So we didn’t manage to get to Jack Daniels yesterday so we went this morning. The flight of jack tour which we did only cost $17 and was so worth it even for those not necessarily a fan of the drink!

Our tour guide, Jacob, was awesome he really was. He used to be a maths teacher now he is a tour guide at Jack Daniels and gets a bottle every payday with his pay check!! Maybe they will do that at winery’s too?? Here’s hoping!

In the visitors centre where you get tickets they take you through the process of making the whiskey and a bit of information about Jack himself. 

He ran away from home aged 6 and went to live in his next door neighbours backyard where he stayed for a year. Back in those days, people had slaves, as did Dan Call, a preacher, grocer and distiller who Jack went to work for. He learnt Distillery from Dan Call’s slave, Nearis Green who would later become the master distiller. 

Jack never married nor do we know why his most famous drink is called ‘no.7.’ Many speculate, is it because he was 5″2′ which added together equals 7? Is it because it was his favourite number? Was his 7th girlfriend his favourite? Did he lose 7 barrels then when he found then he called them the old no. 7? Who knows…still to this day no one does! Fascinating really!! 

Jack died in 1911 after suffering for 6 years with gangrene due to, a story we should all take notice of. In 1905 he turned up to work early and tried to open the safe using the same combinations he alway did. It didn’t work so he kicked it resulting in him breaking his big toe which then got infected and turned gangrenous. Obviously healthcare wasn’t the same as we have now and eventually he died. He left his business to his nephew Lem Motlow who continued running it until he died in 1947.

Now out of that there is clearly one important message….don’t turn up to work early as bad things could happen ๐Ÿ˜‚. 

The first stop on the tour was the Rickyard which smelt amazing. It smelt of maple. They make the whiskey from white oak trees, then they cut them and blaze them turning it to charcoal. 

We then went to the stream where the water used in every bottle of Jack is sourced from. The reason being is the iron gets filtered out through the limestone so it is completely iron free. 

Next stop was the still house where we couldn’t take photos. My god it was hot in there!! There are only 5 ingredients in Jack Daniel’s…80% corn, 12% barely, 8% rye along with water and yeast. To see the process in action was great! And some of the smells were incredible and I don’t even like the drink!!

We went into the room where they drop 140 proof whiskey through the charcoal made from the rickyard! Jacob lifted the lid off these huge vats and wafted the smell around!! I swear I was drunk just smelling it! Mixed with the maple smelling charcoal though it smelt goooood!

“Every day we make it, we will make it the best we can.” That was the saying Jack lived by. In order to be a true Tennessee Whiskey and not a bourbon, Jack Daniel’s goes through a charcoal mellowing process before maturation. For 10 to 12 days, the whiskey drips through 10 feet of tightly-packed vats of homemade sugar-maple charcoal. 

The barrel room had barrels filled with whiskey dating back to 2012. They get left for 4-7 years and they have specially qualified tasters who withdraw samples from the barrels as they are hitting maturity. They produce 418 litres of whiskey a minute at the distillery! That is a lot!! The funniest part is that Lynchburg is a dry county so you can’t get alcohol in any restaurant or shop…unless you buy ‘commemorative’ Jack Daniel’s in a ‘commemorative’ bottle from the sop at the distillery. Worst county ever…a dry county…I don’t even understand the concept ๐Ÿ˜‚ certainly won’t be moving there anytime soon!!We watched a video on barrelling. No glue or nails are used on the barrels to keep the flavour. There are 33 staves per barrel and an expert could make 250 barrels a day! As you can tell clearly I am now an expert Jack Daniel’s distiller! They had a section for single barrel whiskey too. Each barrel makes about 240 bottles of whiskey as demonstrated above with Jacob! Above is the bottling process for Jack Daniel’s single barrel whiskey. 

There was another rooms with barrels in that came with three rules….

  • No photography 
  • Breathe in deep
  • Breathe in slow

Next came the sampling room. It was properly laid out too it all seemed a little professional. You had you’re own seat with 5 shot glasses in front of you with a menu-type list of the 5 types of Jack Daniel’s we were sampling. 

There was:

  • Gentleman Jack
  • Old no. 7
  • Single barrel 
  • Honey
  • Fire

So, because of all the different smells we had encountered so far, we had to sniff the back of our hands to reset our nose. It was all a bit posh for me who just likes to drink red wine like it is ribena. 

We started with gentleman jack, sniff it, swirl it, put a drop on your tongue. Not a great taste I’m afraid even though the taste stopped on the back of my tongue. I didn’t finish the rest of it. Next up the old no. 7. Same process applied, sniff it, swirl it, put a drop on your tongue. Gross gross gross! I don’t know how people drink this on the rocks!! Again I didn’t finish it. Third up, the single barrel. What a delightfully smooth tasting whiskey this was! No bitter tastes coming through as it glided down my throat. I was pleasantly surprised!

The last two are considered liqueurs because they’re only 70 proof not 80 or above like it needs to be to be classed a whiskey. Honey. I don’t usually like honey but this was delightful. Could barely tast the whiskey just the power of honey vanilla tones coming through. Clearly I was becoming more of a connoisseur! And then it was ruined. With a dab of the fifth on my tongue the flames of cinnamon ripped through my mouth destroying the glorious tast of the previous two. Then Jacob told us to do something even more maverick…pour the fire into the honey! Known as a bee sting apparently and I can see why they would give it such an unpleasant name too! The cinnamon overpowered the honey and ruined it. So sad. ๐Ÿ˜ข

Our hour and a half tour had come to an end. We visited the bottle shop on our way out to find the one I liked was selling at $71!! I didn’t think I had expensive taste but clearly I was wrong!Then I spotted this little beauty…67% alc/volume, 135 proof! Wonder if there’s wine to that extent??? The tour really was a fantastic experience with a great knowledgable and funny guide to take us through it. 

A couple of things we learnt: 

  • The charcoal they use, once it’s finished with, the scoop it out and then it gets packaged up into BBQ briquettes! 
  • The barrels once used get made into souvenirs or shipped all around the world, especially to Scotland who make their whiskey in old Jack barrels 
  • For every one tree they cut down, they plant another 8
  • Gentleman Jack is twice mellowed so once its hit maturity at 4-7 years, it’s put straight back though the charcoal then bottled
  • There’s more expansion and contraction in the barrels at the top of the barrel house due to heat rising and the temperatures outside which makes for the taste and colour of the whiskey

It was really interesting and I would definitely urge anyone visiting to partake in a tour at the distillery! What was the weirdest part? The fact Nathan drank all 5 of the drinks! The first time he has ever drank more than me! I imagine it will be very much the same at the Jim Beam factory tomorrow too!

Taco Bell for lunch today. I am becoming quite accustomed to their burritos! Randomly sat in the passenger seat I google what there is to do in Kentucky. The number one attraction is Louisville Mega Caverns which has ropes courses and zip lines all underground! It had rave reviews and 5/5 on trip advisor so I looked a bit further. It looked awesome!!! So I went and booked us on the 7pm course. 

After a stop at the visitors centre just entering Kentucky, the sat nav decides to tell us that Louisville is 1 hour ahead of us. That wasn’t good news as the company has a no refund policy within 7 days plastered all over its website ๐Ÿ˜”. I literally booked it 20 minutes ago. 

I have begun to learn the art of tweeting from Nathan as it gets quick responses from companies and we have used it a few times. Bad news is there’s only 111 characters that can be used. How am I meant to write…’we’re from England, really not used to the time zone differences or a delayed sat nav is there any way we can move to the hour later please?’ Answer is I can’t so my tweet was full of abbreviations and not a sorry or thank you to be seen. Think I know what their response will be….

By the time we arrived I hadn’t had a reply by twitter, Facebook or by phone as both numbers didn’t work. We parked up and went in. I mean this literally was a cavern in the middle of nowhere down a dead end road. The lady behind the desk was so helpful and described we could still do the 7pm one despite being 15 minutes late as the time gives you up to three hours on the course. She then went on to explain that not many people is the 3 hours so she thinks we will be ok. 

A quick trip back to the car to change and collect the GoPro and we were ready to go. We got harnessed up, helmeted and shown how to use the clips. Attach reattach. Pretty straightforward even for a novice like me. Then we were off…Oh. My. God. There were 76 ‘activities’ along this course some at a low level some at a high lever ranging in difficulty. Some were nice where you clipped on, nothing really moved and you safely got to the other side. Others, I felt like I was stretch armstrong trying to hold on to the wire I was clipped to whilst almost being on tiptoes trying desperately not to end up doing the splits!! There were tightrope walking style quests, narrow ladders to climb, poles to work your way around between activities and zip wires!The top level is higher than you think! We stopped to put the GoPro on Nathan’s helmet then stopped again to swap helmets so I could wear it. Needless to say I forgot I had it on so trying to navigate my way round the poles especially up the top made for interesting times! 

I got stuck on the smaller zipwire where you had to pull yourself across and ended up not being able to clip off or stand up for a couple of minutes. I then got stuck on the netting as I couldn’t pull myself up until Nathan said to sit back and use the netting to push me along ๐Ÿ˜‚ it was highly entertaining!! I then didn’t swing enough on the rope swing and ended up dangling by my clips. Nathan was a pro. Me, whatever comes under novice. It was actually quite daunting at times! And a hell of a lot harder work than we thought it would be! To finish, a zip wire, which you can’t quite see in this photo. I’d say it was probably 20 metres long and I was worried about getting stuck half way as I had a bad track record with the other zip wires. Sat on the blocks on the top, with Nathan gently shoving me forward, I eventually released and managed to get all the way smashing into the netting at the end. #nailedit

Now, I had made it to the netting and didn’t seem to be able to move. My arms weren’t doing anything and my legs had all of a sudden turned to jelly. With words of encouragement from the assistant below, slowly, and I mean so slowly I may as well have been going backwards, I desperately reached up to unhook myself from the cable and rebook onto the ladder. It was a painfully slow process that required me to hang on for dear life whilst my hands did something followed by the rest of my body about ten hours later. 
I genuinely couldn’t believe how dead my arms were. Like, even my hands wouldn’t squeeze the clips! Then I hear the wire going and Nathan ploughs into the netting. Clearly I was going too slow ๐Ÿ˜‚. Nevertheless, I eventually hit the ground, on my feet of course! I detached myself took off my sweaty gloves and helmet then got out the harness. I was walking like John Wayne. My body seemed to have discovered muscles it never knew it had. Muscles that hurt and ached. I never in a million years thought it would be as physically demanding as it was! Even Nathan struggled on some of the bits!! It was hot and sweaty but so much fun!! The most random thing we have done so far, booked on a whim, forgetting about time differences across states, but definitely worth it!! They also do a bike trail and a whole 2 hour zip line experience all literally underground in this cavern

I highly recommend Louisville Mega Cavern to anyone visiting here!!! Now for some water and a hot shower…

Until tomorrow…