Jack Daniel's

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The Story Behind...Lem Motlow's Whiskey

In the summer of 1907, Mr. Daniel decided to retire and let his two nephews, Richard Daniel and Lem Motlow, operate the distillery. Mr. Lem would buy out Richard soon after.

It was around this time that the idea of prohibition was really beginning to take hold. In 1909, Moore County was voted "dry". Also in that year, legislation was passed to ban production of alcohol in Tennessee, beginning in 1910.

Of the one hundred or so distilleries in Tennessee that once operated in the state, only Jack Daniel's continued to produce whiskey.

During this time, Mr. Lem Motlow had moved the distillery to St. Louis, Missouri. He also operated a distillery in Birmingham, Alabama, until Alabama went "dry". He then moved the whole operation to St. Louis. He would, however, never sell any of the whiskey made there. He just couldn't get the same quality as in Lynchburg.

In January 1919, nationwide Prohibition was instituted via the 18th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This made it illegal to produce, transport, or sell intoxicating liquors anywhere in the United States. The amendment was enforced and defined by Congress in the Volstead Act, which was passed over President Wilson's veto. Mr. Lem had to finally shut down the distillery.

During prohibition, Mr. Lem would run an extremely successful mule business in Lynchburg. He would also dabble in real estate.

In December 1933, Prohibition was repealed via the 21st amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This, however, did not supercede similar state laws.

Full repeal of Tennessee prohibition laws (excluding spirits manufacturing) would not come until 1936. In 1937, a bill was finally passed which allowed whiskey to be legally produced in Tennessee and sold in other states. This was due to the lobbying efforts of now State Senator Lem Motlow.

On October 22, 1938, Mr Lem resumed production of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey. However, due to cash flow problems, he could not wait the normal four years for the whiskey to age in the barrels. He decided to bottle some of the whiskey after only twelve months (see bottom label). This would be sold as "Lem Motlow's Tennessee Whiskey". The first bottling occurred in November, 1939.

Mr. Lem produced Lem Motlow's Whiskey and Jack Daniel's until 1942, when the government, once again banned the production of whiskey.

In 1946, Mr. Lem was once again given permission to resume production. However, he was not allowed to use the best available grain. He decided not to resume production until he was able to use the appropriate grain. In 1947, the grain was available and Mr. Lem, once again, resumed production.

Lem Motlow's Whiskey was only sold in Tennessee and Georgia.

Lem Motlow's Tennessee Whiskey was discontinued in 1986.

This page pays tribute to the ingenuity and tenacity of Mr. Lem Motlow!
Lem Motlow's Whiskey - Label 1

Lem Motlow's Whiskey - Label 2

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This unofficial Jack Daniel's commemorative decanter web page is not affiliated with, maintained by, nor in any way officially connected with the Jack Daniel's Distillery.
Jack Daniel's is a registered trademark of Jack Daniel Distillery, Lem Motlow, Prop., Inc.
Copyright © 1998-2012 Kurt Umscheid. All Rights Reserved.
Some images and/or graphics courtesy of Jack Daniel's Distillery, Inc.
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