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Entries in Rolling Stones (1)


Where "Old No. 7" Came From

No. 5 is a size of gunpowder shot that was used to "prove" the purity of a cooked batch of "white dog"—unmellowed, moonshine whiskey.

As author Peter Krass explains in his biography "Blood and Whiskey: The Life and Times of Jack Daniel":

"An old method for testing if the alcohol content was correct involved mixing equal amounts of gunpoweder and whiskey, a seemingly volatile concoction. If the powder wouldn't burn when a flame was put to it, the whiskey was too weak. If it burned brightly, it was too strong. A slow even burn with a blue flame signified perfection; it was 100 percent proof.

"In another method to test the strength of this homespun whiskey, the stiller studied the bead. He'd shake the whiskey in a glass, and if the bubbles were about the size of No. 5 shot, the proof was good. If the bubbles were big and loose—known as "rabbit eyes" or "frog eyes"—then it was too weak" (54).

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Smaller Means Better Story

In shot sizes, 7 is smaller than 5, which would suggest stronger whiskey according to the bead-size method of proof. Jack Daniel was a master marketer. He probably called his whiskey "No. 7" to differentiate his product from other No. 5-proved whiskeys. Perhaps on a scale of 1 to 5, Jack's whiskey was a 7.

Later in his life, Jack gave control of his distillery to a nephew, Lem Motlow, who instituted some changes (not all of them successful), including Lem's introduction of a Jack Daniel's No. 5 line of whiskey, "called that simply because it was a younger whiskey than No. 7" (196).

Truer Than True

Many divergent legends about No. 7 exist, including that it was the seventh trial batch, that Jack had seven girlfriends, that his signature J looked like the number 7, and so on. The distillery loves these storied myths. Maintaining a mystery has been part of Jack's recipe since 1866.

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