Game Time: Tennessee Whiskey -- Jack Daniel vs Willie Wonka

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Having just returned from vacation literally about eight minutes ago, today's pearls of wisdom will not be sports-related (sports resumes in this space tomorrow). In my best efforts to derive some sort of synergy out of the 18-hour odyssey I just endured (Elkhart, IN to Houston, TX), today will be a few brief little travel nuggets followed by a southern flavored Tale of the Tape.

My travel recommendations are simple, and they go like this:

1.) Try not to take a vacation that involves driving 18 hours both ways.

2.) If you are put in such a situation (For me, this vacation was as last-minute and impromptu as they get -- translation: flights were like $1,200), then may I recommend the Ford F-150 truck as your means of transportation (Thank you, Chastang Ford! Seriously, you're the best).

3.) Make sure your means of transportation has satellite radio; the fact of the matter is like 95 percent of our great nation is remote, backwards, and in poor range of any compelling terrestrial radio. Satellite helps. (Fortunately, once I got to Little Rock, AK, I was treated to the dulcet tones of one John Granato and they guided me home like a shining beacon of dementia.)

4.) If you're a fan of the train wreck, and you happen to be going through Louisville, KY and want to eat at the restaurant where Rick Pitino knocked the bottom out of Karen Sypher -- Porcini's! -- it's closed on Sundays. Make a note. I found this out first-hand yesterday...and boom went the dynamite on my post for today -- an interview with a Porcini's server about the Pitino Incident. Oh, the questions. (Don't worry, it'll happen someday.)

5.) If you're within a 100-mile radius of Lynchburg, TN, do yourself a favor and go on the Jack Daniel's distillery tour. I had done it a couple years ago and found myself veering off the highway again to go back yesterday. It's awesome. PLUS, the fact that I actually went there yesterday means that I could dust off my old JD distillery recap from a couple years ago and not feel like this is a total "phone it in" job, since probably only about six of you read it the first time anyway. So for the other 999,994 of you that read these posts every day, this will be new and fresh.

So here you go, as told back in the summer of 2008 in my old blog (and as would be told verbatim in 2010 if it hadn't been said once already by me). Back to sports tomorrow. Enjoy!

"Jack Daniel's if you please .... knock me to my knees ..."

I'm going to say up front, I am generally not a whiskey drinker. Or a liquor drinker at all. I'll rock the occasional gin and tonic, and if my boy Malik puts a bull blaster in front of me I won't say no, but for the most part I am straight beer drinker when it comes to my alcoholic preferences. So I was only mildly giddy to visit the Jack Daniel's distillery in Lynchburg, TN. I have to say that I should have ratcheted up my giddiness for this stop on my journey because the Jack Daniel's distillery is a must see if you're ever in the Lynchburg area. And we all know what a high-traffic area the southern part of Tennessee is for vacation goers. "DAD, that summer we went to Chattanooga was the BEST! Can we go again? PLEASEPLEASEPLEASEPLEASE???!?!?!"

The tour itself was perfect -- informative, quick and not too much walking. We had a tour guide named William who I believe has been working at the distillery since his honorable discharge from the Confederate Army in 1862. William had one of those Tennessee accents where he could go on tour just saying the word "whiskey" over and over again for two hours and he would sell out arenas all over the world.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT -- If you are planning on going on the Jack distillery tour, this is the NUMBER ONE THING you need to know ... Lynchburg is in a dry county!! So if you have designs on getting wasted during the tour or after the tour at the visitor center, you can table those plans. They're allowed to sell you ONE commemorative item with Jack Daniel's whiskey in it at the gift store, that's it ... except on Sundays when they can't sell you anything with alcohol in it anywhere in the state. So naturally I was there on Sunday ... getting a tour of a distillery full of whiskey ... the best whiskey in the world ... and I couldn't have a sip. I would imagine this is what it would feel like to show up at one of those all-nude, hedonism cruises and find out that it's all dudes on the ship. Absolutely, positively shameful.

While the process is fascinating, I won't crush all of you with the whole "how they make Jack Daniel's whiskey" details. I don't think that's why you're reading this blog, and to be honest I'd butcher it somewhere along the way. Besides that's what Wikipedia is for. I thought instead I'd just dazzle you with a few little Jack factoids that I committed to memory. In fact, I am going to coin them as Jacktoids because that is something that a zany radio host would do (cue some Mr. Zonko whacky sounds like a spring coiling and a bike horn honking):


A little background on the man that was Jack Daniel. First off, he was only like 5' 2" and considered to be somewhat of a prodigy business-wise, as he rose to prominence in his teenage years. He rapidly became a savior for the entire Lynchburg area as the distillery pretty much employs everyone who lives in that sleepy little town. He liked to wear big hats and coats with tails ... and the more I type this the more I think that Jack Daniel was basically whiskey's answer to Willy Wonka ... which I guess would make all of the inhabitants of Lynchburg the Oompa Loompas. A bunch of redneck, Tennessee, non-midget Oompa Loompas ....

"Oompa Loompa, doompity doo
I've got another bottle for you
Oompa loompa doompita dee
If you are wise, you'll drink a fifth of J.D."

Like Wonka, Jack never took a bride or had any offspring. Unlike Wonka, it does not appear that Jack had an affinity for luring nine-year-old boys to the distillery with golden tickets. I am going to assume that Jack got a lot of quality late-1800's ass. I am assuming this, because frankly I don't want to think that the inventor of one of the most manly drinks in the world was home at night doing the 1860's equivalent of watching Sex and the City and drinking appletini's. Let's not even go there! Jack Daniel's banged who he wanted, when he wanted, and that's that! You understand me?!? I don't wanna hear nuthin' else!

The Man

As for the whiskey itself, what makes Jack Daniel's so special even to this day is the fact that they drain the whiskey one drop at a time into a big barrel of charcoal before barreling it. Tourmaster William said that this is "what makes Jack Daniel's whiskey the only true Tennessee whiskey". And yes, my nether regions tingled when he said "whiskey" twice in four seconds. The charcoal thing seems strange, but we all know that creative geniuses have their own methods for creating their masterpieces. I suppose Jack's charcoal thing is like Wonka deciding that it's a good idea to throw sweatpants and soccer cleats into a vat of some liquid candy concoction.

You know what? Screw it ... all of these Jack-Wonka comparisons. We need to just TALE OF THE TAPE this thing. So here goes:


Jack Daniel
Hometown: Lynchburg, TN
Ht: 5'2", Wt: 135 Lbs
Willy Wonka
Hometown: Somewhere with British accents, possibly Great Britain
Ht: 5'8", Wt: 155 Lbs

Owned the distillery of one of the finest alcoholic beverages in the world, Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey, during the late 1800's and early 1900's. He was a pioneer in the distilling and alcohol distribution business.
WW: Owned a candy factory that doubled as a torture chamber for insolent little kids. We assume he was a pioneer in the candy industry because Grandpa Joe said he was and we respect the opinion of old people, especially those old people who go by the first name "Grandpa".
ADVANTAGE: Jack Daniel

Jack Daniel never married or produced offspring. Because he manufactured whiskey, I'm going to assume that he was single because he enjoyed threesomes with hot models, staying out until all hours of the night, and he didn't want to split up his fortune with some bee-yatch.
WW: Willy Wonka never married or produced offspring. Because he lured little kids to his factory with golden tickets offering them a lifetime supply of candy, I'm assuming that he was single because he enjoyed molesting young children.
ADVANTAGE: Jack Daniel

Jack Daniel basically ensured that an entire town would have a stable economy centered around local employment and manufacturing a tangible product. Without the Jack Daniel's distillery, Lynchburg would basically be Appalachia West.
WW: Willy Wonka emancipated an entire country of Oompa Loompas from the oppressive government (and "vermicious knids") in their native Loompaland. Upon bringing them stateside, he dressed them up like two-year-olds and gave them jobs doing things like cleaning up geese shit and freestyle rhyming about spoiled little kids who visited the factory and broke the rules.
ADVANTAGE: Willy Wonka, but only because midgets are involved

The invention of the job "whiskey taster." There are actually 90 people employed by Jack Daniel's whose sole job is to taste the barrel-stored whiskey to ensure that it's time to bottle it up and ship it. I would imagine applying for this job in Lynchburg is the equivalent of applying to Harvard in New England. Not only is it a nearly impossible spot to get, but if you are fortunate enough to get accepted, your family brags about you like you just cured cancer.
WW: The Everlasting Gobstopper. While as consumers we appreciate the idea of Wonka giving poor kids a piece of candy that lasts forever, I can't imagine that Wonka's shareholders are all that happy that dude is spending resources creating a product that essentially ensures your target audience no longer has to spend money with you. Not a real good way to grow your revenue numbers. If Wonka were on The Apprentice, he'd have been fired before the end of the first episode.
ADVANTAGE: Jack Daniel

Jack Daniel died from a blood-poisoning infection in his toe that spread throughout his body. True story, he hurt the toe by kicking a safe when he got pissed off that it wouldn't open. I have no idea if there's any truth to the rumor that he asked the safe "Do you know who the hell I am?!?"
WW: We actually don't know for sure how Wonka died, but we'll assume vermicious knids were involved in some way. Payback for freeing the Oompa Loompas.

Since he didn't have any offspring, Jack Daniel took his favorite nephew, Lem Motlow, under his wing. Motlow was an accounting whiz with a keen business sense and in 1907, Jack gave him the distillery as a gift. The Jack Daniel's product continued to thrive under Motlow and to this day is one of the premier brand names in the world.
WW: Since he didn't have any offspring, Wonka invited five random children to his factory using golden tickets hidden in his chocolate bars. In an emotional exchange aboard an elevator levitating high above the city, Wonka decided to give the factory to 10-year-old Charlie Bucket, whose entire business resume to that point consisted of a paper route. Perhaps being overly generous, Wonka invited Charlie's entire family to join him, including his invalid grandparents who all slept in the same bed and hadn't left the house since the Coolidge Administration.
ADVANTAGE: Jack Daniel

VERDICT: Whiskey is better than candy, rednecks are better than Brits, and Wonka is Jack's bitch. TAKE 'AT, WONKA!!!

Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on the "Sean & John Show" and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.

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