Choosing a Single Barrel of Jack Daniels

I was lucky enough to be allowed to make the pilgramage to Lynchburg to choose the Single Barrel. Actually, the person who was expected to go; got sick, and I was the backup plan. Lynchburg is about a 1 hour drive from the Nashville Airport. It's almost a straight shot, almost impossible to get lost even without a map. The distillery boasts a brand new Hospitality/Vistors Center. Very spacious, high ceilings, exposed wood beams, and hardwood floors. The center itself had numerous displays either involving Jack Daniels, the person, or the distilling process. Very informative, I learned a few things, and I have been in the liquor industry for 15 years. Surprizingly, the distillery operates a gift shop where you can purchase some of the Commemorative Bottles. It is the only place in the county where you can buy alcohol. There goes the old joke about not being able to get a drink in Lynchburg.

On to the selection. I was accompanied by Jimmy Bedford. He is the Master Distiller for Jack Daniels. He has been with them for over 30 years. I am not sure if he actually "fires up the still" but rather serves the diplomatic functions for the Distillery. We were presented with a number of samples from barrels that were ready to be bottled. The selection process was done by Jimmy and myself. It was actually quite easy. After a quick run through the glasses. We unanimously got down to 2 choices, they were both far and away better than all the rest. Sample 131 has an incredible nose of vanilla. It just engulfed the glass, sample 37 had a spicy pronounced nose. Mind you, we still had not tasted them, but since the aromas and nose are such an important element of the final product, these were cleary the best choices. We tasted the 2 samples a variety of ways; straight, with a little water, with more water, on ice. We went back and tried them a few more times. I made my mind up as to which I liked the best but I waited for Jimmy's thoughts. Not surprizingly, we both picked the same barrel. The inspiration for choosing the Single Barrel was to get something that has individual character (nose, aromas, an tastes) but it had to be true to form for the product. I think that our selection still gives the best points of Jack Daniels but also expresses individuality and uniqueness associated with a Single Barrel. I am sure you will agree.

The final part of the journey was a dinner at Miss Mary Bobo's with Jimmy. I use the term dinner loosely, It was at 1:00pm. Miss Mary Bobo's is a boarding house in Lynchburg, that was frequented by Jack Daniels. Miss Mary ran it until the1980's. It is now run by Lynne Tolley, Jack's great-grandniece. Evrything is served "family style", so we sat at a table with 10 other people. The food is all passed and everyone is welcome to as much as they can eat. Mashed Potatoes, fried chicken, beef stew, english peas, carrots, fresh baked rolls, so much food. I can see why the restuarant is booked for months in advance.

A few interesting facts that I learned while in Lynchburg.

  • The same recipe is used to make Jack Daniels; Black, Green, Single Barrel, and Gentleman Jack.
  • Barrel aging and proof is the difference between products.
  • There is more that 6 million gallons of whiskey in Lynchburg.
  • 60% of Jack Daniels is exported
  • Jack Daniels Black Label is bottled at 51 months (average age)
  • Single Barrel is bottled about 9 years.
  • Barrels aged for Single Barrel and not selected and bottled as such will be mixed into the other products.
  • Our bottling is 1 of about 1000 barrels bottled.
  • Warehouse location and barrel location is an important factor in the ageing process.
  • Years in wood is not the same. Mellowing of the whiskey is produced by the "ebb and flow" of the whiskey into the barrel. The more cycles (seasons), the milder the whiskey. Tennessee has 4 distinct seasons, so the whiskey moves in and out of the barrel more than in other areas; thereby increasing the aging process.