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Rob Jenkinson's Letters from America #11
by Rob Jenkinson
2006-11-26 10:11:40
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I don't know whether you have the Jack Daniels' billboard posters in Finland where they show off their workers in Lynchburg, Tennessee, living a simple life of making whiskey and little else.

When I was living in London, I used to look upon these adverts a bit like Arnold Schwarzenegger looking at Mars commercials in Total Recall - something about them really appealed to me. Deep down, I knew that it couldn't possibly be totally like that, as Jack Daniels whiskey is a massive worldwide corporate brand, yet I still always wanted to visit Lynchburg to see if life really is that simple.

My friends came last Saturday and we didn't have to work until the evening, so my colleague and I decided to drive an hour-and-a-half south of Nashville to Lynchburg and see the Jack Daniels distillery.

Surprisingly, the signage to Lynchburg is minimal, if non-existent. There's a sign off the Interstate telling you that you have to get off here to visit the distillery, but, after that, you're on your own.

An hour after getting off the Interstate, you drive through some pretty downtrodden towns. Basically, you see the south in its full glory. I dare say that it's quite an eye opener for us Western Europeans. You never associate abject poverty with the United States, but it's rife, especially in the south. There are rotten trailers, houses on the verge of collapse and communities with absolutely no amenities. It's pretty depressing.

Anyhow, after driving through the country ghettos you finally arrive at Lynchburg and subsequently at the Jack Daniels distillery. I was surprised to see that Lynchburg and the distillery are exactly how it's depicted in the adverts. However, I was more surprised to discover that Lynchburg, the home of one of the world's most famous whiskeys, is in a dry State. Sweet irony, eh! So, there'll be no whiskey sipping at the end of the tour then.

I asked, Bettie, our guide (an elderly Southern woman, with a million one-liners up her sleeve) why drinking is outlawed in Lynchburg and she looked at me as if I'm stupid. "You've heard of the Bible Belt in the south, ain't ya?" she asked me back, "Well, this is the buckle."

After an uneventful, but enjoyable tour of the distillery, we went into Lynchburg itself, which had been preserved to how it has always been. In Lynchburg, you can buy any Jack Daniels product you want…apart from the whiskey itself.

Not being one to be able to enjoy anything, I got depressed at the realization that if it wasn't for Jack Daniels, Lynchburg's adorable town square would have been flattened and a Wal*mart would have been put in its place. Call me a killjoy, but it's true.

Well, readers, I must be going. But, as a parting gift, here's a picture of me with my tour group. I'll send someone a prize of some sort if they can guess where I am. I'll give you a clue: Ted, the elderly man who took the photo, has managed to pretty much cut me out.

FYI – Bettie is the woman on the far left. She was great; tell all of your friends.

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Asa2006-11-25 18:49:26
Was the factory next door to the Coke plant?

Rob's secret fan2006-11-25 18:52:27
I know which one you are in the photo. You are the little girl in the pink jacket!

OK, you are to the right of the woman holding the brown bag(?), sandwiched between the guy with black hair and the woman in the black coat.

I'll contact you for my prize...

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