold to other distilleries (Yes Jim Beam we’re looking at you) for their aging. If you buy a whole barrel they will bring you to the distillery offer you taste of several barrels as where they are aged in the barrel house changes the flavor. Once you pick your barrel it is bottle for you in custom etched bottles and you get the barrel as well as the barrel top. Nope we didn’t order one, too much for the two of us.

From there it was to the tasting. Enjoyed the tasting but sadly I don’t drink any more so it was just a finger to remember why I liked it. It was a fun tour and we enjoyed it. If you are ever down this way we’ll take you over and you can see the safe that killed Jack for yourself along with where any Jack you’ve ever had came from.

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