Research

Seed Orchards

Jack Daniels Orchard (Link to website)

The Jack Daniel's Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee relies on forest resource products to make its whiskey. The charcoal mellowing process involves dripping the whiskey through 10 feet of hard-packed sugar maple (Acer saccharum) charcoal. In fact, the charcoal-mellowing process separates Jack Daniel's "Tennessee" whiskeys from Bourbon whiskeys. After mellowing, the whiskey is stored in white oak (Quercus alba) barrels. This process requires using up to 5,000 barrels every week.

The Distillery entered into a two-year agreement in the fall of 1998 with The University of Tennessee's Tree Improvement Program to help ensure sustainability of the natural resource products on which they depend. The Distillery was also interested in helping to maintain hardwood species that grow in the region, but are not necessarily part of the whiskey production process. This research effort resulted in establishment of sugar maple, black walnut (Juglans nigra), white oak and chestnut oak (Quercus prinus) genetic test plantations, as well as a mixed species planting. Together, these plantings occupy 20 acres of Distillery land and consist of over 2,200 seedlings. All seed was collected from mature trees growing on or within 15 miles of Distillery property. The seed were germinated and grown in a commercial tree nursery to produce the highest quality seedlings possible.

The Distillery recently committed to continue this research effort, allowing for third and fourth year measurements and maintenance of the plantations. This project will result in the establishment of the only existing sugar maple seed orchard in the southeastern United States. Seed from the orchards will allow for production of locally adapted seedlings that can be used for reforestation purposes by the Distillery and local landowners. The research will contribute towards the scientific knowledge on the genetic variability of sugar maple and other important hardwood species. Jack Daniel's Distillery has shown a demonstrated commitment towards natural resource conservation.