Is Jack Daniels Bourbon?

By G.K. Bayne

Jack Daniels is one of the world's best-selling Tennessee whiskeys. Bottled in a square bottle with a black label, it is one of the most recognized whiskey brand names, and has been featured in magazine ads, TV shows and movies. Because it is not processed by the very strict regulations of the bourbon industry, it does not have the distinction of being a true bourbon.


There are discrepancies into when the Jack Daniels distillery was founded, but the distillery claims that it began brewing in 1866. Since that time, the distillery has remained in the same Lynchburg, Tennessee location, although over the years several different people and corporations have owned it. Since 1956, the Brown-Forman beverage company has owned the distillery.


The distilling process of using sugar maple charcoal for filtering is what keeps Jack Daniels from being considered a bourbon. Jack Daniels is the best known brand of Tennessee whiskey, and many consider the brand to be much smoother and finer tasting than any bourbon.


The brand has been made and bottled in one location since its inception. Lynchburg is located in Moore County, Tennessee, and the pure spring water on the property is a key ingredient of the brand. Moore County is a "dry" county where liquor sales are not allowed; residents wishing to drink Jack Daniels must visit neighboring counties to purchase the product. Jack Daniels has been in constant production since the opening of the distillery in the 1800s, except during Prohibition where it was illegal for any distillery in the United States to operate and sell alcoholic beverages.


The Jack Daniels Distillery produces not only the familiar black label, but also a lesser grade green label and has two special labels, Gentleman Jack and Jack Daniels Single Barrel. The two special labels are sold in unique bottles as commemorative selections.


While the actual reason for the words "Old No. 7" on the bottle died with Jack Daniels himself, it is believed that the product was his seventh try at perfecting his whiskey blend. The Jack Daniels distillery has only had seven master brewers in its history with Jack Daniels himself being the first. In 2004, the company reduced the alcohol content to 80 proof to make it more consistent with other brands of whiskey and bourbon. This led to an outcry from consumers who preferred the former 86 proof blend. This was the second reduction in proof for the brand.


Like all alcoholic spirits, the overindulgence of Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey can lead to intoxication.