I’m not a big fan of whiskey, but I am a fan of touring historical places and learning new things. So if I happen to visit a historical landmark where they also serve whiskey then I’m down with liking whiskey for the day.
I was all ready to tour, learn and taste on a recent trip to the Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg, TN, but instead I spent the whole time chasing a small child and the closest taste I got to a taste was from inhaling the vapors from the charcoal distilling process through my mouth. (more on that later)
Let’s start with lunch
We started our Lynchburg visit with lunch at Miss Mary Bobo’s Restaurant, which began as a boarding house in the late 19th century. Eating at Miss Mary Bobo’s is not your normal restaurant experience. Unless you have a really large party, you’ll be dining “family-style” at a table with strangers and you’ll have a host that will ask you to introduce yourself and then she will share stories about the house and history.
Unfortunately I was at the other end of the table so I didn’t get to hear much of the history, and I spent most of the dinner explaining to my son why there were random people at our table. It was a pretty typical southern meal- fried chicken, corn, cheese grits, fried okra and cucumbers. I was too busy passing around the food, eating and trying to get my son to eat to actually take any photos until the end. I managed to snag a photo of the Chess Pie, but was too far away to hear the story very well so I thought it was called “Just Pie” until my cousin told me the real name.
The food was pretty good, but a little pricey at $25 for adults and $9 for kids. Especially when the kid ate 1/2 of one chicken chunk. But overall, it was a neat dining experience.
Now let’s get some whiskey! (or Not)
Next we headed over to the Jack Daniels Distillery to learn about the history of whiskey making. Interesting tidbit – the distillery is in a dry county! But they can get away with giving people samples due to the “educational” nature of the tastings.
Upon arriving we discovered kids weren’t allowed on the tasting tour, so my cousin and I got stuck with the kids while the grandparents all went on the fun tour. Yayyyy… If anyone could use some whiskey, it was the ones doing the kid-wrangling. There are no strollers allowed either, so plan on carrying your kid up a lot of stairs.
Boredom struck as we waited 30 minutes for the tour to begin, so I handed my son the phone to play Pokemon Go, and we were lucky that there were plenty of poke stops throughout the tour. This also meant that I spent most of the tour chasing him around and making sure he didn’t drop my phone into a vat of fermenting sour mash.
I caught bits and pieces of the history as we made our way around the area. There was a really pretty cave and a fresh spring that runs through the distillery, which is why they chose that spot to build. I also learned that Jack Daniel never married or had any kids and he died from blood poisoning when he busted his toe after kicking a safe he had trouble opening. They actually still have that exact safe in his office.
As for learning about the whiskey-making process, the only part I recall is that it is charcoal filtered. We got to stop at the large vats of charcoal that the whiskey slowly drips through as part of the filtering process that mellows the flavor. Our tour guide asked everyone to stand close and open their mouths as she pumped the lid up and down. There was a big whoosh of whiskey-scented air and you could actually taste it a little bit! After that it’s just a blur of Pokemon chasing, hot cramped areas and going up and down stairs.
Then for the final bit of fun – we got to walk past the tasting areas that were encased in giant glass walls so we could look in and actually see the rest of our group doing their whiskey tasting! I think if you added up all the samples, it might equal one shot. But I was never more ready for a shot of whiskey by that point…
So would I recommend it?
Yes! Overall, it was a neat place with a lot of history and a unique dining experience, and I would totally recommend doing both if you find yourself near Lynchburg. Just take my advice and leave the little kids at home for this adventure!