Just a four-hour drive south of Bryson Tiller’s native hometown of Louisville is the Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. In 2020, The Anniversary star partnered with the Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey brand so it was only right that he venture to its homeplace, with friends and team members in tow (Neil Dominique, Manager and Chase Iziki, Creative Director), to learn how the brand crafts its famed whiskey.
The trio is joined for the distillery tour by Billboard’s hip-hop editor Carl Lamarre who wraps up the day with a rapid-fire round of 21 Questions for the “Exchange” singer-songwriter. “Favorite way to drink Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey?” asks Lamarre. “I like it straight for the most part…I like to get straight to it,” Tiller responds. That matter-of-fact approach has served the Kentucky native well.
In 2015, Bryson Tiller broke into the spotlight with brutally honest R&B confessionals that were buoyed by elegant trap atmospherics. A constant presence in the SoundCloud streaming-sphere, Tiller first stepped into the scene with his debut EP Killer Instinct, Vol. 1, and created further hype with uploads like “Don’t” and “Right My Wrongs”—with the former hit peaking at No. 13 on the Hot 100. The songs appeared on his genre-shifting debut Trapsoul, and since, Tiller has become a chart mainstay, landing on the Artist 100 Chart for 91 weeks and recording 14 Hot 100 entries to date.
In Handcrafted, Tiller and company learn how Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey is fashioned while our hip-hop editor gets the artist to reflect on his own creative process. To kick off the day, tour guide Brandi Smith takes the guys to the rick yard, where she explains how igniting sugar maple wood pallets and using the resulting charcoal as a filter is key to achieving the signature flavor that Jack Daniel’s is known for.
“With Jack Daniel’s, I noticed they have a very slow and steady approach. From the music or career standpoint, can you identify with that in any sense?” questions Lamarre. “Yeah, there are a lot of similarities with my music,” replies the Grammy-nominated artist. “Like what she [Brandi] said, ‘the slow burn.’ I take my time with my music. I like to let time pass to really see if I’m feeling it or not. A lot of times in between albums, I like to really feel things out and let the music speak for itself. It’s quality over quantity.”
Next on tour is a stop at the Motlow Cave, where viewers learn that corn, barley, rye, and iron-free limestone spring water are pivotal cornerstones in the Jack Daniel’s distillation process. “It’s really the groundwork, the foundation to where we start our whiskey. Distilleries are prevalent throughout Kentucky and Tennessee because there are natural limestones. When the water goes through the limestone, it picks up minerals that contribute to the taste of whiskey but leaves out the iron. It’s the very first stage of making Jack,” Brandi reveals.
The group emerges from the cave and heads to the barrel house, where they learn how each handmade barrel contributes hugely to the whiskey’s distinctive flavor and rich amber color. Brandy elaborates that a barrel can be stored here for anywhere from four to seven years. “What we look for is taste, color, and smell. We don’t go by age; we go by maturity,” she points out.
In the tour’s final stretch, Bryson and Carl join Assistant Distiller Lexie Phillips for a highly-anticipated round of whiskey tasting. “I’m waiting to get to the honey,” remarks Tiller. Lexie doesn’t disappoint. She shepherds the squad through a tasting of Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7, Gentleman Jack, and Tennessee Honey before explaining how the latter is made. “It’s a blend of our black label, Old No. 7, with our honey liqueur. It’s a very sweet and rich flavor,” she describes before Bryson initiates a final toast amongst friends.
In the 21 Questions interview that follows, viewers learn a few more hidden gems and fun facts about the Kentucky crooner, like what his first nickname was, what surprising characteristics an actor would need to play him in a Tiller biopic, and what the title of his next chapter would be in the story of his life. “Metamorphosis,” he responds. “I just feel like I’m evolving into something new.”
Cheers to that.