September is always a special month for Jack Daniel’s. But what’s the so special about Jack? Ahead of the brand’s Jack Friday kicking off next month, we talk to Jack Daniel’s UK Ambassador Cam Dawson about the man behind the brand…
On Jack Daniel, the man…
Most people think of Jack Daniel’s as a brand but he was a real person. Jack wasn’t his real name though. He was born Jasper Newton Daniel in September 1850, the youngest of 10 children. His mother died soon after childbirth and his father remarried pretty quickly after. Young Jasper didn’t get on with his stepmother and left home at the age of six to live with the local minister, Dan Call.
Everything Jasper learned is down to Call. Including his passion for distilling. Call had a store; he also had a distillery. Jasper helped him in both, earning his keep by selling in the store and developing a skill for whiskey making by learning the intricacies of the Lincoln County Process, the unique charcoal filtering system that is required by law to create Tennessee whiskey.
Pressure from his congregation forced Call to choose between distilled spirits or the Holy spirit and as a man of the cloth, he wasn’t going to turn his back on God, so he sold the still to Jasper. From around the age of 16 young Jasper moved out on his own and set up his still and the rest as they say, is history.
On Jack Daniel’s, the brand…
There’s a reason why Jack Daniel’s is the best selling whiskey in the world, that’s because it’s a good product; a consistent product, it’s an iconic brand that everyone knows. It was also most people’s introduction to whisk(e)y. The fact it remains true to its history and heritage definitely helps, there’s something about the old-fashioned, small town values that people really like.
Above: Cam Dawson with some expressions from the Jack Daniel’s portfolio
On Jack Daniel’s, the whiskey…
Because it’s such a huge success people forget that Jack Daniel’s is actually a crafted product. The truth is, it’s made exactly the same today as it was at the beginning. Everything that comes out of the distillery goes through 100 quality control measures before it even gets to the still. That takes in everything from the iron-free cave spring water and the selection of corn, barley and rye that goes into the sour mash, right through to the white oak barrels that are handcrafted at the distillery. The quantities might have grown but the standards are still the same – Jack Daniel’s is one of the most consistent products around.
On Jack Daniel’s, the taste…
I’ll never forget my first taste of Jack Daniel’s – I was 18 and a friend bought a round of JD instead of our usual beers. I felt really grown up, really rock and roll. I’ll be honest, drinking a neat Jack Daniel’s was a shock to the system at first but I bought another round and I’ve been a fan of it’s smooth, slightly spicy, toasty oak characteristics ever since. And I’m not just saying that because I work for the brand. Which hasn’t always gone down well because I’m a Scot! To this day, my mum still buys me a bottle for Christmas!
There are a number of things that give Jack its distinct taste. Perhaps the most important factor is the charcoal filtering system where each drop of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey drips through 10 ft. of sugar maple charcoal, resulting in a mellow, smoother, more refined product. Then there’s the fact that the whiskey is matured in new charred oak barrels, each hand crafted at the Jack Daniel’s distillery. No other whiskey maker can say the same. And unlike Scotch whisky, there’s no age statement with Jack – as they like to say, “it’s ready when it’s ready” The tasters use their senses to judge.
And don’t think it’s just for for mixing with cola. It’s a really smooth, versatile product with lots of character that works really well in a range of cocktails like the No. 7 sour and Lynchburg lemonade.
On Jack Daniel’s, the bottle…
That iconic square-shaped bottle signifies strength and integrity. Jack regarded himself as a ‘square shooter’, an honest, stand up chap which very much comes through – there’s a whole lot of Jack in that bottle, including his signature embossed on the side.
On Jack Daniel’s, the myths…
There are so many myths surrounding Jack Daniel the man and Jack Daniel’s the product. But the best ones are about the name, Old No. 7. Some people say the ‘7’ stands for the number of girlfriends Jack had – he was considered quite the ladies man! Others claim it was the seventh and final recipe Jack developed. One of my favourites was a consumer who was absolutely convinced that he had the answer – according to him it was because Jack had seven fingers! We might not know many things about Jack but we do know he had all his digits!
On Jack Daniel’s and the music…
One of the reasons I first started drinking Jack Daniel’s was the association it had with music – all of the coolest rock stars were always seen with a bottle, everyone from The Rat Pack to Lemme, Keith Richards and Slash.
Jack started that music connection off when he ordered instruments from a catalogue and created the Silver Cornet Band in 1892. It was made up of distillery workers and locals and became a huge success. It’s actually still going today as is Jack Daniel’s association music, it’s still the perfect mix.
Jack Friday echoes the lines of good Friday, when every employee at the distillery is given a bottle of Jack Daniel’s on the first Friday of each month.
This year there will be series of Jack Friday parties in keeping with the traditions of Jack with live music, barbecues and of course, cocktails. We’ll also be giving away lots of prizes ranging from glassware to a trip for two to Tennessee.
7 facts about Jack and Old No. 7…
- The Jack Daniel Distillery is the oldest registered distillery in the US.
- Jack Daniel’s is one of the most popular brand names of all time.
- The distillery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.
- The Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 recipe and process have remained the same since 1866.
- The distillery is located in a dry county.
- There have only been seven Master Distillers in the history of Jack Daniel’s. Jeff Arnett currently holds the honour.
- Despite the big impression he made on the world, Jack Daniel was only 5’2″.