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Jack Daniel's Bonded Series marries innovation with tradition

Apr 30, 2023

Since Jack Daniel's was founded in 1866, Old No. 7 has been the distillery's flagship bottle. But behind that universally known black label, there's much more to this whiskey maker's portfolio.

Long in the shadow of Kentucky bourbon, Tennessee whiskey is beginning to attract a diverse group of young, enthusiastic distillers. The proof is in the bottle. It's evident at Jack Daniel's, where master distiller Chris Fletcher and assistant master distiller Lexi Phillips are working to expand the brand through innovation rooted in tradition.

The distillery's storied history began more than 150 years ago with Jasper Newton Daniel's signature charcoal-mellowed whiskey.

Crooner Frank Sinatra famously sang Old No. 7's praises in 1955, when he brought a rocks glass onstage with him and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is Jack Daniel's, and it's the nectar of the gods."

Former Jack Daniel's Master Distiller Jeff Arnett previously told The Tennessean Sinatra's declaration played a part in doubling sales the following year.

Shortly after Arnett's departure from the brand in 2020, Jack Daniel's home base grew to a footprint of nearly 3,000 acres with 92 barrelhouses storing more than 2 million barrels. The distillery secured 250 acres upstream of its cave spring to protect the water used in its whiskey production, a sign of commitment to a long-standing process even as the distillery continued to grow.

Visitors to the picturesque distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee, can still visit that cave and watch the spring waters wind through the grounds. It's a reminder of what led Daniel to build his whiskey operation here.

The sprawling grounds, with their entertainment venues and massive rickhouses, bear little resemblance to the first iteration of this famed distillery, though some artifacts remain as reminders of the man who started it all.

Arnett, now master distiller at Company Distilling, recently said the size of a whiskey operation doesn't necessarily impact the quality of its product.

"We always felt like your size and scale don't speak to whether you're a craft distiller or not," Arnett said. "Craft is not how much you make. It's how you make it."

Jack Daniel's more recent releases showcase the push and pull of tradition and innovation. New additions include the high-end Bonded Series. Released in 2018, the whiskeys pay homage to the Bottled in Bond Act of 1897, a consumer protection law that protected the integrity of American spirits.

The act also mandated that any whiskey Bottled in Bond should come out exactly at a big, bold 100 proof, with no additives other than clean, filtered water.

As a result, Jack Daniel's Bonded is a big, bold Tennessee whiskey that stands up in just about any cocktail.

"It's taking today's practices, but trying to recreate that piece of our history," said Fletcher, who became the iconic distillery's master distiller in 2020. "I have to pinch myself. To be able to make a product that hasn't been here since Jack himself, that's just really cool."

The Bonded label represents integrity in a whiskey market that's become increasingly crowded, he added. It puts Tennesee whiskey forth as a protected entity that can stand up to the lore of Kentucky bourbon.

"As a consumer in the liquor store, walk down the American whiskey aisle with all of the different bourbons and things — there's over 300 different brands," he said. "And that's where we felt that the Bottled in Bond legislation was impactful, and perhaps even more impactful today than it was in 1897."

In March, the distillery dropped a 12-year-old Tennessee whiskey, the oldest to be released by the iconic brand in more than a century. Bottled at 107 proof, its the second in a new aged series.

Fletcher feels fortunate to have such a deep well of craft whiskey history from which to draw inspiration for further innovation, he said.

"It's holding up this really traditional process of making whiskey. That to me is what a lot of this innovation is about. It's also about the tradition of making whiskey at Jack Daniel's and I think certainly across the state."

Fletcher, once the lead chemist at Buffalo Trace Distillery, has plenty of respect for his Kentucky bourbon brethren. But he thinks Tennessee is beginning to give the Bluegrass state a run for its money.

"We make some pretty darn good whiskey down here, you know, a couple of hundred miles south as well," he said.

Learn more about The Jack Daniel Distillery at