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THE ORIGINAL FAMILY RECIPE
Jack Daniel was known to be a man of refined taste. From his penchant for tailor-made suits, to the way he made his whiskey, the details mattered. And no detail was more important than his mash bill, the delicate mix of grains that help shape our whiskey’s flavor.
Jack Daniel chose a well-considered recipe of 80% corn, 12% barley and 8% rye that we still use today. Using only No. 1 quality grade corn gives the mash an inviting sweetness. An ample amount of rye rounds out the sweetness with robust notes of pepper and spice. And just enough malt brings it all together with a creamy smoothness.
Distillation begins by mixing these grains with the iron-free water from the Hollow. And just like a baker makes sour dough bread, by adding a little bit of starter yeast from a previous batch, we begin distillation by adding a little bit of our own starter mash for consistent, quality whiskey. Using a bit of starter is why Jack Daniel’s is called a sour mash. The mash ferments for a full six days before being single distilled in a large copper still made to our exact specifications. And rather than double or triple-distillation, we vaporize and condense our whiskey only once.
There’s no doubt Jack selected his mash because of its warm, balanced flavor. And we distill the way we do to ensure that the whiskey still retains it.
A DROP OF WHISKEY COULDN’T ASK FOR A BETTER START
Cave Spring Hollow is Lynchburg’s greatest natural resource. Drawing 800 gallons of water from miles below the Earth’s surface every minute, it’s our whiskey’s lifeblood. Crisp, cool, and a constant 56-degrees.
Jack Daniel purchased the hollow and its surrounding land for $2,148. Which, at the time, was a fortune and then some. An amount most people would be hesitant to part with, no matter the investment.
So what did Jack see in the water that made the cave spring such a necessity?
Absolutely nothing. As in no sediment. No impurities. Just clean, pure, spring water. It’s about as natural
The cave’s layers of limestone naturally impart a variety of minerals to the water which contribute to the character of Jack Daniel’s. More importantly, the limestone also removes iron from the water. Iron definitely has its uses, but it’s absolutely horrible if you’re making whiskey.
Every bottle of Jack Daniel’s sold around the world is made with the water from this source. Considering all the whiskey that’s come from Jack’s $2,148 investment, we’d say he received a pretty good return.
EVERY DROP IS WELL WORTH THE EFFORT
Folks have used all kinds of names for our most important step. The state of Tennessee recognizes it as the “Lincoln County Process.” Most tend to call it “charcoal mellowing.” But down in Lynchburg, there’s another name for it. “The Extra Blessing.” It’s an old-time process Jack insisted on and one that has been in continuous use by the Jack Daniel Distillery ever since.
Once distilled to 140-proof, we send our clear, un-aged whiskey on a painstaking journey. Drop by drop, it crawls through our handcrafted charcoal at a pace dictated by gravity and nothing else. The trip takes 3-5 days to complete and once it’s done, the whiskey is transformed. Might even say blessed.
WE HOLD CHARCOAL IN A HIGHER REGARD
Starting a massive fire would get you in a heap of trouble at most jobs. But at the Jack Daniel Distillery, it’s an essential part of what we do. If we didn’t start with fire, we wouldn’t get the fine smooth sippin’ Tennessee Whiskey that follows.
Three days a week, three times a day, we stack pallets of hard sugar maple five feet high and douse them in raw unaged whiskey before setting the wood ablaze. It might seem like a waste of perfectly good whiskey, but we don’t see anything as a waste when it comes to making Jack Daniel’s. The inferno peaks at over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit before burning down into smoldering embers. These pellets are then raked over until finally cool and ready to slowly mellow our Tennessee Whiskey.
Fire is certainly destructive. But for Jack Daniel’s, the smoothness of our whiskey depends on it.
It’s this extra step that imparts the distinctive smoothness folks expect from Jack Daniel’s. And part of what makes our whiskey what it is—a Tennessee Whiskey and not a bourbon.
“Charcoal can accomplish in days what the barrel takes a couple of years to accomplish”, says Master Distiller Jeff Arnett. And the added time and cost it takes to give our whiskey that head start before it goes into the barrels is well worth it. Pour yourself a glass of Jack Daniel’s and judge for yourself.
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