Friday, November 4, 2011

Jack Daniel's and George Dickel

I'm not much of a whiskey or whisky drinker. I've heard the names but never sampled the product. I think I'll make up for that oversight when I get home now that I've taken the tours. Let me explain.

Close to my base camp cabin at the Tims Ford Marina, there are two world famous distilleries of fine Tennessee sipping whiskey. The Jack Daniel's distillery and the George Dickel distillery. As attractions go, these would not normally be my first choice but in this part of the country, they are pretty much the only choice. I started with a pleasant drive through the Tennessee farm lands to the minuscule town of LynchburgA town completely dominated by the Jack Daniel's distillery.

I arrived fairly early and was greeted at the door with a free tour ticket. In a few minutes I was headed on a short bus ride to the start of the tour.

Our tour guide was quick to give up all the company secrets from how the charcoal was made and used, to the ingredients, temperatures in the distillery and how to fill and store barrels. Lynchburg is in a dry county so there are no samples to be had but you can take a whiff off the fermentation tank. I inhaled about a quarter shot. You get a second chance at the charcoal filtering vat but I was already a little lightheaded.

From the tour you can take a short walk to the Lynchburg town square. You can buy every imaginable Jack Daniel's product except of course the actual liquor. You can also see the enormous barrel house - one of 80 - that overshadows the mountain top. It is hard to believe all the Jack in the entire world is produced from this one small distillery.

I had no intention of visiting two distilleries in the same day. I was more interested in checking out Tullahoma. After driving up and down the road a bit I saw the signs for George Dickel. Well why not. I'm here now. 

George Dickel is a much smaller distillery. Maybe that's why they left the "E" out of Whisky. Actually that's the way George wanted it spelled. Now the other tour I took was a fine tour, no complaints, and very close to the inner workings of the distillery. The George Dickel tour was more like visiting a friend with a big kitchen. We were so close to the action, I thought for a minute or two they were going to have the six of us turn valves and shovel corn. We actually got to see a 40,000 gallon mash tank fill while looking down into the mash tank. I thought I learned my lesson on the last fermentation tank but once again I inhaled a little too deeply and once again took a whiff that almost knocked me over. The George Dickel fermentation tanks are open and the one we were near looked like it was boiling. Once again, no samples. Even so I was very glad I drove a few more miles and took the tour. 

 Two very different tours for two nearly identical products made in the same way. Two of the best tour guides you could hope to find anywhere. All together a very enjoyable day. I picked up a couple of shot glasses while I was there. Now I just need to fill them, kick back, take a sip, and reminisce about the most pleasant bit of this country I've yet visited.

For more photos, visit my Flickr page.


  1. A distillery in a dry county? That sounds a bit like the Aussie BYO pub!!! Hope your inhaling didn't put you over the limit for the drive home ...

  2. @Red - I did it! I bought a bottle of Jack. My liver will never be the same. Much to my surprise, I actually like it.

  3. As a long time Jack Daniels aficionado -- even a squire: please research it! -- I assure you that the distinction between JD and George Dickel is extends 'way farther than that extra e.

    Good post.

  4. @Squathole - Coming from a long line a drinkers, there was always plenty of bottled in bond to investigate. I was more of a beer drinker. Maybe my pallet has become more sophisticated over the years but until just now, I have never enjoyed whiskey. Now I'm drinking straight up shots of Jack. Appreciated even more because of the tour.