The world knows about Lynchburg, where Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey is made, barreled and distributed. But the world knows little to nothing about Clifton, though it’s integral to Jack Daniel’s whiskey production.
Clifton, on the Tennessee River in West Tennessee, is one of four locations where the company that owns Jack Daniel’s, Brown-Forman Corp. of Louisville, Ky., has stave mills. Each location manufactures barrel staves, which form the barrel body and end pieces.
“Barrels are more than a container for our whiskey, they’re an important ingredient,” says Jeff Arnett, Jack Daniel’s master distiller. “The color of Jack Daniel’s and more than half of our whiskey’s flavor is derived from the barrel.
“We believe in the importance of the barrel in making our whiskey so much that we are the only major distiller that makes its own barrels.”
Brown-Forman barrel wood comes from American white oak trees in Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia. About 85 percent of the trees that go to the Clifton mill are from West and Middle Tennessee.
The use of white oak for whiskey or wine barrels was introduced by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago, the Brown-Forman website states. White oak has what is known as tyloses, a type of cell that makes the wood water- and rot-resistant.
“It allows the whiskey to go into, but not penetrate all the way through the wood,” says Darrell Davis, senior operations manager for the Brown-Forman mills.