Jack Daniel's & Comin' In To Work Early - Intoxicating

MIKE VINSON, Guest Columnist

A sane guess is a majority of readers are familiar with Jack Daniel's Whiskey. Another sane guess is many of the readers have thrown down the ol' hatch a few slugs of Tennessee 's Finest!

The Jack Daniel Distillery, located in Lynchburg ,Tennessee ( Moore County ), is an iconic part of American culture, indeed. Year-after-year, it draws a plethora of visitors from all across the globe. Still, people from all across the globe imbibe JD by the tractor-trailer loads . . . barge loads!

A friend, named Marty Bragg, from Minnesota, was in the area to attend a concert in Chattanooga. Pre-planned, she and I rendezvoused early morning, Sat. May 19, in Manchester, and we headed down toward Lynchburg .

We arrived at the Jack Daniel Distillery around 10:30 a.m. Thankfully, we didn't have to wait very long to get on the bus for a grand tour of this fun, and most edifying, piece of Tennessee History.

The tour guide, a well-spoken, southern gentleman named Ron, walked the group through the complete history of Mr. Jack Daniel and the famous whiskey he created—a whiskey that probably has as good a chance of standing the "test of time" as any other commodity on the planet.

At one point, tour guide Ron walked the group inside the small building Jack Daniel used as an office. However, allow me to, first, interject this before going further: Jack Daniel—birth name being "Jasper Newton Daniel"—died on October 10, 1911, at the age of 61.

Over the years, I'd heard, more than once, the reason for Jack Daniel dying at such a relatively young age was he'd sampled too much of his own product a few too many times . . . alas, not so!

That said, tour guide Ron revealed to us listeners a most intriguing story. So goes the story, as told by Ron:

One morning, Jack Daniel came to the office, earlier than usual. Mr. Daniel attempted to get inside the safe. For whatever reason, he was unable to get the combination right. Frustrated, Jack Daniel kicked the safe, injuring his toe. After a few months, the toe became infected; "gangrene" set in, and the toe had to be amputated.

As the years wore on, and the gangrene spread, doctors had to perform periodic amputations farther on up his leg. Eventually, as already noted, Jack Daniel died at 61.

Ron told us the common wisdom around Lynchburg is: Had Jack Daniel soaked his injured toe in a barrel of his one hundred and forty proof whiskey—immediately after suffering the injury—such a procedure might've cured the infection. Lesson learned, mused Ron, is: "Don't come to work early, it's gonna kill you!"

We ended our tour inside what some might call a "Most Holy Place," if one dare mix such terminology with whiskey. This particular room is dedicated "to Jack Daniel's "Single Barrel Whiskey," which is the crème de la crème—top-of-the-shelf—of the Jack Daniel's Whiskey line.

Actually, this "Single Barrel" room, tall and spacious, resembles (to me, anyway) an ultra-secret, maximum security vault where TOP SECRET government files would be covertly housed, or, maybe, where a Bernie Madoff-type would stash millions in ill-gotten funds.

Regarding this sacred room, Ron told us that whenever an individual purchases a whole barrel of "Single Barrel" Jack Daniel's, he/she has his/her named engraved on what looks like a lockbox.

Word has it that a barrel of Single Barrel Jack Daniel's Whiskey was procured for Commander-and-Chief Barack Obama. For certain, President Obama's name is engraved in the Single Barrel Room.

All I can say is: Wow — how historically intoxicating!

And never forget: Jack Daniel forever will be with us…in "spirit," that is.

(NOTE: There are 53 gallons in a standard barrel of Jack Daniel's Whiskey.)

Mike Vinson can be contacted at mike_vinson56@yahoo.com.