Jack Daniel’s, maker of one of the finest whiskeys, has begun to publicly acknowledge the contribution of slaves to the enormity of its success. The distillery had started to inform that the ages-old story about a preacher teaching young Jack everything there’s to know about whisky-making isn’t true in its entirety.
Each year, close to 300,000 people tour the vast distillery of Jack Daniel’s located in Tennessee. Now the brand has slowly started to offer the true version of how the knowledge of whisky-making was passed onto young Jack, when he was under the apprenticeship of a preacher. The tour guides are openly telling visitors about the true origin story of one of the most famous whiskies in the world and how it began not with the priest, but with a slave that was owned by the man of the cloth.
— George Gilliam (@geogee) June 26, 2016
The Jack Daniel’s whiskey brand started after young Jack learned the fine art of distilling whisky from a slave named Nearis Green, who was owned by a Lutheran minister, Dan Call. For many generations, the distillery maintained it was Call, for whom young Jack worked, taught the then-15-year-old apprentice how to run his whiskey still. Call was described as a kind, but quite busy preacher, grocer and distiller. However, he did see a lot of promise in young Jack and decide to impart upon him the knowledge of whisky-making – and the rest they say is history.
— The Root (@TheRoot) June 26, 2016
This year Jack Daniel’s celebrates its 150th anniversary and the distillery is using the occasion to acknowledge its true history. The company is now openly accepting what the public always knew, but never openly spoke about. This year onwards, the company has begun to embrace its true past and even share it on social media platforms. Tour guides are confirming Green’s role, which was mentioned in the 1967 biography Jack Daniel’s Legacy, which quotes Call as saying,
“Uncle Nearis is the best whiskey maker that I know of.”
Till date, Jack Daniel’s confirmed the connection of young Jack only to Call. The company limited itself to saying Call adopted Jack and and eventually sold him the nascent business. Before it became part of the $2.9 billion American whisky industry today, the distillery was known as Family Distillers, a North Carolina-based company owned by his descendants, reported Business Insider. The company’s website states Call sold the business to young Jack to focus on his ministry. However, what the company has selectively omitted all these years is that young Jack learnt the fine art of whisky-making from a slave.
— Matthew Haag (@matthewhaag) June 25, 2016
The company is even considering using charcoal chips to filter the brew before it is set aside for ageing. Jack Daniel’s says the process, attributed in the past to distiller Alfred Eaton, is most likely based off of traditional distillation methods practiced by slaves, reported Raw Story.
Why is Jack Daniel’s acknowledging the contribution of slaves? By choosing to openly accept its history intertwined with slavery, the distillery might be trying to counter the growing awareness of rampant racial politics behind America’s culinary heritage, reported New York Times. For a long time, the company appealed majorly to the upper echelons of society. However, it has slowly started to focus on the younger generation and more recently, the millennials, who pride themselves in fighting for social justice issues, reported Seattle Times.
Jack Daniel’s Embraces a Hidden Ingredient: Help From a Slave https://t.co/5KY4UyFCBy. Master narrative dictates Ltd history telling.
— Tanji Reed Marshall (@Remarsh76) June 25, 2016
For many years, the slave labor was an indivisible and indispensible component of many industries in America. Unfortunately, the contribution of these souls has seldom been openly acknowledged, let alone embraced. Perhaps Jack Daniel’s is attempting to take a step in the right direction by embracing its past and recognizing the inputs of slaves.
[Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images]