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Whiskey Watch #001

By John | August 21, 2007



On the way home from Nashville, I stopped at the Jack Daniels Distillery. Whiskey Watch has been officially focusing only on Scotch whiskeys, but, considering that it was Sunday and all, I figured that I could break the rules a little. I actually had a great time. I have been learning more and more about how different whiskeys are made around the world, and Jack Daniels has a great story about its process. In fact, some of the Scottish distilleries buy the used barrels from Jack Daniels. If you’re interested, here is a simple summary of how Jack Daniels is made:


  1. Tennessee sour mash (which can actually become beer over time) is made in these really large vats with corn, barley, rye and yeast. 

  2. Then, after the evaporated alcohol rises up the still, the liquid from the fermented sour mash is stilled. At this point, the alcohol is 140 proof.

  3. The stilled alcohol is then run through a large barrel of burned (charcoaled) sugar maple tree. This is called the mellowing process. Before the the sugar maples are burned to make the charcoal, the wood is doused with 140 proof alcohol to start the fire.

  4. Finally, the whiskey is stored in hand-made white oak barrels. The barrels are also charred inside before the whiskey is poured in. The barrels are then stored for about 4 years. Over that time, the whiskey in the barrels is absorbed in and out of the oak, giving the whiskey its distinct color and that last bit of taste.

Wine has nothing over whiskey, folks. That evening, I had to put the old No. 7 up to the whiskey challenge. My hotel’s bar fortunately had both Macallan 12 year and Jack. Two shots, one contest. Sorry, Tennessee, Macallan won, but only by a little. Also, I did taste the distinct Jack Daniels process, and I loved the taste. The 12-year-old single malts just have that smoother taste.

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