Inside look at the Jack Daniel Cooperage

While the Jack Daniel's distillery is up the road in Lynchburg, Tennessee, they couldn't make their whiskey without a key ingredient grown, cut, built and burnt right here

Posted: Mar. 15, 2019 6:38 PM
Updated: Mar. 15, 2019 6:38 PM

Speech to Text for Inside look at the Jack Daniel Cooperage

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north alabama is home to a lot of high-tech, space-age manufacturing. but there's a decidedly "down-to-earth" industry thriving here as well: tennessee whiskey! true jack daniel's distillery is up the road in lynchburg, tennessee. but they couldn't make it without the key ingredient grown, cut, built and burnt right here! "we are building the number one ingredient to jack daniel's whiskey." waay 31 got a rare look inside the jack daniel cooperage, here in trinity - sacred ground for whiskey lovers although it looks more like hell at times on the inside! plant manager darrell davis and his team of 140 skilled technicians build these barrels. the wood works magic - slowly transform clear, hard liquor into smooth amber- colored jack daniel's tennesse whiskey. the barrels are made, he says, with just two materials... "and that's american white oak and american craftsmanship." the white oak is grown locally, much of it milled just 90 miles up the road in stevenson. it's then trucked to the cooperage where it's dried... "and then it goes through a series of machining processes to get the staves and the heading material ready to be assembled, or what we call raising the barrel." much of the barrel-making process is automated. but raising the barrel is too critical to be left to a machine. it's still a skilled hands- on process. "basically, keep it nice and tight towards that bottom." taylor howard's been with the company for 3 years. he sets the 32 staves in place. the critical 33-rd locks them in place. "how long did it take you to figure this out? hey it's rough! you can't get it on the first time. yes sir. it takes time. it takes repetition. but once you get ahold of it, it's just like going to bed. you pretty much have an eye for it. yes sir." they use no glue, no adhesive, no nails. and they can't make them fast enough. "we produce right at twelve hundred barrels a day. a day! a day. five days a week. five days a week." that's 6,000 barrels every week. and each barrel holds 53 gallons of old number seven. "that's a lot of whiskey. and you're looking to expand. yes." right now, the industy's explosive growth is hindered by the trade war. according to a report released last month by the distilled spirits council, retailiatory tarrifs in canada, mexico, china and the european union generated sobering numbers for american whiskey makers last year. exports fell 8.7 percent in the last half of 2018 as tarrifs kicked in. "while exports of american-made whiskey did take a hit last year, the distilled spirits council reported record sales domestically in 2018. it's a multi- billion dollar industry that shows no signs of drying up." american whiskey sales in the states were up 6.6-percent to $3.6 billion dollars. jack daniel's and other distillers are projecting even stronger growth when the tarrifs end. something davis is expecting. "this facility was designed to expand based on business needs." meanwhile back on the production line steam and steel rings help form the familiar barrel shape. the heads of the barrel the top and bottom are cut and assembled. then the inside of the barrel is toasted and charred to bring out the wood's natural sugars. this is where it truly becomes an ingredient in the whiskey. "so, this helps finish the caramelization of the wood to get one hundred percent of the color and up to sixty percent of that taste. this adds to that." from there the heads are pounded in place... six hoops are attached to hold it together... and the bunghole is cut. when the barrels pass the pressure test, they're trucked 75 miles to lynchburg. four years later, these barrels will turn out the most popular american whiskey in the world. american made from start to finish. and it couldn't happen without this cooperage. "yeah. it wouldn't be jack without these barrels. ha ha" the cooperage in trinity celebrated its fourth year last year - and they were finally able to bottle the first whiskey matured
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