A sane guess is a majority of readers are familiar with Jack Daniel’s Whiskey.
Another sane guess is many of the readers have thrown down the ol’ hatch a few slugs of Tennessee ’s Finest!
The Jack Daniel Distillery, located in Lynchburg, is an iconic part of American culture, indeed. Year after year, it draws a plethora of visitors from all across the globe. Still, people from all across the globe imbibe the whiskey by the tractor-trailer loads - barge loads!
Marty Bragg, from Minnesota, was in the area to attend a concert in Chattanooga. She and I rendezvoused May 19 in Manchester for a visit, and we headed down toward Lynchburg.
We arrived at the Jack Daniel Distillery around 10:30 a.m. Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait very long to get on the bus for a grand tour of this fun, and most edifying, piece of Tennessee History.
The tour guide, a well-spoken, southern gentleman named Ron, walked the group through the complete history of Jack Daniel and the famous whiskey he created — a whiskey that probably has as good a chance of standing the “test of time” as any other commodity on the planet.
At one point, Ron walked the group inside the small building Daniel used as an office. However, allow me to, first, interject this before going further: Daniel — birth name being “Jasper Newton Daniel” — died on Oct. 10, 1911, at the age of 61.
Over the years, I’d heard more than once that the reason for Daniel dying at such a relatively young age was he’d sampled too much of his own product a few too many times. . . . Alas, not so!
Ron revealed to us listeners a most intriguing story.
One morning, Daniel came to the office, earlier than usual. Daniel attempted to get inside the safe. For whatever reason, he was unable to get the combination right. Frustrated, Daniel kicked the safe, injuring his toe. After a few months, the toe became infected. Gangrene set in, and the toe had to be amputated.
As the years wore on, and the gangrene spread, doctors had to perform periodic amputations farther on up his leg. Eventually, as already noted, Daniel died.
Ron told us the common wisdom around Lynchburg is: Had Daniel soaked his injured toe in a barrel of his 140 proof whiskey, immediately after suffering the injury, such a procedure might’ve cured the infection.
Lesson learned, Ron mused: “Don’t come to work early, it’s gonna kill you!”
We ended our tour inside what some might call a “most holy place,” if one dare mix such terminology with whiskey. This particular room is dedicated to single barrel whiskey, which is the crème de la crème of the line.
Actually, this single barrel room, tall and spacious, resembles an ultra-secret, maximum security vault where top secret government files would be covertly housed, or maybe, where a Bernie Madoff-type would stash millions in ill-gotten funds.
Regarding this sacred room, Ron told us that whenever an individual purchases a single barrel, that person's name is engraved on what looks like a lockbox.
Word has it that a barrel was procured for President Barack Obama. For certain, Obama’s name is engraved in the Single Barrel Room.
All I can say is: Wow, how historically intoxicating!
And never forget: Daniel forever will be with us - in spirit that is.
Mike Vinson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.