Home Sweet Home

Whiskey pioneer Jack Daniel’s crafts a thoughtfully revitalized brand experience at its 150-year-old distillery in Lynchburg, Tenn.—“the wettest dry county in the world”

By Erin M. Loewe

Whiskey has been surging in popularity for the past few years, and it’s hard to overstate the history and attention to detail that is behind a bottle of one of America’s most iconic brands. Since 1866, Jack Daniel’s has been crafting charcoal-mellowed whiskey at its distillery nestled in tiny Lynchburg, Tenn., aka “the wettest dry county in the world.” The Jack Daniel Distillery draws thousands of visitors each year, and Louisville, Ky.-based parent company Brown-Forman sought to elevate the experience through a multi-year renovation of its campus.

Shawn Hadley, director of design at Brown-Forman, says the redesign started with the basic need to accommodate more visitors, but quickly turned into a full-scale overhaul that encompassed the Visitor Center, Barrel House and The Motlow House, an event space for Jack Daniel’s invite-only “Squires” club.

“The project became more long-term and included multiple areas of the Visitor Center and tour path,” Hadley says. “Of course, in addition to the logistical needs, our projects tend to be more driven by the need to keep the spaces current and on-brand. This process afforded us the opportunity to reassess our spaces and update them to the appropriate level of aesthetics and branding.”

For this extensive renovation, Brown-Forman turned to longstanding design partner, New York-based Clickspring Design, which has completed projects for other brands in the company’s portfolio. Steven Dvorak, vice president and registered architect at Clickspring, says Brown-Forman historically creates “homeplaces” at the properties where its brands are made.

“Jack Daniel’s is a brand steeped in authenticity,” Dvorak explains. “With that, our design commitment was to create solutions true to that authenticity. The designs were in large part executed using the very materials that give the whiskey its distinct characteristics…Integrating these materials in honest ways helps to imbue these spaces with the spirit of Jack.”

Some of these materials that appear throughout the three projects include white oak planks from the barrel staves for the floors, counters and shelves; sugar maple ricks, which are burned on-site to produce the charcoal for the whiskey, for any slatted walls; and charred wood, which lines the inside of the barrels and gives the whiskey its distinct amber color.

First up for renovation was the 760-sq.-ft. White Rabbit Bottle Shop and Gallery, which resides in the Visitor Center, where all of the tours begin and end. It allowed for an expanded selection of Jack Daniel’s whiskeys to be available for purchase—notable, since it cannot be purchased anywhere else in Lynchburg—as well as bottle customization. Previously, the Visitor Center housed the tasting area, but that was moved to the Barrel House to enhance the experience and accommodate more guests.

Christopher Ferguson, assistant designer and architect at Clickspring, points out a striking wall that separates the bottle shop from the rest of the Visitor Center. “The wall dividing the bottle shop and gallery is a thin, plate steel frame with hundreds of clear glass Jack Daniel’s bottles arranged in a grid,” he explains. “This allows for light to pass into each space, and also allows for a pixelated mosaic of Jack himself to be viewed through one portion of the wall.”

Also on property is the three-story Barrel House 1-14, which was originally built in 1938 and named because it was the 14th of the first tract of barrel houses. Visitors are greeted with a heady aroma that is dubbed “the angel’s share,” as each barrel releases 7 percent to 10 percent of its contents due to evaporation. Combined with the new glass-enclosed tasting areas integrated into aisles of the space, the 10,861-sq.-ft. Barrel House is the standout stop of the distillery tour.

“At specific locations, all three levels of ricks have been carefully carved away, offering clearings within the thicket of stacked barrels,” Dvorak describes. “Here, two simple, pin-mounted glass volumes supported by slender steel frames are placed over fields of dark limestone, their soaring walls interrupted only by the building’s interwoven, heavy timber superstructure above. Flanking the main aisle, these spaces allow for a private and sophisticated product sampling experience.”

A location not on the tour, but an integral part of the brand, is The Motlow House, the 4,837-sq.-ft. recently reconstructed home of Jack Daniel’s nephew and former company president, Lem Motlow. In an effort to retain its residential charm, the only difference from the exterior was the addition of an enclosed sunroom to the rear. Simple wainscoting, curated paint colors and white oak plank floors salvaged from the Barrel House round out the homey aesthetic.

Reserved for members of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Squire Association, The Motlow House holds exclusive events and has an interesting design feature that adds to its ambience. “In the second floor event spaces, a portion of the floor-to-ceiling casework pivots on an axis to reveal a speakeasy bar dedicated to each room,” Ferguson notes.

While Hadley says Brown-Forman doesn’t have any more specific plans related to the Jack Daniel Distillery, he acknowledges how positive the visitor response has been so far. “We receive continuous feedback from guests on how surprising it is to enter Barrel House 1-14 and how completely unexpected it is,” he says. “It makes for a memorable tasting experience.”

This two-year project to renew and refresh Jack Daniel’s visitor experience and experiential marketing has resulted in a cohesive journey for guests with better branding—smooth as Tennessee whiskey.


project file

The Jack Daniel Distillery: The White Rabbit Bottle Shop, Barrel House 1-14, The Motlow House
Lynchburg, Tenn.

Brown-Forman Corp./Jack Daniel’s

Clickspring Design

Tuck-Hinton Architects

Messer Construction Co.

NOVUM Structures (Barrel House 1-14); EMC Structural Engineers; Parsons Engineering; Barge, Waggoner, Sumner and Cannon Inc.; Shadley Associates P.C.; MP&E Engineering LLC

1220 Exhibits Inc., Kevin Sanders (aka “The Barrel Man”)

1220 Exhibits Inc.

1220 Exhibits (custom fabricated), Brown-Forman (in-house collection), The Antique Factory, RH, Anthropologie, Dot & Bo, Knoll Furniture, Hooker Furniture, Pottery Barn, Wayfair LLC, Chairish Inc., Jamie Young Co., The Home Depot Inc.

Indianapolis Woodworking Intl. (The Motlow House)

NOVUM Structures (Barrel House 1-14)

Brown-Forman (in-house staff), Trinity Video Communications

Information in the project file is provided by the retailer and/or design firm.

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