Close this search box.

6 Things You Didn’t Know About Jasper Newton ‘Jack’ Daniel

Jack Daniels

America’s most popular whiskey and one of the best-selling brands in the world, Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey has attained an iconic cult status. 

The Tennessee whiskey is named after its enigmatic founder whose life and exploits are the source of many ‘tall tales’ during the brand’s early history. 

Separating fact from myth – here are six things you didn’t know about Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel.

Jack Daniel’s date of birth remains unclear 

Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel was the youngest of ten children born to Calaway and Lucinda Daniel. Daniel’s exact date of birth is unknown, with various sources placing the date in 1846, 1849, and 1850. 

Lynchburg city birth records were lost in a fire that destroyed the courthouse, although documents in the Tennessee State Library suggest Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel was born on September 5th, 1846. 

A conflicting date is found on Jack Daniel’s grave which records his birth as September 1850 (leading the Jack Daniels distillery to celebrate its founder’s birth for the whole month annually).

Daniel’s biographer, Peter Krass, states in the 2004 biography, Blood & Whiskey: The Life and Times of Jack Daniel, that Lucinda Daniel passed away in January 1847, suggesting the supposed September 1846 birth date is accurate.

Jack Daniel partnered with a preacher and became known as ‘The Boy Distiller’ 

Following his father’s death in the American Civil War, Jack left home and was taken in by Reverend Dan Call, a Lutheran minister, grocer, and moonshine distiller, in 1864. 

Originally employed to work on Call’s family farm in Lois, Tennessee, Daniel learned the distilling process and upon receiving his inheritance entered into a partnership with Dan Call to found a legally licensed distillery in 1866. 

Dan Call quit the distilling partnership soon after its creation for religious reasons, allegedly under pressure from his wife and congregation for, “working for God on Sunday and then making liquor on Monday”.

The uncertainty surrounding Jack Daniel’s birth date led him to become known as ‘The Boy Distiller’; if Daniel’s 1850 birth date is believed, he began the distillery aged just 16. The establishment date is contested, with the modern Jack Daniels brand stating the distillery was founded in 1866, making it the first whiskey distillery to be registered in the USA. 

In contrast, Daniel’s biographer Peter Krass records official state registration documents assert the distillery was not established until 1875. By then, Jack Daniel would have likely been aged 29 years old.

Jack Daniel was taught the art of distilling by a former slave 

Nathan ‘Nearest’ Green (centre). Credit: Jack Daniel’s

In 2016, the Jack Daniel’s distillery celebrated its 150th anniversary, releasing new information about the brand’s early history including commemorating the role of Nathan “Nearest” Green, an enslaved African American man. 

When Daniel began working for Dan Call, he was taught the art of distilling by Call’s still worker, Nathan “Nearest” Green. Under Green’s mentorship, Daniel learned to make whiskey using the ‘sour mash’ method and charcoal filtration, which continue to be central to the production of JD’s Old No. 7 whiskey.

After acquiring full ownership of the fledgling distillery, Daniel appointed the now-freed Nathan “Nearest” Green as the first master distiller. Green remained master distiller until 1884, when Jack Daniel purchased Cave Spring Hollow and the surrounding land for $2,148. He then relocated the distillery to provide a clean spring water source and permanent home. 

‘Nearest’ Green’s sons, George and Eli, and his grandsons, Ott, Jessie, and Charlie all went on to work at the distillery.

Jack Daniel introduced the brand’s iconic square bottle

At a time when whiskey was traditionally sold by the barrel or in earthenware jugs, from the beginning Jack Daniel became one of the first distillers to stencil the distillery name on his whiskey jugs. 

As individual grocers could still bottle whiskey from the barrel, Jack Daniel began bottling directly at the distillery to convey a sense of fairness at integrity to customers in 1895. 

After initially experimenting with custom embossed round bottles, Daniel requested the local glass salesman present him with some different bottle options. 

Following much deliberation, the iconic square bottle was chosen with Jack Daniel commenting, “A square bottle for a square shooter”.

Not content to only distill and sell whiskey to merchants, after building the distillery, Jack Daniel opened two bars in the Lynchburg town square in 1892, the White Rabbit and Red Dog saloons.

Jack Daniel took his whiskey to the 1904 World’s Fair

The Classic Old No.7 Sour Mash Tennesee Whiskey. Credit: Jack Daniel’s

The purpose of the 1904 World’s Fair in St Louis, Missouri was to introduce the latest scientific and cultural innovations to the world. Alongside a demonstration of the Ferris Wheel and the debut of the hot dog, Daniel presented Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey to the judges and crowds.

Competing amongst 24 entries from around the world, Old No. 7 earned a gold medal for World’s Best Whiskey. 

Multiple explanations exist concerning the origin of the ‘Old No. 7’ brand name – some say it refers to the seventh recipe experiment to generate the perfect mash for the whiskey. Peter Krass suggests it refers to the government tax registration number for the distillery.

 Daniel’s exact cause of death is unknown 

Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel died from blood poisoning on October 9th, 1911. Legend has it that he developed gangrene after kicking his safe in anger, breaking a toe, when he forgot the combination in 1906. 

Refusing to see a doctor, Daniel’s toe became infected, requiring amputation and eventually leading to his death. The infamous safe remains on display at the distillery.

Biographer, Peter Krass disputes this interpretation claiming the five-year gap (1906-1911), means safe kicking was not the cause of the infection which led to Daniel’s demise. 

Forced to retire in 1907 due to declining health, Krass theorizes that the distiller, in fact, suffered from uncontrolled diabetes requiring the amputation of his toe, and subsequently foot and leg resulting in the infection that claimed Daniel’s life.   

Mark Bostock

Since joining Mark Littler LTD as a freelance article contributor in 2019, Mark Bostock has become an integral part of our UK content writing team. His enthusiasm for whisky, particularly independent bottlings, drives him to deepen his knowledge through frequent attendance at tasting events and the thoughtful expansion of his own whisky collection. This dedication not only fuels his passion but also enriches his contributions to our platform, blending expertise with a genuine love for the subject.

All Posts
  • Latest News
  • Latest Reviews