Most who have visited a distillery know that entering an active barrel house is a profound olfactory experience. Over a period of five or more years, as a barrel of whiskey matures, a portion of its contents is lost to evaporation. This inevitable process, multiplied by thousands of barrels, creates the “angel’s share”, a scent that blankets the building in a delightfully unmistakable aroma. The angel’s share is one of the first characteristics that welcomes visitors to Barrel House 1-14 at the Jack Daniel Distillery.
In seeking ways to enhance the visitor experience for an ever increasing number of guests, the Jack Daniel’s team launched an improvement campaign encompassing several of the publicly accessible properties on the distillery grounds. Among the projects was that of converting their oldest barrel house – erected in 1938 – into an unrivaled whiskey sampling experience.
To create this experience while delivering on the brand’s commitment to authenticity, the project – by necessity – would become a hybrid: part active barrel house where real whiskey is maturing, and part refined sampling environment where those who are deeply knowledgeable about whiskey can share intelligence with an audience in an intimate setting. The design encourages interaction and exchange between those who know, live, and work in Moore County and visitors from around the world seeking more knowledge about the Jack Daniel’s brand. Within these seemingly contradictory demands, the renovation of this historic barrel house found its form.
Juxtaposing the rugged heavy timber-framed building with the exacting detail of a steel and glass framing system, the design brings together the historic, functional authenticity of the barrel house with detailing suitable for contemporary visitors engaged in close conversation.
Entering from the east, visitors arrive in the portion of the barrel house where Jack Daniel’s whiskey is being carefully stored and maintained in order to reach maturity. Further down the central corridor, visitors enter an open, three-story space with high natural light. Carefully positioned within alcoves created by the barrel racks, two tall, glass volumes are supported by slender steel stanchions. Their high walls are interrupted only by the existing, interwoven, timber structure. Flanking the main aisle, these glass pavilions offer intimate and civilized sampling areas that live in stark contrast to the 1930’s industrial aesthetic of the surrounding building. The west side of the project has been cleared to create a larger three story space designed to accommodate additional tour group samplings or large scale events.
Crossing the last threshold, visitors are met with the familiar sight of the Jack Daniel’s Visitor’s Center: the point of origin for all distillery tours. Here guests will have the opportunity to explore further, pick up a customized bottle from the gift shop, and mingle with many of the personalities that continue to make Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey the American icon that it is.
Design firm: Clickspring Design
Lead Architect: Tuck-Hinton Architects
Photographs: Andrew Pogue