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March 01, 1973 - Image 5

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1973-03-01

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Thursday, Moreh 1, 1973

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Page Five

Thursday, March 1, '1973 THE MICHIGAN DAILY Page Five

A

visit

to

the

Jack

Daniels

Distillery

Mr. Clarence Rolman does his thing

The maple ricks

Relaxing after a day's work

Readers of most major magazines readily recognize
the advertisements for Jack Daniel's famous Sour Mash
whisky. The ads depict a small, provincial factory, nestled
inconspicuously in Lynchburg, Tennessee, a town with one
traffic light and a population of three hundred and sixty
one, located twelve miles from Tullahoma and sixteen
miles from Shelbyville. Workers are seen around the sta-
tue of the founding father and patron saint, Mr. Jack
Daniel, or hanging Christmas lights in the house, 'or in-
tently watching that golden nectar mellowing in a vat of
hard maple charcoal. Everyone seems to belong to an in-
timate, contented clan, whose patriarch, it would seem,
is a certain Lem Motlow, listed as the "Prop." in all of
the ads.
A visit to the distillery dispels some of these myths.
Lynchburg's population has, alas, almost doubled in the
past few years, and at last count had reached the astro-
nomical figure of five hundred and twenty eight. A second
traffic light has now been purchased. What one had envis-
ioned to be a small production line is actually manned by
two hundred and sixty five full-time employees; and effi-
cient machines rather than the hands of the loving em-
ployees fill each of the black-labeled bottles. Finally, it
seems that Mr. Motlow died a number of years ago, though
his wife still lives across from the distillery in the old
white house. Up to last year, she shared the house with her
bachelor son, but at the age of sixty-seven he finally suc-
cumbed - and got married.

One soon discovers, however, that the distillery is as
steeped in tradition as the whisky is in the hard maple
charcoal. All visitors are told the legendary story of Jack
Daniel, a tale recounted by one of the illustrious guides
on the premises. Perhaps that guide would be Mr. Clar-
ence Rolman, aged seventy one, who recently retired fron
the production-end of the operation after thirty years.
Jack Daniel, so the story goes, ran away from home
at a young age, and began to work on a farm six miles
from Lynchburg. His employer promptly put Jack to work
on the still in the back; but when the farmer turned to the
pulpit, the church elders forced him to cease all such
operations, so he sold the still to Daniels.
It was at this time that Daniel moved to Lynchburg,
because of its fabled fresh-water spring. Not only does the
water maintain a constant temperature all year round;
it is completely free of iron, and any whisky afficionado
can tell you that one nail would be enough to ruin a barrel
of the brew.
Mr. Daniel, though reputed to be a great ladies man,
never married, and in )907, four years before his death,
he bequeathed the place to Mr. Motlow, the son of his sis-
ter. Motlow soon ran into problems, however, because Ten-
nessee went dry in 1910. He bravely moved the plant,
lock, stock, and barrels, to Birmingham, Alabama, which
went dry shortly thereafter. From there it was west to
Missouri, only to have nationwide prohibition close the
distillery entirely. Even with its repeal in 1933, Motlow was

out of luck and thirsts went unslaked; for the county in
which Lynchburg is located was still dry, and banned even
the production of liquor.
Unrelenting in his efforts, Motlow decided to "work
within the system", got himself elected to the legislature,
and had the law changed. Five years after the repeal, the
plant was triumphantly reopened. "Politics," states Mr.
Rolman at least three times in the course of his tale. "Put
a little of it in your gravy in the morning, wouldn't be
able to eat it."
A walk around the distillery reveals the massive oper-
ation which has risen from Mr. Jack's lone still. There are
the hard-maple ricks, from which emerges, in. a delicate
balance between plain wood and ashes, the secret to its
"charcoal mellowed, drop by drop" flavor; the giant tanks
of brew, eighty percent corn, twelve percent rye and
eight percent barley malt; the giant bottling machines; a
signed photograph from Cactus Jack Garner, who loved
the whisky and who was a personal friend of the late Mr.
Motlow.
Alas, despite all of the machinery and memorabilia,
those who head to Lynchburg looking for a free sample
of the stuff are, bound to be disappointed. Because the
county is still dry, one can't even buy Jack Daniel's noble
brew there; employees who sneak a clandestine snort are
technically breaking the law. For what it's worth, free
Coca-Cola is provided at the end of the tour.

Jack Daniel

Jack Daniel's

PHOTOGRAPHS and TEXT
by
DAVID MARGOLICK

JJL
w AM

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