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Lem Motlow, Jack Daniel's Nephew

In the early 1800s, when Tennessee was still a wilderness, Joseph Daniel and his family settled in Franklin County. The Motlow family, headed by Agnes Motlow, a Revolutionary War widow, settled in the adjacent Lincoln County. Joseph's son, Calaway, and his wife, Lucinda Cook, had ten children, one of them Jasper Newton Daniel, who became known as "Jack." Jack's sister, Finetta, eventually married Felix Motlow, and thus the names Motlow and Daniel became entwined in history.

Jack Daniel was very young when his mother died. His father remarried; with so many brothers and sisters, there was little attention left for Jack, so he left home to live with a neighbor, Felix Waggoner. At the age of seven, he went to work for Dan Call, a preacher who also made whiskey and sold it at his store.

Jack Daniel worked very hard for Dan Call and proved himself an apt student. He took a particular interest in the whiskey making operation and learned it so well that Dan Call made him a full partner. Eventually, Dan Call began to feel that he needed to give his ministry his full attention, and he sold the entire business to Jack Daniel, who was 13 at the time

Jack Daniel was set on making the best whiskey possible. He made his whiskey mostly from corn, with rye and barley malt. The old "yeasting back" process was used, which required the retention of a portion of the mash from the previous run in order to start a new batch. This is often referred to as the "sour mash" batch. He also insisted on using an old mellowing process that had traditionally been used in Lincoln County to smooth the new-made whiskey after it came from the still.

It took an additional ten to twelve days for whiskey to seep through the vats packed with charcoal, but Jack Daniel thought it was well worth the time and effort. No one knows for sure where the idea of "charcoal mellowing" began, but it was known as "The Old Lincoln County Process", and Lincoln County whiskey was considered to be the finest made.

As the fame of his whiskey spread, Jack Daniel searched for an abundant source of limestone water. He found it flowing from a cave spring in a hollow near Lynchburg. Iron free and always flowing at 56º Fahrenheit, this water source has proven ideal in making the unique whiskey from Jack Daniel's Hollow. This water, plus the special charcoal mellowing process, set Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey apart from all others.

In the early 1860s, the Federal government began its plan to regulate and tax all whiskey-making operations, and, in 1866, the Jack Daniel Distillery became the first registered distillery in America.

Since Jack Daniel never married and didn't have any children, he took his favorite nephew, Lem Motlow, under his wing. Lem had a head for numbers and was soon doing all the distillery's bookkeeping. In 1907 due to failing health, Jack Daniel gave the distillery to his nephew, Lem, and his cousin, Dick Daniel. Dick later sold his share to Lem. A few years earlier, Jack Daniel had lost his temper and kicked the safe in his office. At first, he suffered only a mild limp, but it got progressively worse. Eventually gangrene set in, and six years after the original incident, Jack Daniel died.

Lem was a very good businessman, and he was known to be a very fair and generous man. When Prohibition closed all the distilleries, Lem went into the mule business and started a mule auction. Lynchburg became one of the largest mule trading centers in the South. The mule business thrived until after the first World War.

In 1938, some years after the repeal of Prohibition, Lem resumed operation at the Lynchburg Distillery and continued until 1942, when the government banned all whiskey making for the duration of World War II. While the government lifted its ban on whiskey making in 1946, a provision remained allowing only inferior grades of grain to be used. Lem Motlow, unwilling to compromise the quality of his whiskey, refused to resume operation until 1947 when the restriction was lifted and the finest grains obtainable could be used.

In 1947, Lem Motlow died, passing the distillery on to his four sons, Reagor, Robert, Daniel Evans (also known as Hap) and Connor. The Motlow brothers, while increasing production, always remained faithful to the tradition of quality set down by Jack Daniel and their father. Mr. Jack's slogan "every day we make it, we'll make it the best we can," remains the goal of the distillery today. Reagor, first born, and always General Manager under his father's guiding hand, assumed the position of President. Reagor, Robert and Connor, became known as the "shirt-sleeve brothers" of Tennessee Whiskey fame.


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