Hello Aunty Jack
If anecdotal evidence counts for anything these days (and it should :P), many Australian's whisk(e)y journeys probably started with American Whiskey in some capacity. Whether this was due to the generally sweeter palate found in mainstream American whiskies appealing more to younger drinkers, or the relatively inexpensive prices for the core offerings , or a combination of the two, we can only surmise ;).
Even though its 'cool' these days to hate on blends or less expensive, easily obtainable whiskies (or so social media or 'expert' whisky drinkers would have you believe), there is something to be said for revisiting old 'acquaintances' with a fresh, open minded perspective. Having (over)indulged in American whiskey and mixers as a younger person - a common enough experience it seems - it took a long time to overcome a distrust in whiskey in general. Now with a vastly improved and more responsible attitude to drinking in general, and whiskey in particular, and thanks to our partners at Brown-Forman Australia we have the opportunity today to talk about one of the most recognisable whiskey brands in Australia and indeed the world!
What is Jack Daniel's?
Jack Daniel's is a distillery based out of Lynchburg, Tennessee which produces Tennessee Whiskey. Tennessee whiskey is a subset of American whiskey which technically satisfies the criteria of a bourbon, with the additional criteria that is made in Tennessee and is charcoal filtered through sugar maple charcoal before being put into casks for ageing/maturing. They are most commonly known for the Jack Daniel's Old No. 7 expression, but many other versions and iterations exist, including the recently released (and reviewed) Tennessee Straight Rye.
Where and how did Jack Daniel's begin?
Jack Daniel's was founded by Jasper Newton Daniel (Jack or short) in 1866, making it the first officially registered distiller in the US. Jack learned distilling at a very young age from a man of the cloth, a Reverend Dan Call and an enslaved man Nathan ‘Nearest’ Green in years immediately prior to founding the distillery. Nearest Green went on to become Jack Daniel's first head distiller.
The distillery began production shortly after it was registered and utilised the local mineral rich (limestone) waters from the Cave Spring Hollow located onsite which along with the maple charcoal filtration are said to give Jack Daniel’s its distinctive flavour.
The now ubiquitous Old No. 7 expression is first released in and wins a gold medal in 1904
Sadly Jack died in 1911 from complications relating to a gangrene infection in a toe that was broken some six years earlier while employed to punish a locked safe which refused to open.
Having no children to pass the distillery on to, the distillery was left to Jack's nephew Lem Motlow and Richard Daniel. Lem quickly bought out his partner and managed to steer the business through prohibition in the deeply religious state of Tennessee (the county the distillery is located in still dry to this very day!), two world wars and nationwide prohibition. Even though 19 years of Lem's stewardship were ‘dry’ thanks to prohibition, the brand grew locally and internationally and production was modernised for efficiency and consistency.
After Lem's death in 1947, his four sons took over until finally selling the business to Brown-Forman in 1956. And the rest as they say is history...
Jack Daniel's and Australia
Jack Daniel’s has been an integral part of the Australian spirits scene since it was launched here in the early '80s. Australia is now the largest consumer of Jack Daniel’s per capita in the world at 222 million drinks per year and the local Australian arm of Brown-Forman employs over 150 people Australia wide, a substantial boon to the local economy. With the recent official launch of the Tennessee Straight Rye and some new single barrel releases on the horizon there are now more expressions than ever for the curious and the converted to discover.
Jack Daniel's Collectors
With it's rich history, it should come as no surprise that many of Jack Daniel's wares have become highly collectable. Experts on the subject, Ross and David from the The Old Barrelhouse have provided us with some images of a few collectable items of which there are less than a handful in the world. Check these out! All image and bottles courtesy of The Old Barrelhouse private collection.
Jack Daniel's Green & Black Label 4/5 Quart 90 Proof Paper Seal from 1971 with Cameo Box
Original Jack Daniels Gold Medal Bottle from 1971 Half Gallon 90 Proof.
In the late 1960’s, the Jack Daniel's distillery commissioned the limited reproduction of a half-gallon version of the original Gold Medal Decanter that Mr. Jack Daniel commissioned in 1904 in celebration of winning a Gold Medal for best whiskey in the competition at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri. This half gallon replica was released in 1971 and there aren’t many bottles left in the world in such pristine condition over 45 years later. Bottle and box signed by past Master Distillers Frank Bobo and Jimmy Bedford. Part of The Old Barrelhouse Private Collection.
A Rare Collection of Pre-Prohibition Jack Daniels Bottles and Cylinders from Circ. 1890 - 1915
All these bottles represent a peak into the past, they all once held Jack Daniel's Tennessee whiskey before Tennessee went bone-dry 10 years before national Prohibition took effect in 1920. They include stock early cylinder designs (c.1880-1890) that were filled with a quart of Jack Daniel's whiskey to early 1890 bottles when firm W.T and C.D Gunter became Jack's sole sales agent in Nashville Tennessee. Then there are the super rare rectangular bottles embossed with ‘Jack Daniel's Distilling Co. Birmingham, ALA’ (c.1910-1915). These bottles represent the time when Jack's nephew, Lem Motlow move dthe whole Jack Daniel's distilling operation from Lynchburg Tennessee to Birmingham Alabama in an effort to stay in business as Prohibition was yet to be introduced in Birmingham.
If only these bottles could talk…… 😉
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