Episode 45 - Return of The Jack: Tuffy Stone and Brad Leighninger


Tradition has always been important in Lynchburg, but after a year in which many of our most beloved traditions came to a halt, they are more meaningful than ever. Fortunately, this past October saw the return of one our most anticipated traditions — the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue. On this episode of Around the Barrel, we talk with two people with both deep history and great affection for the Jack – Tuffy Stone and Brad Leighninger — about how this year’s competition was different, how winning the Jack can change a pitmaster’s life in unexpected ways, and how you can learn something new every time you set up and cook in the Hollow. 


2021 Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue

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Tennessee Whiskey is good, but when it’s Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, it’s world class. That’s because Mr. Jack committed to making it the best he could, and we have followed suit for more than 150 years. 


Today, it takes a lot to earn the Jack Daniel’s name. It only applies to something made with the finest ingredients, slowly and with precision, in the hollow of Lynchburg, Tennessee. So, when the Jack Daniel’s name is introduced to competition barbecue, the same rules apply, which is precisely why the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue, or The Jack, is considered the Olympics of competition barbecue.


It's a long journey to get to The Jack. In order to compete, domestic teams must win a state championship with at least 25 teams, a competition of 50 teams, or one of the premiere barbecue competitions in the U.S. — Memphis in May, American Royal Open or Houston World’s Championship Bar-B-Que — which qualifies a team for an automatic berth. While there are awards in multiple categories, it is the coveted Grand Champion title that competitors seek, both for bragging rights and the $25,000 check.


Because of The Jack’s prestigious reputation, it has been a fixture of the barbecue, and Lynchburg, community for more than 30 years. Competitors spend hundreds of hours trying to make it to the pinnacle of pitmastery, while smoked meat enthusiasts block their calendars months in advance. As The Jack attracts more than 25,000 visitors to our tiny town, residents gear up for fundraising, a boost in business, and traffic. But, in 2020, like so many other events impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, it was canceled.


This year, when the event returned, the energy was palpable. The competition welcomed 72 championship teams and a host of well-known judges. Springfield Missouri’s Gettin’ Basted, led by Brad Leighninger, took home Grand Champion honors, as well as first place in the desserts category. 


On this episode of Around the Barrel, host Lucas Hendrickson sits down with Brad fresh off his win to discuss the lifechanging experience, which Brad hopes to be the first of many, as well as some of the details on his barbecue success. He also checks in with Tuffy Stone, three-time winner of The Jack and recipient of this year’s Pioneer Award with his late father, George Stone, to uncover why The Jack specifically, and competition barbecue more broadly, are so meaningful.


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