It’s amazing what you can learn when you are out bicycling around North America. For example, today I am going to talk about visiting the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. It comes at the end of this post. But I thought I would start with a little whiskey math for fun.
Using American measurements, a barrel of Jack Daniel’s whiskey contains 260 bottles, or fifths, of whiskey. A fifth contains 17 shots. This translates into 4,420 shots per barrel. That’s a lot of drinking. But consider this: Our guide told us that Jack Daniel’s is the leading distributor of whiskey in the world. This means the company needs to have a lot in production at any given time. It also means they need to have a lot of whiskey in storage to allow for aging and for keeping up with demand.
The company can store 40,000 barrels on site. That used to be enough. No longer. The guide told us that Jack Daniel’s now has 11 buildings off site that store 60,000 barrels each. Doing the math, I came up with 700,000 barrels. Here’s the fun part— that comes to over three billion shots of whisky. Bottoms up!
I left you at Tishomingo State Park in northern Mississippi at the end of my last blog, recovering from my close encounter with the tornado. I could have used a shot or two of Jack Daniels then! But I had a ways to go to reach Lynchburg, including another 60 miles of the Natchez Trace. My Trace portion included a short 30 mile ride across the northwest corner of Alabama and another 30 mile ride into southern Tennessee where I picked up US Route 64. Along the way, I crossed over the Tennessee River, admired some blooming Dogwood, and stopped for a final view of the original Trace.
As I approached Route 64, a sign announced I would be following the Trail of Tears and heading toward David Crockett State Park. I had learned about Davy as a kid by watching Fess Parker’s 1955/56 television program at Allen Green’s house. I still remember the theme:
“Born on a mountain top in Tennessee— Greenest state in the land of the free— Raised in the woods so he knew ev’ry tree— Kilt him a be’ar when he was only three— Davy, Davy Crockett, King of the wild frontier!”
Being a want-to-be woodsman at the time, how could I forget such stirring words? Crockett was a genuine folk hero, however. In addition to his mythical knowledge of trees and killing bears at a young age, he served in Congress and adamantly opposed Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Policies. Disgusted with Washington politics, he headed off to Texas where he was killed at the Battle of the Alamo in 1836.
It was President Jackson’s Indian Removal Policy that led to the tragic Trail of Tears, another dark spot in America’s history. Of all the Native Americans in the East, the Cherokee were among the best in adapting to the coming of the Europeans. They had intermarried with settlers, become farmers, and even created their own constitution for self-government. But none of this was enough. The American settlers on the frontier wanted their land.
Jackson and Congress aided them in their efforts by insisting that the Cherokee move. To achieve this, the military gathered the Cherokee into stockades and force-marched them 800 miles to Oklahoma. The journey was particularly hard on infants, children and the elderly. An estimated 4000 died along the way, nearly a fifth of the Cherokee population. It was because of this, that the Cherokee named the route the Trail of Tears.
On a much less significant level, I shed a virtual tear or two myself on leaving the Natchez Trace. I was leaving the commercial-free tranquility of the National Parkway to return to the world of crowded roads, fast-moving traffic, and ubiquitous 18 wheelers. I would also be dodging my way through towns and cities. On my way to Lynchburg, these included Lawrenceburg, Pulaski, and Fayetteville. Although the distance bordered on 90 miles, I figured I could make the trip in a long day.
A torrential downpour outside of Pulaski persuaded me otherwise. It wasn’t enough that the rain was flooding the road 3-5 inches deep in places; I managed to get a flat. I pulled off the highway, retrieved my waterproof emergency blanket, put it over the top of me, and proceeded to fix the flat, while somehow getting 100 gallons of water down the back of my neck. (I am exaggerating, of course. It was only 98.) Although I was traveling east, my sense of humor went south. I grabbed a motel room in Pulaski and dried off while watching reruns of reruns on TV. Unfortunately, Davey Crockett wasn’t included.
I easily made it into Lynchburg the next day and, in fact, biked on to Manchester. I did make a quick detour into the Jack Daniel’s Distillery, however. Peggy and I made a much more thorough visit on our route review this spring and were given an excellent tour of the facility. Here are a few things we learned.
Jack was either born in 1846, 49 or 50. People are still sorting that out. At a relatively young age, he was taken in by a minister and taught how to make whiskey. Does this make it God’s will? (I know, I am going to be struck down. BTW, don’t expect to be served any Jack Daniel’s in local restaurants. Lynchburg is located in a dry county.) By 1866 or 1875, Jack was operating his own distillery and using water from Cave Spring shown at the top.
The whiskey would be a bourbon except for the fact that it is filtered through 10-feet of sugar maple charcoal at a drip-drip rate, a process that takes a week for the drop to make it from the top to the bottom. Its journey removes impurities from the alcohol. The whiskey is then put into oaken barrels that have been scorched on the inside and is aged for four years. The barrels are made on site and only used once. Tasters determine when the brew is ready. Whiskey from several barrels is blended to produce the distinctive Jack Daniels taste such as that found in Jack’s most famous blend, Old No 7.
The company uses the 1866 date for its beginning, thus making 2016 its 150th Anniversary. To celebrate, it has produced a special whiskey called Sinatra Select. What, you say? Turns out that Frank was a great friend of Old No. 7. He always had a bottle within easy reach, whether he was singing in concert or on a TV special, flying on an airplane, visiting with friends, or in almost any other conceivable situation. He was even buried with a bottle.
It is possible to obtain a bottle of single barrel select whiskey that hasn’t been blended. In fact, Jack Daniels wants you to buy it by the barrel for $10,000 each. The Master Taster or the Master Distiller will personally meet with you to provide a tour and help you in your selection. The company will even put your name up on its Single Barrel Wall of Fame. I walked around and checked out who was buying barrels. I found some particularly amusing.
NEXT BLOG: I visit some beautiful waterfalls. An 18-wheeler misses me by about 6-inches while going over 60 and teaches me how to fly. I have a nose to nose confrontation with a humongous dog. We end the day in Dayton, Tennessee where man took on monkey in the infamous Scopes Trial.