May 14 – 17
With not much on the agenda for the day but to drive to Lynchburg for our scheduled tour of the Jack Daniels Distillery, we drove two blocks down Fatherland to a cool looking coffee shop we’d noticed, The Post East. We parked out front and went it, scanning the menu as we waited in line to order.
We settled on a large drip coffee and a B.Y.O.B.S. (Build Your Own Breakfast Sandwich) with bacon, egg, and cheese (we also added avocado) on sourdough, large and tasty enough to hold us for most of the day.
Later, we arrived in Lynchburg, parking in the visitor’s lot (not realizing until later that as a Tennessee Squire I could have parked in a dedicated space closer to the Visitor Center) and rode the shuttle over to the Center to check in for our tour of the distillery.
We’d opted to take the Angel’s Share tour, lasting ninety minutes and ending a tasting of five different whiskeys drawn from individual barrels, an honor that was once reserved exclusively for their distillers and tasters. Our tour guide was knowledgeable and enthusiastic; indeed, a job of this nature pays pretty well for those living out in the country and like many manufacturers of various forms of alcohol, employees get one free bottle of the product a month.
After an introduction, we walked up a short hill to the charcoal plant, where large ricks of stacked wood are burned to create the charcoal that the whiskey will be filtered through later in the distilling process. From there we went to the mouth of the cave that contains the source for all of the iron free water used by the distillery.
We entered the original office (one of just a couple of buildings left from the earliest days of the business) and heard the story of how Jack kicked the safe there (he’d forgotten the combination) breaking his toe, which led to an infection, which would never really heal and over the course of about nine years losing section after section of his leg until it eventually killed him.
From here it was on to the mash house and the distillery; we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside due to the proprietary nature of the process being performed but it was nice to see the cooked ingredients being charcoal filtered and then eventually distributed to the individual barrels that will produce the final product.
Essentially, it goes like this: a mash is made from a recipe of 80% corn, 12% barley and 8% rye, using only No. 1 quality grade corn gives the mash an inviting sweetness. The rye rounds this out and just enough malt brings it all together with a creamy smoothness. Distillation begins by mixing these grains with the iron-free water, adding starter yeast from a previous batch and their own starter mash for consistent, quality whiskey.
Using this starter is why Jack Daniel’s is called a sour mash. The mash ferments for six days before being single distilled in a large copper still and rather than double or triple-distillation, they vaporize and condense the whiskey only once. We finished up the formal part of the tour and entered the Historic Barrel House for our tasting of five different barrel aged whiskeys.
This was a lot of fun, pretending we could actually tell the difference between the one that had hints of wet dog versus the one that spoke of moldy underwear.
We hit the bottle shop on the way out, picking up a barrel aged product not available outside of the distillery, then drove a short distance to the town square to check out the shops and get a snack, before driving back to Nashville to kill a little time before heading out around 5pm for some beer, food and music at Drifters, a BBQ joint not far away that had received pretty positive reviews.
We’d arrived just in time for happy hour, where each craft beer ordered brought another one for free (2-4-1). We split a Pick Two Dinner Combo with 4oz Brisket, 1/3 Rack of Ribs, baked beans, fries, and coleslaw and enjoyed every bit of it, with ribs the highlight. Also, there were six different sauces to choose from, a couple of which really complemented the food.
About the time we were finishing eating that night’s musician set up and we ordered our second round (I opted for a whiskey and we spent most of a set of music sipping and listening. Our artist had a somewhat quirky musical sense and while entertaining, a set was about all we needed to hear.
The post dinner interlude did have one positive outcome, it created a few square inches of space in our stomachs to accommodate a visit to the Jeni’s outlet we’d missed the first night.
Jeni’s flavors are unique and intense; this is ice cream worth hunting around for. We split a two-scoop pairing and although still full of dinner, plowed through it as if we’d not eaten all day. With one more day to spend in town we weren’t real sure what we’d get up to and figured an idea would arise once we’d climbed out of bed and had some breakfast. Sometimes those are the best days when you are traveling. No set agenda and an open slate of options.
The Post East: http://www.theposteast.com/
Jack Daniels Distillery: https://www.jackdaniels.com/en-us/visit-us
Tennessee Squires: http://jackdanielsbottles.com/distillery/tennessee-squire-association/
Charcoal Ricks: https://www.jackdaniels.com/en-us/vault/crafting-charcoal