The Whiskeys of Jack Daniel’s in 1910 – And Taking Religion

Jack Daniel, the famous owner of the Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg, TN, sold the distillery to his nephew Lem Motlow and a cousin some years before he died in 1911. Motlow soon became sole owner when the cousin sold him his interest. State prohibition was looming, and finally shut the distillery January 1, 1910. The course America had set was clear. Daniel’s course appears to have changed personally as well. According to this story from April 29, 1909 in the Sequachee Valley News, Sequatchie, TN, Jack Daniel, seemingly not professing religion earlier, became baptized by immersion in Mulberry Creek.

Here is the story:

CONVERSION OF
MAJ. JACK DANIELS
Once Proprietor of Famous
Distillery, Maker of No. 7,
Becomes Baptist.
SHELBYVILLE, Tenn., April 27.
Elder A. J. Willis, an ex-Primitive
Baptist preacher of South Pittsburg,
who has charge of two or three church
es in this county, was here yesterday
and told the Banner correspondent an
interesting story of the conversion of
Maj. Jack Daniel, the noted distiller
and former proprietor of that famous
whisky brand, “Jack Daniel, No. 7.”
Mr. Daniel made a profession of relig
ion several days ago and was baptized
by immersion in Mulberry Creek Sun
day by Elder Willis. The Elder says
that Maj. Daniel’s conversion was one
if the most earnest be has ever known.
Maj. Daniel is one of the wealthiest
men of Middle Tennessee and has lotig
been noted for his kindness of heart
and unbounded liberality. He is no
longer interested in the whiskey busi-
ness and has, it is stated, forbidded
the use of his name on whisky brands,
and in the future his large capital will
be differently employed. His famous
distillery at Lynchburg has passed in
to other hands.

The military title – 1890s news accounts call him a captain – was presumably a militia post or perhaps an honorary title, as for Kentucky Colonels today.

The reference to his kindness and “unbounded liberality” is notable, it seems the hard-hearted executive is not an invariable model for high business success. This ties in, too, to recent news stories showing Daniel pictured in the late 19th century next to a black employee. Clearly he wasn’t intimidated by social norms of the day and at least in this fashion recognized the importance of a key employee.

Tennessee introduced liquor prohibition in stages a few years before WW I, well before National Prohibition in 1920. When it banned even the manufacture of alcoholic beverages for shipping out of state, the distillery relocated under the new ownership in a number of locations outside the state including Hopkinsville, KY, just over the state line. The distillery in Lynchburg clearly was able to ship large amounts of inventory to Kentucky before the manufacturing ban took effect, and to sell it (apparently lawfully) in parts of Tennessee after, as the ad below shows from the March 3, 1910 issue of The Comet, a newspaper in Johnson City, TN:

“Jack Daniel’s Old-Time Distillery, No. 7,
Ceased operation on December 31, 1909, in accordance with the law which
became effective on that date. This famous old Distillery, which has
been in uninterrupted operation since 1866, and is the oldest in the United
States, has earned and won the gold medals offored in the greatest Exposi-
tions of the earth. The quality, purity and general excellence of “Jack
Daniel’s Old No. 7” Whiskey is appreciated wherever whiskey is known,
and recommended by physicians everywhere.

16 YEARS OLD – I have a few barrels of Extra Fine Old Lincoln County
Whiskey. This is nearly 17 years old, at $3.00 per Gallon.
BRANDIES – My Own Make – Apple and Peach Brandles, can’t be beat.
ALL MY OWN GOODS – I do not buy anything from jobbers, and I han-
dle only the whiskies and brandies I make myself, so I know they
are always pure, properly aged, and my reputation for making
high grade whiskies and brandies is safe.

I Prepay All Express Charges – PRICES

White Lincoln County Whiskey, 75 proof, per gallon………………… $2.75
White Lincoln County Whiskey, 100 proof, per gallon……………….   3.25
Red Lincoln County Whiskey, 70 proof, per gallon……………………   2.75
Old Whiskey, 80 proof, per gallon………………………………………….. 3.25
Jack Daniel’s No. 7, age and proof considered, per gal…..     $3.00 to 5.00
Fine Old Blue Ribbon Whiskey, per gallon……………………………….. 6.00
Apple Brandy, 75 proof, per gallon…………………………………             2.75
Pure Brandy, 90 proof, per gallon……………………………………            3.75
Pure Apple and Peach Brandy, old 100 proof, per gallon…………..      5.00
Best Apricot Brandy, per gallon……………………………………………… 3.25
White Corn Whiskey, 75 proof, per gallon…………………………            2.75
White Corn Whiskey, 90 proof, per gallon………………………………..  3.00
White Corn Whiskey, 100 proof, per gallon………………………………  3.25
The Yellow Corn at the same prices as the White Corn Whiskey

4 Full Quarts No. 7, prepaid…………………………..                                $6.00
Case Goods 12 Full Quarts No. 7, prepaid……………………………..    15.50
No case goods guaranteed genuine unless corks branded “Jack Daniel’s
Old No. 7.”.

DRUM GOODS-100 pints, 200 1/2 pints, $27.00 F.O.B. You want the best,
then give my own goods a trial order.

                                Old Time

Jack Daniel       Distillery  Hopkinsville, Ky”.

…………….

It can be seen that listed first under the appellation Lincoln County (setting aside the eye-catching 16 year old whiskey) is the white whiskey – this was the original type, as I have explained earlier. However, there is also a Red Lincoln County Whiskey listed, and various old whiskeys which would have been dark from barrel age. The 16 year old whiskey was only $3.00 per gallon. Not much more than the least expensive white and corn whiskeys offered.

My theory is that all the aged whiskey shown was directly or indirectly an influence from the fame of Kentucky bourbon, as discussed earlier. White Lincoln County whiskey was still respected locally as a fine example of American whiskey, as we saw too from T.J. Latham’s high praise in 1895. In Kentucky, high praise since the Civil War was not reserved for white lightning or corn whiskey, it was reserved for fine aged bourbon – indeed bourbon meant well-aged, that was the essence of it.

Further points: corn whiskey in the ad was distinguished from White Lincoln County Whiskey. I think differences in storage type and time might have explained this, or mash bill. Not only that, there was Yellow Corn and White Corn whiskeys – two corn cultivars offering different flavours presumably.

The finest whiskey seems to have been, not the famous Old No. 7, itself available in different ages and proofs, but an Old Blue Ribbon Whiskey at an impressive $6.00 per gallon.

The Old Blue Ribbon was probably considered the best taste offered at the time, while the 16 year old whiskey, at half the price and (probably) double the age, was surely more a curiosity. Not that there is so much aged whiskey in our market today, but something to ponder for those always on the outlook for very old whiskey.

Jack Daniel died October 10, 1911 and his obituary in the Colombia Herald, Columbia, TN, can be read here.

Coda: the story of Jack’s taking religion stated his name henceforth would not be used on his whiskey brands. But in ads appearing through 1910 for his whiskeys now being shipped from Hopkinsville, his name is still prominent – as it is today.

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*The prices in the original ad were listed in a column more neatly than I was able to transfer in. The original ad can be viewed here, in this case from a February, 1910 issue of the Comet, but the content is the same.

 

 

 

 

8 thoughts on “The Whiskeys of Jack Daniel’s in 1910 – And Taking Religion

  1. Gary.
    Just to contradict myself slightly:
    Could it not have been the case that there was a small (very small) group of customers who enjoyed older whiskies?
    He states “…nearly 17 years old”.
    Why would he say that?
    Nobody would have been able to tell the difference, but he’s using it as a selling point.
    I stand by my claim, though, that he knew his “few barrels” were on their last legs and he needed to get rid of them.
    Alan.

    • I tend to agree that quality-wise Lem Motlow (now the owner) and any connoisseur would know that the whiskey was not the best at that advanced age. However, as today, there are people who want this. Think of some famous bourbon and rye brands in the last dozen years… Another or related possibility is, because the distillery had to say in the ad it was now in Kentucky, he may have wanted to give people a “bonus”, do something special to maintain interest in the whiskeys and their repute in Tennessee.

      Gary

  2. Gary.
    Agreed.
    Still strange that this “over-aged” 16-year-old would be sold as such.
    Why not “Extra-Old” or “Special Old”, something like that?
    Or……why not mingle a small percentage of this older stuff with younger?
    Alan.

  3. Gary.
    Also, I find it fascinating that all of these whiskies are NAS, when suddenly a 16-year-old appears.
    If the Old Blue Ribbon was 8-years-old, why not label it as such?
    And a jump from 8 to 16 is huge.
    Why not market a 10 and a 12?
    The 16 sticks out like a sore thumb, very confusing.
    Alan.

    • I think in general they didn’t want to mention age, even for the Old No. 7 which became the flagship, they refer to a range of proofs and years. On request I am sure people were told. To this day Jack Daniel’s doesn’t use age as a way to market the product, which in a time of penury of aged stocks, works to their advantage. Old Jack probably figured this out a long time ago…

      Gary

  4. Gary.
    That 16-year-old is certainly a curiosity.
    It obviously makes no sense from a business perspective to sell it at roughly the same price, as you point out, as the younger whiskies.
    My theory: He states that he has “a few barrels”, and that the whisky is “nearly 17 years old”. It was too old at this point, and still aging of course, and his “few barrels” that he had left he was selling at a discount.
    As you suggest, the younger whiskies were more popular. Those that were barrel-aged for 5, 6, 7 or 8 years sold, but not as quickly as the younger ones.
    Invariably there would be some still-aging spirit that would become, while certainly drinkable, not to the taste of the majority of customers.
    Alan.

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