Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Jack Daniels

Distillery Tours Blog
We had a wonderful time this last August touring some distilleries in Tennessee and Kentucky. The following seven blogs have pictures and a little bit of information about what we saw. The information is mostly gathered from our memory of the tours - which isn't perfect. The take home message is that we had a great time and wanted to create this blog for future reference.
Hope you enjoy!

Our first stop in our distillery tour - this was the only one outside of Kentucky and also the first one. We had a great time on the tours - there is so much American history in this industry it's fascinating.

The name of this statue?
"Jack on the Rocks" of course...

The original spring used - and still used...
"it all starts with the water"

Jack Daniels whiskey goes through a filtration process - it involved sugar maple trees burned down to charcoal and then used as a filter for the sour mash - to turn it into whiskey.

Where the charcoal is made - in the foreground you can see the sugar maple cut into 2x2's and stacked, ready to burn.

These stacks of cut sugar maple are left out in the
weather to age them properly.

The sugar maple charcoal is put into vats - the sour mash is dripped into this 10 foot thick filter and takes about six days to come out of the other side.

The charcoal is a bit bigger than I thought it would be.


One of the trees in the area - the thick black bark is caused by a whiskey fungus (aka Baudoinia compniacensis). There is a bit of a controversy surrounding this fungus as scientists don't know that much about it. They do know that it feeds off the whiskey vapor that occurs as the liquor ages in the barrels.

One of the ways you can buy a used whiskey barrel
in Lynchburg, TN. If you want it whole and
full of aged whiskey it'll cost you $8,000.

Lynchberg, TN - it's a company town. In fact the Jack Daniels family were able to survive prohibition because they (actually a nephew in particular) opened a drugstore when the distillery was shut down. Every payday each employee gets a bottle of whiskey. Ironically it's a dry county - you can't buy any liquor there.

This ended up being one of our favorite tours - if you go to Nashville take the time to drive down to Lynchberg and
check it out.

Jim Beam

"All Bourbon is Whiskey - not all Whiskey is Bourbon"
Bourbon has many rules regarding it's creation - it's not necessary that it is
made in Kentucky like many people think.

The Jim Beam grounds were among the most beautiful - with some amazing old buildings.

The visitor center

This mural in the visitor center and
is a depiction of the distillation process.

Bourbon is 51% corn - the rest is a mixture of rye, malt or possibly wheat - depending on who is making it.

I just thought this was a cool picture - very visual.
The "pac-man" is the yeast...

They let us all have a taste of this "white dog" - liquor that hasn't been aged and therefore can't be called bourbon yet. In my opinion it's way too strong.

The bottling process - this happened to be Knob Creek
(which is a product of Jim Beam).

Scott placing his thumb print on the bottle - we bought that one...

They store two bottles from each run in case there
are any quality questions that come up.
This area took up 1/2 of a warehouse.

The rick house - or "rickhouse" - depending on who your asking. This is where the bourbon is aged in the barrels - in the heat - and cold of Kentucky. Some (makers mark) rotate their barrels - most others don't. Even the material the rick house is built from factors in - wood, tin, brick - each varies the temperature inside - which changes the bourbon.

Difficult to see in the picture but this shows not only the heat but that air movement matters within the rick houses.

The longer bourbon is aged more is lost to evaporation - about 6-8% per year.

At each distillery we tasted about 2 oz of liquor - Jim Beam had the most efficient - but least entertaining way. We were each given a card with three servings on it - we put these cards in this machine and then picked the liquor we wanted to taste. Scott and I would usually pick different flavors to taste and then share. I discovered that I hated the taste of the Jim Beam Honey Whiskey (it can't be called bourbon because it's had a flavoring added to it).

Another rick house - with another old building. As I'm remembering this adventures I'm thinking about the smell - it's called the "angels share." Because of all the evaporation going on it smells like a really nice bourbon.

Evan Williams Experience (Heaven Hill) & Louisville

We took a break from distillery tours and went on a zipline tour at Louisville mega cavern. We had a great time exploring the caves while on a zipline above them. It wasn't possible to take pictures inside because it was so dark.

They use the caverns as storage for RVs and boats - stays around 65 degrees all year long!

This is the only beer I've ever liked. It was aged in used bourbon barrels. Enough said...

Evan Williams is part of Heaven Hill - which is located about a few hours from Louisville (actually near Makers Mark). They've split their tour up - this one in Louisville shows the history of bourbon and has one small still. We didn't go to Heaven Hill but from what we understand it has more of an emphasis on bottling.

One of the things that surprised us was how few individual companies there are left - most of the bourbon we see on the shelves are made by three different major liquor companies.

This tour was interesting because of the history they included - but it was less about the stories and more about the show. In other words - if you only have so much time in Kentucky I'd take this one off the list.

Very difficult to get a decent picture through the window but this was an amazing still with lots of copper.

Whiskey Row - this is just a few blocks from Evan Williams. This is where quite a bit of whiskey was made in the 1800's.

They have been in the process of rebuilding it as a tourist destination...

But it recently suffered a major setback with a fire. They are claiming they will rebuild and open within the next year or so.
We had to try a mint julep in Louisville!

This bar was in an old fire house. Most of those bottles are bourbons...

Just some of the selection...

Makers Mark

Maker's Mark was actually under construction when we were there - no bourbon was being made.

Just loved the red door into the rick house...

They continue to use wood for their fermentation process. Since they were working in the area all of them were drained and you can see the sugar residue on the wood.

All of the labels for Makers Mark come out of one of the printers press in this room.

If you see a label on a Makers Mark bottle that is straight - it was put on wrong.

They have a large Dale Chihuly mural near their gift shop.

Bottling room

All bottles are hand dipped in red wax

Here we all sat in a room and before each tasting the tour guide would talk to us about the liquor and how to taste it.

Makers Mark rick houses are about 20 minutes from their grounds. The black building contrasted with the green grass makes it a beautiful sight.

In 1996 there was a massive fire at the Heaven Hill rick houses (not to far from this location). If your interested in reading about it google "heaven hill rick house fire." It was pretty devastating - it took over 150 volunteer firefighters most of the day to get it under control. It even started the nearby river on fire. We were told that 6% of the worlds bourbon was lost that day.