In the early 19th century, a black convict in Tennessee named George Washington Jackson began distilling whiskey in his home. To protect his illicit still, he dressed it up as a wash house and installed a disguised trap door to allow access to the hidden alcohol still. The next time someone raided his home, they found an entire working still and would escape hatch. This was the beginning of the Jack Daniel Distillery in Tennessee. Since then, Jack has grown into one of the most iconic whiskeys in the world today.
An Up-and-Coming Industry
America’s love affair with whiskey began to take off during the Prohibition era when illegal stills were producing copious amounts of cheap, high-proof liquor. As people soon figured out that this moonshine was not good for them, demand for high-quality spirits increased. Businesses began developing new products to meet this increased demand, and some of them produced their whiskey.
At first, whiskey distillers mostly focused on the production of rye, which they called White Whiskey. The drink was mostly used as a mixer and had a low-profit margin. In the 1930s, though, distillers began producing a variety of whiskies, including bourbon and Tennessee whiskey. These latter two types of whiskey became extremely popular as they were used in cocktails and mixed drinks. Consumers could now enjoy a wide array of whiskeys, which ranged from very light to very strong.
The Birth of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey
Whiskey distillers throughout the 1920s and ‘30s were busy experimenting with new types of whiskey and producing new brands. As demand for whiskey increased, though, some distillers began to see a problem with their business models. They were producing a lot of whiskeys, but there was still a considerable amount of demand for high-quality spirits. If they continued producing what consumers wanted, though, they would soon be out of business. As a result, some distillers began to experiment with new whiskey types that could attract new customers.
One distiller who was looking for new product ideas came up with a brilliant idea: Make a whiskey that tastes like Tennessee whiskey, but with a lower alcohol content of only 36 percent. The distiller’s name was Jack Daniel, and his new product became known as Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey. Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey was an instant hit with consumers. The whiskey was similar to the original Tennessee whiskey in taste but had a much lower alcohol content. As a result, people could enjoy a lot of whiskey by drinking a smaller amount.
Jack Daniel’s as a Brand
The success of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey led other distillers to experiment with low-proof whiskeys. By the 1930s, though, consumers were growing tired of these lighter whiskeys, which were no longer cutting the mustard as mixed drinks.
As a result, many of these new brands flopped. Jack Daniel’s, on the other hand, became an enduring brand due to its low-proof whiskey and its Tennessee heritage. Consumers began buying Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey simply because it was a good product. The drink’s flavor—and its low alcohol content—did not matter much to consumers; all that mattered was that the whiskey tasted good and was affordable.
Expansion and Adaptation
By the 1970s, the popularity of Tennessee Whiskey had declined, much to the distiller’s dismay. To boost the brand’s sales, Jack Daniel’s began selling Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey Wine, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee White Whiskey, and Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Black Whiskey.
To appeal to a wider audience, Jack Daniel’s began marketing its whiskey as Tennessee-style whiskeys. This new marketing strategy aimed to highlight the brand’s history and heritage rather than focus on its taste. In addition to marketing these whiskeys as Tennessee-style whiskeys, Jack Daniel’s also began marketing its whiskey as traditional whiskeys.
Jack Daniel’s Distillery Tour
Visitors to Jack Daniel’s distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee, can take a tour of the distillery and see how whiskey is made. The tour lasts about an hour and visitors can see how the whiskey is produced from start to finish. The first thing visitors see as they enter the distillery is a copper pot used for cooking corn; some of the corn used in producing whiskey comes from the same farm.
Visitors then see how corn is converted into ethanol in a fermentation room before the liquor is distilled in a copper pot. The tour then moves to the still room, where visitors see how the whiskey is distilled. After the distilleries guests move to the barrel room, where bourbon is aged for about two years.
The barrel room is then where the bourbon is moved to the premium rye whiskey barrels. The tour ends with the visitor drinking Jack Daniel’s whiskey from the same barrel that the bourbon was aged in.
Jack Daniel’s Today
The Jack Daniel’s brand is owned by Brown-Forman Corporation, an industry leader in the beverage sector. The company has been around since the early 1900s when it was founded by George Garvin Brown and Fred M. Hecker as a liquor store.
Today, Brown-Forman Corporation operates 485 different beverage brands, including Jack Daniel’s whiskey. The Jack Daniel’s brand has become synonymous with Tennessee whiskey; it is the only whiskey that has been produced in Tennessee since the mid-1800s. Jack Daniel’s whiskey has also become synonymous with low-proof whiskey.
A Final Word
Whiskey is one of the few spirit products that continue to be popular among consumers. The industry is still growing, with demand for whiskey expected to increase by 2.3 percent through 2021. Whiskey is also one of the few products that are able to be produced in small batches. This means that the whiskey can be produced from a variety of ingredients, which allows for a wide range of possible flavors, making it an exciting product for consumers to enjoy.