women in whiskey
Meet the women shaping the whiskey industry
People and Passion
While companies often refer to their employees as “family”, many people at Jack Daniel’s out of Lynchburg, Tennessee (2020 Population just shy of 6,500) can proudly say that they’re surrounded by literal family. For Lexie Amacher--Phillips, their first female Assistant Distiller, it was family that drew her in and family that inspires her every day.
While Lexie’s dad and grandparents were from Lynchburg; she was born and raised in the nearby town of Estell Springs, Tennessee. From an early age, she was a curious child fascinated with figuring out the mechanics behind things. “I have an older sister, Samantha, and we are still to this day very close; I’m thankful for that. We’re on the opposite ends of how we think – she believes in the magic of turning something on it works and I’m more of what’s inside and wanting to know how it works….so I’m more about the mechanics.”
She wasn’t sure what she wanted to be when she grew up and toyed with the idea of being a vet...until she found out about certain parts of the job that weren’t so great. But she did know that whatever it was, it would tie back into nature and the outdoors. At Middle Tennessee State University, Lexie majored in Agricultural Science because “without agriculture, the world stops turning”. During one of the last semesters of the program, her fermentation science classes included a field trip to wineries ranging from small to large scale. Lexie loved learning how making wine was more than just fruit, water, yeast, and “a whole lotta hope that it doesn’t turn into vinegar”.
After graduation, her Great Aunt, a lead in bottling, called Lexie and told her Jack Daniel’s was hiring and she started working at Jack Daniel’s part-time. While she did work briefly in bottling, most of her time was spent it was in the quality control lab with a focus on testing the whiskey before it even leaves the barrel, as well as being part of bottling and packaging.
Lexie was able to work and meet with several past Distillers and credits this as the start of her journey towards working in the stillhouse. And while her professional life took an exciting new path, so did her personal life – she met her now husband, Josh, who worked in quality control and continues to work at Jack Daniels on their Single Barrel expression, Lexie’s favorite Jack Daniel’s product. “That’s my two loves there!” she joked.
From there, Lexie stepped into a managerial role as a team lead while still being involved in being able to pivot when needed to ensure that processes were running smoothly. She credits her fellow co-workers, both men and women, for the strong camaraderie, i.e. established trust and respect, that has helped to create a successful environment at Jack Daniel’s.
This year, Jack Daniel’s announced Lexie’s promotion to Assistant Distiller which includes having to publicly represent Jack Daniel’s in a Brand Ambassador capacity. And while social distancing due to Covid impacted what may have initially been a packed schedule, Lexie is grateful that it also gave her time to be thoughtful of how to shape that part of her role.
The “World’s Best-Selling Whiskey”
Growing up in the local community, Lexie is a firm believer that the passion of the people at Jack Daniel’s is part of the contributing factor to the well--known statement that its flagship expression, Jack No. 7, is the “Best Selling Whiskey in the World”, as per an oft cited report from the International Wines and Spirits Record.
The Jack Daniel Distillery was officially registered in 1866, making it the first registered distillery in the US, by Jasper Newton Daniel aka “Jack Daniel”. Jack was mentored by Nathan “Nearest” Green*, a slave on the Call Family farm owned by Reverend Dan Call, where Jack grew up after leaving home.
The Distillery is located near Cave Spring Hollow, their water source. The water is a consistent 56 degrees and because it’s filtered by limestone, there’s no iron in the water which makes it ideal for distilling. Combined with their use of the Lincoln County Process, a charcoal filtration process used after distilling, Jack Daniel’s Distillery was an integral part of creating the legal category of “Tennessee Whiskey”. If you’re interested in geeking out further on this, check out our Whiskey Network article on the Tennessee Whiskey and the Lincoln County Process.
And for the record, while Jack Daniel’s has acknowledged that their whiskey meets the legal definition of “Bourbon”, they keep on hand an infamous Mar 28, 1941 letter from the US Treasury Department acknowledging their product as a “distinctive product” and prefer to continue with their labeling as “Tennessee Whiskey”. (This letter was sent after the government received and tasted whiskey samples from Jack Daniel’s, who had responded to a letter earlier that year challenging the “Tennessee Whiskey” label from the Bureau’s Alcohol Tax Unit.) So, we’ll let you decide whether you consider it a “Bourbon” or not.
Another distinctive factor is that Jack Daniel’s has its own cooperage in Trinity, Alabama where they raise barrels using “American white oak and American craftsmanship”. Each barrel has 33 staves and a proprietary toasting method is used before charring.
The Standard Mashbill is 80% corn, 12% barley, and 8% rye with 40% ABV, 80 Proof.
Their line-up includes:
Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 -- Available in more than 160 countries around the world and this formula won a gold medal at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.
Gentleman Jack -- Launched in 1988 and their first new expression since No. 7.
Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel -- Bottled at 47% ABV, 94 Proof.
Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Barrel Proof -- Ranges from 125 to 140 Proof and is matured on the upper floors of the warehouse.
Jack Daniel’s Old No. 27 Gold – Features a double barrel finish (second finish in a maple barrel) and a double mellowing. Bottled at 40% ABV, 80 Proof.
Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select – Released in 2013 in homage to Frank Sinatra, a fan of Jack Daniel’s, and finished in “Sinatra Barrels” that have extra layers of toasted wood on the inner surface. Bottled at 45% ABV, 90 Proof and sold in a commemorative gift box with a booklet.
Their Rye expressions have a mashbill of 70% rye, 18% corn, and 12% malted barley.
Tennessee Rye 45% ABV, 90 Proof
Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Rye -- Also bottled at 47% ABV, 94 Proof,
Their flavored expressions begin with the foundation of their Old No. 7 and are then combined with their unique liquors bottled at 35% ABV, 70 Proof.
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey -- 45% ABV, 90 Proof
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire -- Also bottled at 47% ABV, 94 Proof
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Apple -- Also bottled at 47% ABV, 94 Proof
For those new to Jack Daniel’s whiskey, Lexie suggests starting with Gentlemen Jack, which is twice mellowed before and after maturation (i.e. goes through the Lincoln Country Process twice).
For spirits enthusiasts new to whiskey in general and that favor light cocktails, their flavored expressions – Tennessee Honey, Tennessee Fire, and Tennessee Apple may be more palatable.
Lexie’s favorite is the Jack Daniel Single Barrel neat due to its bold character and flavors of vanilla, caramel, and toasted oak. For cocktails, she prefers an Old Fashioned and then a Whiskey Sour (sans egg white as it turns out she’s allergic.)
We hope you enjoyed this month’s profile on Lexie and Jack Daniel’s!
I was fortunate enough to visit their Distillery a few years ago and highly recommend it if you’re in the area. ‘Til next month!
*To learn more about the Nearest Green Distillery and the story of Nearest Green, check out our interview with Master Blender, Victoria Eady Butler.