Tucked away in the rolling green hills of south central Tennessee, the charming small town of Lynchburg has just one traffic light and a quaint Main Street lined with eclectic shops. But for a town with a population less than 6,000, Lynchburg feels busier than one would expect. The reason? Hundreds of thousands of visitors pay a visit every year to this city to tour the Jack Daniel Distillery, which has been making charcoal-mellowed whiskey here since 1866.
The location is ironic, considering that Lynchburg is located in Moore County — called “the wettest dry county in the world.” The sale of liquor has been banned here since prohibition laws went into effect in Tennessee in 1910.
The city was first settled in 1801, and some 60 years later, diminutive Jack Daniel (he was said to be 5-foot, 4-inches tall) began his distillery here. Daniels learned to make whiskey from the Rev. Dan Call, with whom Daniel was sent to live when he was a young boy, and an enslaved man named Nathan “Nearest” Green. When he was 16, Daniel bought the still from Call for $25 and launched his whiskey business on the current distillery grounds.
Having never married or had children, Daniel passed the distillery on to his nephews who later sold the business in 1956 to Brown-Forman Corp., which still owns it today.
The 2,000-acre distillery, which marked its 150th year in 2016, was founded next to a cool, clear cave spring, dubbed Cave Spring Hollow. Realizing the water was free from sediment and impurities, Daniel decided it was the perfect base for his drink. He purchased the hollow and surrounding land for $2,148. The constant 56-degree water from Cave Spring Hollow still serves as the source for every bottle of Jack Daniel’s whiskey.
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Today, whiskey lovers from around world make the pilgrimage to visit the home of good ol’ JD, just 90 minutes south of Nashville). To accommodate the growing number of tourists, the Jack Daniel Distillery underwent a full-scale overhaul in 2017, which encompassed the Visitor Center, Barrel House and The Motlow House, an event space for Jack Daniel’s invite-only “Squires” club.
Multiple tours are offered, ranging from the 30-minute Mr. Jack Toast in the Hollow tour, featuring a motor coach spin through the grounds and a whiskey toast, to a three-hour Taste of Lynchburg tour, which includes a whiskey tasting and lunch at Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House Restaurant. The Flight of Jack Daniel’s tour includes a visit to the infamous Cave Spring Hollow, and the Dry County Distillery tour is available to visitors who don’t want to imbibe.
Tours begin at the Visitor Center’s in the White Rabbit Bottle Shop and Gallery, where a selection of Jack Daniel’s whiskeys are available for purchase – the only place in Lynchburg where the whiskey can be bought. Custom-labeled bottles are also available.
Tour highlights include a barrel house containing more than 20,000 barrels of whiskey, each holding about 50 gallons — that’s 1 million gallons of whiskey and more than 85 million shots; the rickyard where cords of wood from sugar maple trees are burned to make the famous charcoal used to mellow the whiskey; and a peek inside Jack Daniel’s first office.
Of course tastings are the best part of any distillery tour. Tastings include sips of the brand’s most popular whiskeys and liqueurs: Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, Gentleman Jack and Jack Daniel’s Rye. Whiskey connoisseur might want to opt for the Angel’s Share tour to sample Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel, Jack Daniel’s Barrel Proof, Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Rye, Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select and Gold 27.
After exploring the distillery, lunch is in order at Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House Restaurant, located just off the town square in the heart of Lynchburg. Home cooking and Southern hospitality are served with a smile at the historic antebellum mansion. Although the menu changes, visitors can expect Southern delicacies such as fried chicken, meat loaf, fried okra, collard greens, mac and cheese, biscuits, cheese grits, baked whiskey apples and more.
Following lunch, take a stroll around the Historic Lynchburg Square or take a tour on a horse-drawn buggy. If you have a sweet tooth, stop by the Moon Pie General Store, which carries any flavor of Moon Pie one could imagine.
For a dose of history, visit the historic courthouse, built in 1885, or the Old Jail Museum, which was built in 1893 and was a functioning jail until 1990. Operated by the Moore County Historical Society, the museum contains a number of historic artifacts, including an old wood stove, 19th century woodworking tools, an ether machine, a spinning wheel and vintage clothing.
The perfect way to end the day is with happy hour at the Lynchburg Winery tasting room, located on the square. Here visitors can sample locally produced sweet, semi-sweet and traditional wines and raise toast to a day well spent.
IF YOU GO
Lynchburg, Tenn., is a 3.5-hour drive northwest of Atlanta.
Old Jail Museum. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Free, donations accepted. 231 Main St. 931-759-4111, www.lynchburgtn.com.
WHERE TO EAT
Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House Restaurant. Southern fare served family style in a historic antebellum home. Lunch is served at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Reservations recommended. $25 for adults, $7.99 for children ages 5-12, free for kids 4 and under. 295 Main St. 931-759-7394, www.jackdaniels.com/en-us/Miss-Mary-Bobos-Restaurant.
Barrel House BBQ. Classic barbecue dishes, casual eats and home to the “grilled cheese on crack,” a spicy sandwich loaded with pulled pork, American cheese and habanero sauce. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday-Saturday. $11.75-$15.75 for meat and two sides. 105 Mechanic St. S, 931-759-5760, www.barrelhousebbqtn.com.
WHERE TO STAY
The Mulberry Lavender Farm and B&B. A working lavender farm with bed and breakfast in an 1860s farmhouse, plus a private guest cottage. $150-$175 per night. 9 Back St., Mulberry, Tenn. 928-442-3817, www.mulberrylavender.com