From the distillery to the glass
When we hear the name Jack Daniel’s by Brown-Forman Corp (NYSE: BF), we all know what it refers to; some like me, will say on the rocks, others might say “straight” or “pure,” but there will also be those who are more into cocktails and prefer an “old fashioned” or simply a “Jack and Coke” for example. That’s what Jack Daniel’s is all about – versatility.
Whether it’s a wedding, Christmas party, graduation, the birth of a child, or business dinner to close a contract, any occasion can be the perfect occasion to enjoy this spirit; even just enjoying it with your father’s company makes for a majestic moment. Jack Daniel’s is not bourbon as many believe, but a whiskey, which differs due to an additional step in the production process, in which the new spirit passes through a saccharine maple charcoal filtration for a few days to smooth the distillate before aging in the barrel.
Jasper Newton Daniel, the creator of this iconic Tennessee whiskey, was apprenticed to Reverend Dan Call and Nearest Green at the Lutheran minister’s distillery. As a young boy, Jack left home because of problems with his stepmother, and in the late 1850s, he went to live and work on Reverend Call’s farm. Call ran a distillery on his farm under the command of the then-slave Nathan “Nearest” Green, who also served as a distiller. The latter was an African slave who taught young Jack how to distill, but these contributions had been erased from history.
The Reverend had to sell his business, “the distillery,” to Jack after receiving an ultimatum from his congregation demanding that he stop producing whiskey or stop being a minister, by then Nearest was a free man, and so he was hired by Jack as Master Distiller, who apart from being an employee became a great friend of Jack and even his children were also friends and employees of Jack Daniel’s distillery.
It is interesting to note that Jack never owned slaves; he worked with them side by side, where all the workers were hired men, and at the age of 16 Jack was already a master distiller, officially establishing his Jack Daniel’s distillery in 1866, the first registered distillery in the United States. Jack Daniel’s was a man of good taste and a stickler for detail, which is why he was so meticulous with the blend “the recipe for producing whiskey”, 80% premium corn, 12% barley and 8% rye, a blend that has been used for 150 years without being changed and is the same as the one used today.
Such was the success of this blend that in 1904, Jack’s infamous Old No. 7 whiskey won a gold medal at the St. Louis World’s Fair; in fact, it had no difficulty in standing out and winning the first gold medal for best whiskey. Mr. Jack never married or had children, so in 1907, he left the company to one of his nephews, Lem Motlow, due to health problems, after injuring himself one morning at work by kicking his safe in anger when he could not open it, so he suffered from sepsis and died on October 10, 1911, in his homeland of Lynchburg.
Lem takes over the management of the business, and his younger brother, Jess, takes over the whiskey production. Both experienced the greatest challenges the distillery could face: Prohibition and the Great Depression. In 1942, in the midst of World War II, supplies became scarce, making Old No. 7 harder to come by but even more prized and tasted by those who could find it, so demand soared. In 1957, Brown-Forman Corp (NYSE: BF) bought the distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. It was bottled in two formats: the classic rectangular bottle, black label with 45% alcohol content, and the green label with 43% alcohol content. In 2004, the alcohol content was reduced to 40 % to facilitate production in several jurisdictions.
With worldwide sales volume exceeding 13.5 million 9-liter cases in 2021 (which equates to 162 million 750ml bottles when you do the math), it’s a clear indicator of how incredibly popular Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey is, so much so that Frank Sinatra himself was a die-hard fan of Tennessee whiskey. Frank Sinatra tasted it in 1947 in a bar and became its biggest fan to the extent of calling it “the nectar of the gods” and asking for a bottle to be kept backstage at his performances, at the base of his microphone on stage, in his private jet, in his jacket pocket, he even asked to be buried with a bottle, such was his devotion to old No.7.
Jack Daniel’s Old No.7 Tennessee whiskey is as cool as his own story.