Autumn red, yellow and orange foliage mingles with evergreen pines and green kudzu vines along roadways leading to where one of the most iconic brands of whiskey on the planet is produced: Jack Daniel’s in Lynchburg, Tenn.
Last weekend the aromas of hickory smoked meat fires, roasted corn, funnel cakes, kettle corn, and pig cracklins’ enhanced the scene.
Lynchburg is where barbecue royalty, the best of the best, gather in Wiseman Park to compete for first place in seven categories: barbecue sauce, cook’s choice, chicken, pork ribs, pork shoulder, brisket and dessert. The team with the most chicken, ribs, shoulder and brisket points overall wins Grand Champion. It is one of the most prestigious contests in the worldwide barbecue network.
This year’s 28th Annual Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue, known as The Jack, was twice remarkable as barbecue contests go. First, the Cool Smoke Competition Barbecue team from Richmond, Va., won Grand Champion for the second consecutive year and for the third time in a decade.
Second was the number of perfect scores — known as “180s,” —went through the roof of the judging pavilion. I stopped counting when the 180 tally reached 30. Chip Chapman, emcee at the awards ceremony, noted that this was a first at The Jack.
As always, the folks at Jack Daniel’s made good on the exemplary Lynchburg hospitality they are known for. Debbie Christian, event coordinator, and her fantastic team of staff and volunteers, did a perfect job of orchestrating the thousands of details necessary for the success of the event.
Special personal thanks to James “Barney” Reynolds, volunteer and retired Jack Daniel’s Security staffer, for once again growing and collecting the shagbark hickory nuts that were transformed into Magic Hickory Nuts for the event.
This longstanding tradition, unique to The Jack, provides a souvenir memento to each team. After the contest logo is screen-printed on each nut here in Chow Town at KC Screenprint, they are treated with Jack Daniel’s Whiskey and secret barbecue seasonings before a final rinse in Kansas City water and a sunbath in Kansas City sunshine. The team that gets the nut with the most magic is the team that wins the contest — or so the story goes.
Special thanks also to Gary Bronkema and Brian Nowotny of Kansas City and Richard Westhaver of Dirty Dick’s Hot Sauce, Norwell, Mass., for stellar help in distributing the nuts.
Kudos to DennyMike Sherman of DennyMike’s Sauces & Seasonings, York, Maine, for the genius idea of screen-printing the contest logo on the nuts. Special thanks also to DennyMike and Gary for funding this year’s Magic Hickory Nut expenses.
Now that the 28th Jack is in the record books, don’t miss Kansas City’s prestigious, world famous American Royal World Series of Barbecue at the Kansas Speedway this weekend. See you there!