We got up early and had the continental breakfast at the hotel. As continental breakfasts go, it was good. Then we headed off to Lynchburg , home of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whisky.
Along the way, we stopped at Starbucks for some go-go juice and a souvenir Nashville Starbucks coffee cup.
The drive was nice, lots of greenery. We arrived in Lynchburg and went straight to the distillery, very easy to find with all of the signs posted. We immediately signed up for the next available tour. They're free... yes FREE. Then we looked around the visitor's center while waiting for the tour to leave. There's plenty of cool stuff to look at in there. At the start of the tour, they show you a short video and then you hop on a shuttle van to go to another part of the property where your tour starts.
Our tour guide was Sammy. He has worked at Jack Daniels for 27 years. The last 26 of which he has been a tour guide. Needless to say, he was a great guide! The tour started at the rickyard where they turn ricks of sugar maple into charcoal that's used to mellow the whiskey. This mellowing turns the Bourbon Whiskey into Tennessee Whiskey. Next it's on to the original office of Mr. Jack Daniel himself. There you'll get to see the safe that ultimately caused his demise as well as several other antiques and pictures. The next stop is just behind his office, the cave spring. All of the water used to make Jack Daniel's comes from this limestone, iron-free spring.
Normally, the next stop on the tour is to see the copper stills. We were there in October, which is when they do the annual maintenance on the place. So we didn't get to see the stills up close, but we did get to watch from afar as a crane lowered new copper components down through the removable roof. We went on to the fermenting tanks which were empty at the time due to the maintenance, but that was kind of neat to be able to see all the way to the bottom... they're huge!
Next it was on to the charcoal mellowing area. This is where they use the charcoal that's made back at the rickyard. They grind the charcoal into small bits and pack it into a 10' deep tank. The bourbon whiskey drips on top of the charcoal. It takes 4 days for the first drop of Tennessee Whiskey to come out the bottom of the tank. Sammy bounced the lid up and down a few inches to bring the aroma of the bourbon out. You could definitely smell the corn in it at this point before the mellowing and aging processes. After mellowing, the whiskey is put into barrels.
Jack Daniel's makes their own barrels out of white oak, which swells to seal when wet. They never reuse a barrel. They sell them... to scotch whiskey manufacturers who use them for their aging process... to arts & crafts types to make planters, tables, and other assorted crafts out of them... etc...
The next stop on the tour was the Single Barrel Room. All Jack Daniel's used to be bottled in this room one barrel at a time. They've outgrown this facility, but this same room is still used to bottle Jack Daniel's Single Barrel, which is aged in select areas of the warehouse causing its color and taste to deepen further. You can pick out your very own barrel of Single Barrel if you'd like... for the bargain price of around $10K! They'll even put your name on a brass plate in the Single Barrel Room. They'll also stamp a barrel imprint on the brass plate... and as you buy more barrels, they'll add another barrel imprint to your brass plate. When you get to seven barrels, they stop adding barrels, and for each additional seven barrels you buy, they'll imprint a 7 on one of the barrels on your brass plate. Get it... 7... Old No. 7... By the way, no one knows what the 7 is all about. There's lots of speculation, lucky number 7, the 7th recipe, etc...
About the warehouses, the next stop on the tour was the Barrel House. Built in 1938, it is the oldest aging house at the distillery. It's also the smallest. It's three stories high with three layers of barrels on each story. It has room for 6,059 barrels. The smell in here was definitely different that at the mellowing area. Much smoother, no corn or grain smells... just good old Tennessee Whiskey. I honestly think I got a tiny buzz just smelling it. It was a wonderful fragrance. By the way, in case you're wondering, they have a total of 75 warehouses scattered throughout their 1500 acres. That's a lot of Jack Daniel's!
After the Barrel House, it was on to the last stop on the tour, the White Rabbit Saloon, where we enjoyed a glass of complimentary lemonade. No, not Lynchburg Lemonade, just regular lemonade. It was good lemonade though. You see, Lynchburg is in a dry county, has been since prohibition. So after all of this touring, you can't go buy a drink. But that's okay; Jack Daniel's has gotten a law passed that allows them to sell a commemorative bottle to those who go through the tour. Before leaving, we bought a slice of the Jack Daniel's Cake and a few of the Whiskey Balls... excellent!!!
If you can't tell from my comments, this was the highlight of the trip for me. Don't get me wrong, the Country Music Hall of Fame, Ryman Auditorium, and RCA Studio B were all very cool, but this was the highlight for me. I love learning how stuff is made or how stuff works, and I happen to like Jack Daniel's.
By the way, go early. I'm very glad that we got there when we did around 9:30a. It was packed by the time we left around noon. From the distillery, we headed into downtown Lynchburg just a few miles up the road. We had lunch at the BBQ Caboose Cafe. That was tasty. Be careful though, they don't take credit cards. I'm just glad I had some cash on me. After lunch, we walked through some of the shops on the square, picked up a few souvenirs, and then headed back to Nashville .
We stopped at the hotel to change for dinner and then made a quick stop to mail some souvenirs home since we were not checking luggage and we didn't have much space in our backpacks to carry the souvenirs with us.
From there we headed to the Grand Ole Opry House. We tried to squeeze in a quick stop there, but parking was horrible and we just didn't have time. Oh well, we'll see that next time. We had to head over to the General Jackson Showboat for dinner on a paddle boat while cruising the Cumberland River to downtown Nashville and back. We did the outside seating with dinner buffet. The food was good... not great, but definitely not bad either. They also have tickets for dining room seating which includes live entertainment. We watched a bit of the show from outside a side door. Looked like it might have been pretty good, but those seats were a bit out of our price range. By the way, be careful when you order a drink. When we boarded, we were greeted by a waiter who asked if we'd like a drink. We each ordered one and he brought them back in souvenir glasses which I was not asked about and didn't really need. Two drinks... $23... Watch out! All in all, it was okay... not spectacular, but not bad either. The view of downtown Nashville at night from the Cumberland was nice and I've never been on a paddle boat before, so I can now mark that off my list of things to do.
After dinner and the paddle boat ride, we decided to head to lower Broadway to do a little bar hopping. We started out at Legends Corner Bar. It was VERY crowded, packed is more like it. But we did make it in and were able to order a drink, look around the place a bit, and listen to some live music. Next we headed to Second Fiddle. Although very busy as well, they weren't quite as crowded nor quite as loud. It was fairly easy to get to the bar and get a drink there. I really liked this place. Cool decor and the band here sounded a bit better to me, but that's just my opinion. From here, we walked the rest of the way down lower Broadway just looking at the places along the way. Then we walked back up the other side, back to the car, and back to the hotel.