Monday, May 23, 2011

Blood & Whiskey: The Life and Times of Jack Daniel

In the first ever biography of the man who created America's most famous whiskey, Peter Krass uncovers the legend of Jack Daniel. BLOOD & WHISKEY: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JACK DANIEL (Wiley; Shipping April 23; $24.95 Cloth) is a compelling exploration into the life of the Tennessee whiskey baron and marketing genius. While forced to resort to moonshining in the desperate years after the Civil War, Jack went on to win the Gold Medal at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair with his Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey. Today, Jack Daniel's remains a powerful brand with worldwide recognition.

Through painstaking research, Krass not only depicts the charismatic distiller with a penchant for diamonds and young ladies, but definitively answers a mystifying question that has plagued whiskey raconteurs and the Jack Daniel Distillery company alike: Why did Jack call his whiskey Old No. 7? Krass also unravels other mysteries, such as when Jack actually established his distillery. It was not in 1866 nor the first in Tennessee to be registered with the Federal government as the company claims today.

Born and raised in Lynchburg, Tennessee, Jack (1849-1911) lost his mother shortly after his birth and then his father during the Civil War. Orphaned at age 14, he ran away from his mean-tempered stepmother and found refuge with a local lay minister who also happened to distill whiskey, an interesting mix of spirits. After learning all he could about distilling, Jack struck out on his own. It was an uphill battle as he fought against domineering competitors, crusaders for prohibition, and corrupt government officials in the tumultuous South.

Krass captures the drama of the times – rampant political corruption, the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, and the travails of rural small town life – as BLOOD & WHISKEY: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JACK DANIEL tantalizes the reader with the colorful history of a man who tasted every batch of whiskey until retirement in 1907. Borrowing a page from flamboyant P. T. Barnum, Jack was an innovative marketer, who always sported his signature outfit – linen shirt, silk vest, bowtie, knee length frock coat, and high rolled planter's hat – and used balloon launches, square bottles, and stunts like sending a keg of whiskey to Queen Victoria to promote his whiskey.