A President’s Club Award & A Trip Down Memory Lane
“I always wanted a full barrel of Jack Daniel’s whiskey.”
This is what I told Christine and Aki the first time I met them. We were sitting in a restaurant in Cincinnati, OH, a few miles away from the Bourbon Trail, getting to know one another. That might sound like an odd thing to say at a first meeting . And it probably is.
Unless you’re from Lincoln County, Tennessee, like me.
Lincoln County is about 15 miles down the road from Lynchburg, Tennessee, the famous home of the Jack Daniel’s distillery. Growing up here, whiskey was everything. My grandparents even had a whiskey barrel they used as their TV stand, proudly sitting in the middle of the dining room, plus several more half barrels they used as flower pots. All this, and they were what Southerners would call, “Teetotalers.” They never drank a drop of alcohol. But in Lincoln County, used whiskey barrels in the house are about as common as Ikea credenzas. This is the heart of whiskey country, after all.
I remember taking the stopper out of the bung-hole when I was young, smelling inside the barrel and wondering why in the world anyone would want to drink that stuff. The barrels still had the smell of whiskey inside them, and if the cork was out, it would smell up the whole house.
So, when it came time for Christine, Aki and me to decide on a President’s Club sales award at Eon, the decision was easy. We planned a trip to Lynchburg to hand pick a single barrel of Jack Daniel’s. To me, this would be more than a sales award. It was a trip back to childhood.
I remember visiting the Jack Daniel’s distillery when I was 10 years old. It was the first visit that I can remember. My mom took my friend, Paul, and me and we did the tour. There’s a lot to see in the distillery – but what I remember most are the smells. There was the smell of the sour mash bubbling like it was boiling and the smell of warm oak when they opened up the charcoal barrels. Later, when I attended Motlow State College (named after Jack Daniel’s nephew, Lee Motlow), I drove through Lynchburg several times a week, and still remember the smell of sour mash as it filled the air. Those memories all immediately come back any time I catch the faintest scent of Jack Daniel’s whiskey.
Resurrecting those memories, and sharing them with my colleagues, was what the trip was really all about. I was sharing a part of my hometown – something that is deeply personal and rooted in my soul and upbringing. The water, the hills, the weather of Lincoln County are all captured in every barrel.
Needless to say, when it came time for us to sample different barrels for the selection, we had a lot of discussion about what the proper single barrel for Eon should be. The master taster, “Goose,” told us to look for hints of banana, vanilla, oak, smoke, and pepper, and to pay attention to whether it tasted burnt at the front, middle or back of your tongue. We sampled barrels 19-334, 19-336, and 19-337. Barrel 334 was bright, potent, complex and finished hard while Barrel 337 was smooth, buttery and finished like sweet cream. 336 was average and our first loser. In the end, we chose a barrel that was smart and fiery, a little wild and on edge – and as Goose said, with a “kick-ass finish.” We all agreed, that’s what Eon is all about.
And so, I am beyond excited to share the contents of this special barrel, Jack Daniels Single Barrel 19-334 with you. Here’s to the old stories it will elicit, and the new stories it will inspire.