Guided tours give visitors a behind the scenes look at the art of making whiskey.
Tennessee whiskey is a rare category of liquor, classified as such for the extra steps it takes to make it. The flavor is distinct from other American whiskeys thanks to a charcoal-mellowing process in which the whiskey is slowly filtered through vats of charcoal before it is put into casks for aging. Only two brands of Tennessee whiskey exist on the market today, Jack Daniel’s and George Dickel. With distilleries located within 80 miles of Nashville, a Tennessee whiskey tour is the perfect day trip for whiskey lovers and history enthusiasts alike.
Registered in 1866, the Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee, is the oldest registered distillery in the United States and is on the National Register of Historic Places. More than 200,000 visitors tour the distillery each year to learn about the famous whiskey and the man behind the brand, Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel. Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey is made with corn, rye, barley malt and iron-free water from a limestone cave spring that runs at a constant 56 degrees. On the tour, you’ll see the underground spring, as well as the whiskey stills, fermenting tanks and charcoal-mellowing vats used during the whiskey-making process. After the tour, explore the town of Lynchburg to see Daniel’s gravesite, eat at the century-old Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House and shop at the Lynchburg Hardware and General Store, opened by Daniel’s nephew, Lem Motlow, during Prohibition.
About 20 miles northeast of Lynchburg is the home of George Dickel Tennessee Whisky. The current George Dickel Distillery has operated in Cascade Hollow since 1958, though the brand has been around since 1870. George Dickel distinguishes itself from Jack Daniel’s and other whiskey makers by chilling the liquor before it goes into the charcoal mellowing vats—a step Dickel added to make the whiskey smoother. In fact, Dickel thought it was as smooth as the finest Scotch, so he decided to spell “whiskey” without the “e,” like they do in Scotland. Dickel’s recipe combines corn, barley and rye with water from nearby Cascade Spring. A tour of the George Dickel Distillery gives a behind-the-scenes look at the unique crafting traditions of the brand. Tours start at the visitor’s center, which has photo exhibitions and antiques on display. Before you leave, stop by the George Dickel General Store for souvenirs and send a letter or postcard to friends at the only working U.S. Post Office at any distillery in the United States.
Despite being economic mainstays in their respective towns, both distilleries are in dry counties of Tennessee that forbid the sale of alcoholic beverages without a special license. Luckily, the Jack Daniel and George Dickel distilleries have such licenses, though they are restricted. Don’t expect to find the classic whiskey labels of either brands after your tour, but you can walk away with a special commemorative bottle of whiskey if you are 21 years or older. Jack Daniel’s bottles can be purchased at the distillery’s White Rabbit Bottle Shop, and George Dickel can be purchased at a small liquor store located in the George Dickel General Store.
IF YOU GO:
Jack Daniel Distillery
182 Lynchburg Highway, Lynchburg
Tour hours: Daily 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
George Dickel Distillery
1950 Cascade Hollow Road, Tullahoma
Tour hours: Tu.-Sa. 9 a.m.-4 p.m.