For most of us, staying tight-lipped after a bit of whiskey is nearly impossible. However, Jack Daniel’s has managed to avoid talking about a company secret for a century and a half. Now, in honor of the whiskey brand’s 150th anniversary, it is finally fessing up, officially, to something many historians have claimed for years: Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel didn’t learn how to make whiskey from a white distiller named Dan Call. Instead, Daniel was taught the tricks to making his now world-famous spirit by one of Call’s slaves: a man named Nearis Green.
According to the New York Times, as hazy as authenticating history on America’s frontier can be, most historians have supported this alternate folklore for quite some time. However, the whiskey brand itself has only started discussing it publically with drinkers recently, including adding the revelation on some distillery tours as well as using it as part of a social media and marketing campaign this summer. “It’s taken something like the anniversary for us to start to talk about ourselves,” Nelson Eddy, Jack Daniel’s in-house historian, told the Times.
Though Jack Daniel’s says the brand wants to set the record straight, some people see another motive. “When you look at the history of Jack Daniel’s, it’s gotten glossier over the years,” Peter Krass, author of Blood and Whiskey: The Life and Times of Jack Daniel, was quoted as saying. “In the 1980s, they aimed at yuppies. I could see them taking it to the next level, to millennials, who dig social justice issues.”
Still, Jack Daniel’s willingness to embrace this alternate (read, “accurate”) history is interesting both from a business perspective and a historical perspective: And even if it flounders at the former, the admission could certainly invigorate people’s interest in learning about the latter. At the very least, it’ll give everyone something new to discuss after drinking too much whiskey. Actually, on second thought, maybe it’d be best to find a more mundane topic, you know, just to be safe.