Tuesday, April 8, 2008

On Appreciation*

This weekend, Adam and I decided we wanted to go on an outing. What with houseguests and holidays, and upcoming exams and the like, it's been a while since we've done something like that for the weekend. Tossed around some ideas of places we'd like to go (we're compiling a road trip wishlist...if you're within weekend trip distance of Nashville and want to show us around your area, we'd love to hear). Ended up driving down to the Jack Daniel's Distillery in Lynchburg, TN.

Lynchburg is this tiny, tiny town. Their sign says population 361, though the tour guide said they're probably at 450-500 now. And this distillery makes all of the Jack Daniel's sold. All of it.

Now, I'm not a super-huge fan of the alcohols. Adam thinks I was scarred by accidentally drinking my grandfather's martini at the age of 7 (I thought it was my water glass and I took a big sip. Not cool.). But I love me a good factory tour. Seeing how something is made makes me appreciate the labor that goes into a product, from the people actually running the lines, to the people who designed all the machinery and packaging. It makes me realize how many things can go wrong in the process.

Tennessee whiskey is made by mixing corn, barley, rye, and the water from an underground spring (Daniel discovered the spring and decided it made perfect whiskey. Now they say that's because the water has no iron in it). Add some yeast, and let the whole thing ferment for 6 days. They showed us a batch that had been working for 6 hours, and it looked like a witches cauldron a-brewing and a-boiling. And if you got your nose close, and got a whiff of all that carbon dioxide, well, in the words of our tourguide, "that stuff'll untie your shoelaces". This fermented stuff is called brewer's beer. They distill that (boil off the alcohol), and then drip the resulting alcohol through big tunnels of charcoal (made by burning big bundles of sugar maple wood). Then it gets put into handmade barrels and stored for about six years. The changing temperature opens and closes the pores of the wood of the barrel, and the whiskey gets sucked in and forced back out as time goes by. (Can I mention how cool barrel-making is? You can make something to hold liquid with just a bunch of wood, and something to hold the pieces of wood together. I would totally learn to be a cooper.). And that's it. They have tasters who go try the barrels that might be ready since they all age at slightly different rates.

The whole of the valley smells a little bit like a loaf of bread (it's all that yeast and all those grains). And you can almost smell it in the finished product. So I tried it again after we got home (Moore County is a dry county. So they can give their employees a pint once a month, but they can't sell any to the visitors that come through town), and...

I still don't really like it. But I think it's much cooler than I used to.

I think it's a lesson I need to learn in general: how to appreciate things I don't really like. Appreciating all people as God's children, appreciating why people might have opinions different from my own, appreciating attempts to aid that don't necessarily help (whether it's attempts to help me, or attempts to help the world).

*Okay, so it's been a long time since I've posted. I have a couple of draft posts, but I realized before publishing that they were a little whinier than I really wanted to put out there. Plus, I guess I'm still trying to find that balance of being vague enough to protect myself and some of the other people in my life, and being specific enough to make sense to someone other than myself.

1 comment:

  1. Mom, Dad & Brian went on the tour in Lynchburg last year when we had family in town and really enjoyed it too. I think they enjoyed sampling more than you did though ;)

    The only brewery tour I have ever done was at the Anheuser Busch plant in St. Louis, which was pretty darn nifty. It smelled strongly of hops, barley and yeasts too...