Travel Log: Trip to Tennessee to Taste Jack Daniel's 12 Year
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Travel Log: Our Trip to Tennessee to Tour Jack Daniel’s, Taste 12-Year Whiskey From the Barrel and More

In late February, this writer had the exciting opportunity to spend some time in Tennessee with the Jack Daniel’s team in anticipation of two exciting new releases, which we sampled at the distillery.

I’ve got you covered with all of the details and my opinions of the new releases from Jack Daniels — the second batch of the brand’s 10-year whiskey and the very first batch of its 12-year — here. If you’d like to hear about the trip to Tennessee, which included a tasting of 12-year whiskey straight from the barrel, stick around.

Day 1: Arrival and a Lovely Dinner

On Monday, I flew into Nashville. The flights were brief but turbulent, with gusty winds breezing through the Midwest. I arrived midday and was greeted by a driver, who took me to the hotel. The rest of the day was left open until dinner. I used some of the time to grab lunch and a flight at a local brewery, Tennessee Beer Works. The Hot Chicken Street Style Tacos made for a great bite, and the beers were solid, my favorite being the 1927 IPA.

A while later, the group (which consisted of myself, three public relations staff members, five other media invitees and Jack Daniel Historian Nelson Eddy) gathered in the lobby and took a car to dinner at The 404 Kitchen, a dimly lit restaurant with a terrific whiskey selection.

We enjoyed a hearty Southern-style meal. Once the “Benton’s Ham” — biscuits and hunks of pork belly skewered together — arrived as one of three appetizers, it was clear finishing the five-course meal would be a challenge. Over dinner, we certainly took advantage of that whiskey menu.

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The entree I had for dinner: sonoma butter chicken with crowders, tasso and pickled cherry bombs, alongside warm baked cornbread. In the background: catfish bites and a pour of The 404 Kitchen’s Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select barrel pick.

I enjoyed an excellent Old Fashioned and two neat pours: The 404 Kitchen’s Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select barrel pick and batch 1 of Jack Daniel’s 10 Year Old Whiskey — the latter strictly* a preparatory homework assignment since we’d be tasting the second batch the next day. The next time you’re in Nashville, I definitely recommend a dinner at 404. If you go, get a glass of the aforementioned barrel pick, which was spectacular. It’s a creamy, dessert-forward pour that keeps things interesting with some spicy notes and a long, oaky finish.

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel and got to bed early.

* “Strictly” is definitely a stretch

Day 2: A Day at the Jack Daniel’s Distillery

At 8 a.m., we piled into a shuttle, coffees in hand, for a 1.5-hour journey to the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg. During the ride, Eddy regaled us with tales of the history of Jack Daniel’s.

We arrived at the distillery and met up with our tour guides for the day: Master Distiller Chris Fletcher and Assistant Distiller Lexie Phillips. With their guidance, we saw every step of the Jack Daniel’s whiskey-making process, including its signature charcoal filtration.

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Maple wood at the Jack Daniel’s Distillery, ready to be lit on fire to create charcoal for the distillery’s signature charcoal filtration process.

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“Whiskey for Destruction” — a killer band name, but also a very real part of the process. This is flammable, unaged whiskey that Jack Daniel’s uses to light the maple on fire. In the background, you can see the wood starting to burn.

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That maple wood you saw in the previous pictures becomes charcoal.

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A look inside one of Jack Daniel’s charcoal mellowing vats. After being distilled, the whiskey drips into and through the charcoal. Once it’s been filtered through the charcoal, it’s ready to be aged.

One of the most impressive things about Jack Daniel’s — particularly when you consider its Goliath status in the whiskey world — is its transparency. There is nothing hidden about the whiskey-making process or ingredients.

“There is nothing secret here,” Fletcher said during the tour. “There is nothing proprietary here. Not one thing.”

Ask the Jack Daniel’s team anything you want to know, and they’ll tell you. It’s refreshing in an industry where that’s not often the case.

Tasting Jack Daniel’s 12 Year From the Barrel

The tour culminated in a visit to a Jack Daniel’s rickhouse, where we sampled 12-year-old whiskey directly from the barrel.

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The barrel we tasted from.

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Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller Chris Fletcher and Assistant Distiller Lexie Phillips draw whiskey from the barrel for our tasting. (Photo: Jack Daniel’s)

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Freshly bottled 12-year-old Jack Daniel’s. Look at that color! Mmm.

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Jack Daniel’s Assistant Distiller Lexie Phillips pours whiskey after drawing it from the barrel.

Once the whiskey was drawn from the barrel, we sat down for a tasting. On the nose, the whiskey exuded notes of thick, creamy custard, as well as peaches and cream, brown-sugar simple syrup, cherry and lemon peel. On the palate, it was delicious and oaky, featuring banana, caramel, vanilla, cherry candies and street strawberries. The finish was warming and a bit grainy with notes of cherries, apple pie, vanilla ice cream and cinnamon.

Upon adding two drops of water, the whiskey acquired a nuttier profile (think walnuts and peanuts) with sweet and fruity notes including marshmallows, orange peel, blackberries and blueberries.

It blew my mind how good this creamy, delicious whiskey was, and I’m very grateful I had the chance to taste it (God, I wish I had a bottle).

After the tasting, we headed Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House & Restaurant — a charming Southern joint that’s apparently something of an institution in Lynchburg — for an ample, family-style lunch.

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Lunch at Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House & Restaurant

After lunch, we walked over to the Lynchburg Hardware and General Store (essentially a Jack Daniel’s gift shop). Then, we walked back to the distillery for a tasting of the new whiskeys (to read about that, click here).

Following the tasting, we enjoyed a nice, low-key dinner at a restaurant in the hotel. We departed the next morning.

All in all, it was a lovely trip, and we were ecstatic to have the opportunity to get an early sneak peek of some phenomenal whiskeys. Jack Daniel’s is on an incredibly exciting trajectory that would have been hard to imagine a decade ago, and we’re just glad to be along for the ride. Keep goin’, JD.

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David Morrow is the managing editor of Whiskey Raiders and has been with the company since September 2021. David has worked in journalism since 2015 and has had bylines at Sports Illustrated, Def Pen, the Des Moines Register and the Quad City Times. David holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Saint Louis University and a Master of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. When he’s not tasting the newest exciting whiskey releases, David enjoys spending time with his wife and dog, watching sports and traveling.