February 6, 2007

Jack Daniels

And the man behind the brand is...
Jasper Daniels

Jasper Newton Daniel was called Jack around his house, when he was called anything at all. The last of ten children, the runt of the family never standing more than 5’5” tall and weighing more than 120 pounds, young Daniel felt snubbed in the busy family and left home at an early age to live with a Tennessee neighbor. Later he moved to live and work on the farm of Dan Call. On the farm Call blended whiskey distilling with maintaining a Lutheran ministry. In 1862, Call chose the church over his moonshine business and sold his still to 13-year old Daniel.

Daniel peddled whiskey to both sides throughout the Civil War, hiding his cargo under bales of hay on dangerous 50-mile excursions to Huntsville, Alabama. After the truce Daniel bought a tract of land in 1866 to build a distillery. He located his new plant about four miles from Lynchburg, Tennessee at Cave Spring in "the Hollow", known for its pure limestone water. The water was free from iron and a constant 56 degrees. His process of mellowing the liquor and filtering it through charcoal quickly proved popular.

Daniel was a shrewd businessman who created an image for his distillery based on his personality. He wore a mustache and goatee and sported a planter's hat and knee-length frock coat, evidently even while performing manual labor around the distillery. He never appeared in public unless in full regalia.

As liquor laws changed in the post-war period Daniel registered his business as the first registered distillery in the country, hence Jack Daniel Distillery No. 1. "Belle of Lincoln" and "Old Fashioned" were early brands but his greatest sales came from "Old Time No. 7", an esteemed "Tennessee sippin' whiskey." “No. 7” took first place in an international taste test during the 1904 St. Louis Exposition. In the 1880s Daniel's nephew encouraged him to market in bottles as well as wholesale barrels. Daniel developed his distinctive square bottles. After all, legend has it, he was a “square shooter.”

Jack Daniel retired in 1907, turning ownership of the distillery over to a nephew. He never married and lived with his sister and a brother-in-law his entire adult life. He died in 1911 from complications owing to a 1905 toe injury when he angrily kicked a safe that refused to open. After the toe problem he had to have the leg amputated.

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