The festive season has begun and all the cities and towns are having their annual Christmas Tree Lightings. But while every town has a tree lighting, it is only here in Tennessee that you can experience the annual Barrel Tree Lighting at the Jack Daniels Distillery. So of course, we had to go down and join in the holiday fun at the distillery.
Jack Daniels is a name that is known world wide for whiskey. Jasper “Jack” Daniels left home at the young age of 7 or 8 and was taken in by a local farmer who taught him how to make whiskey. Everyone was making whiskey, from the farmer to the priest, and it was the most prominent side gig of the early 1900s. The farmer would later sell his farm to Jack where he branched out and established his own distillery using the fresh spring water of the Tennessee hills as the source for his spirits.
When prohibition came into play across the country, most of the whiskey making went underground and would be made by the light of the moon which is why it was called ‘Moonshine’. But Jack Daniels not only survived through the prohibition, but he seemed to thrive during it. Tennessee would have the restrictions of prohibition 5 years longer than other states. To this day, the county remains a dry country and the only way they’ve been able to offer tastings and purchases is a tricky little twist in a agricultural bill.
We walked through the crowd enjoying the festive touches here and there and general feel of comradery in everyone. Good will and southern hospitality rang through the crowd as everyone prepared to welcome the holiday season. We even ran into Whiskey Santa, the man in red’s southern cousin.
We joined the crowd surrounding the barrel tree. Many of the people there are employees of the distillery while others are residents of the small town of Lynchburg where the distillery is located. Jack Daniels has a reputation for whiskey, but the company also has a reputation for being one of the best places to work with great benefits, family type bond between employees, and a bottle of whiskey that comes with every paycheck. It is actually really difficult to get a job here because their turn over rate is so low.
The barrel tree towered over everyone with stacks of whiskey barrels and garlands waiting for the moment when the lights would come on. A few of the long timers of the distillery got up and talked about their 45 years of working here at the distillery and the good times they have had. A local fiddle and banjo band entertained the crowd with music and when they sang ‘Rocky Top Tennessee’ there was much whooping and cheering from the crowd.
The as the sky grew dark and the anticipation was high, they announced it was time to count down. They did not count down from 10, but instead from 7 in honor of Mr. Jack’s famous No. 7 whiskey. They switched on the lights and the barrel tree became a glowing festive beacon. Who would have known that whiskey barrels would be so pretty with some garlands and lights around them. There seemed to be a collective sigh of wonder as the lights were turned on as everyone just soaked in the moment of being there.
We made our way through the crowd to get up close to the barrel tree. Everyone was offering to take pictures of others and wishing strangers Merry Christmas as we all came together to enjoy the lights of the barrel tree. This could be one of our new favorite ways to ring in the holidays. We loved being part of the friendship and merriment as we all gathered around the barrel tree.
If you need some other festive holiday traditions, then you may be interested in these:
Thanks for joining us for the annual Barrel Tree Lighting at Jack Daniels Distillery. May your lights be bright and your whiskey be smooth this holiday season.