Today, I’ll stay in the southern portion of America and talk alcohol. Now, this is a peculiar topic for me considering I am a teetotaler and have not consumed a drop of alcohol since being dared to at about age 13. Interestingly enough that dare involved whiskey, and that is this topic of this post’s odd stop.
Off of Highway 55 in the middle of this southern state sits tiny Lynchburg, Tennessee. Lynchburg is the seat of Moore County—which has the distinction of being the smallest county in the Volunteer state. In small-town Lynchburg resides one big name distillery: Jack Daniels.
Since 1875, the Jack Daniels company has brewed 80 proof or stronger whiskey in Lynchburg with two notable respites: one break for several years due to prohibition and the other related to World War II.
The Jack Daniels plant has a walking tour, a nice gift shop, and a little visitor’s center that offer amenities for weary travelers. But, the funniest aspect of the Jack Daniels whiskey distillery is that it is located in a dry county. That is correct, Jack Daniels employees can make alcohol here, but the beverage cannot be sold until you reach a neighboring county.
A few years ago, the State realized they were missing out on tourism money so they passed legislation that now allows Jack Daniels and other TN distillers to override local restrictions and sell small gift bottles of their product in gift stores. Despite this token opportunity, one understands the limitations in alcohol availability while driving to the plant and reading 150+ signs that say “Last Chance Alcohol” scattered alongside the roadway right before entering Moore County.
I’ll assume that Jack Daniels is either the top or one of the three largest employers in the county, but isn’t ironic that the association of alcohol as evil allows citizens to ban alcohol sales in their communities—but making it is well, ok.
Three other sight-seeing notes if you are in that area:
--Mr. Daniels died due to blood poisoning from an infection—-allegedly the result of a foot injury sustained when he kicked his safe at work after forgetting the combination. The safe is part of the tour and I can relate to hitting and kicking inanimate objects in a rare fit of anger (glad I did not meet the same fate as Jack did).
--As a boy, Mr. Daniels reportedly learned his alcoholic beverage making from a local Lutheran minister.
--Eating some fried catfish, country ham and fried okra at a local historic restaurant called Miss Mary Bobo's Boarding House is worth a few minutes as well. I also noticed that they opened a barbecue place (hello) nearby--too bad that wasn’t around when I was there.
--Get ready when you visit that area because the people are unbelievably friendly. We took the father-in-law who has lived in the North his entire life, and he still laughs today about how many other drivers waved to him as we moved along the back roads to the distillery. I think he was shocked at first, but got used to it real quick. It is something that I have yet to replicate up here (despite offering plenty of friendly hellos and waves) in the Northeast.
In sum, if you are every around the central part of Tennessee, visiting the Jack Daniels plant in Lynchburg is a nice stopover—just make sure you don’t go expecting taste testing or the opportunity to browse through a liquor superstore (unless one of those last chance stores at the county line has expanded).