One of the coolest things about the whiskey business is most have a face to the brand and its almost always the Master Distiller. I’ve attended many events when you can overhear people comment, “I didn’t think you were a real person.” Yes, these Master Distillers are real people and Jack Daniel of Lynchburg, Tennessee was no exception.
Historically when people hear the name Jack Daniel’s they picture a man with a goatee, bushy mustache and a Stetson like hat. Jack was the face of the brand from its inception 150 years ago and for the past dozen years the face of Jack Daniel’s whiskey has been that of Master Distiller Jeff Arnett. Altogether Arnett’s been at Jack Daniel’s for nearly 20 years and has just announced his retirement from the world’s number one whiskey brand in the world.
Appointed Master Distiller in April 2008, Jeff has stewarded the iconic Tennessee Whiskey and been instrumental to the growth of Jack Daniel’s, which is now sold in more than 170 countries around the world. Jack Daniel’s is the #1 selling whiskey in the world.
“The last 20 years at the Jack Daniel Distillery have been an incredible chapter in my life and I look forward to spending some time to think about what the next chapter will hold,” said Arnett. “I wish everyone in Lynchburg the best and I am appreciative of the support and confidence they have shown in me to represent Jack Daniel’s to the world during my time there. It has been an honor and privilege to be one of only a handful of people to have served as the Master Distiller of this wonderful brand known around the world as simply ‘Jack’.”
In 2017, Jeff was named Master Distiller of the Year by Whisky Magazine and he has served on the board of the Tennessee Distillers Guild since 2016, most recently as Vice President. Under Arnett’s tenure, his know-how combined with his curiosity as a whiskey maker have contributed to numerous innovations by the Jack Daniel Distillery, including the introduction of super-premium whiskeys such as Sinatra Select, Single Barrel Barrel Proof, Single Barrel “Heritage Barrel” and the Tennessee Tasters’ limited edition series. Several flavored whiskeys were also launched under his watch, including Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, Tennessee Fire and Tennessee Apple. He most recently lent his expertise towards the crafting of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Rye, the first new grain bill from the Jack Daniel Distillery since Prohibition.
As Master Distiller, Arnett has been responsible for the overall whiskey-making operations in Lynchburg, Tennessee. Prior to that position, he oversaw quality control and the Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel program. Throughout his time at the distillery, he worked in a variety of capacities including warehousing, maturation, distillation, charcoal mellowing management, barrel quality and bottling, and enjoyed a long tenure on the Master Tasters’ panel. Jeff has also traveled the world to share the story of Jack Daniel’s and sip whiskey with old and new friends alike.
“When Jeff became the Master Distiller, we said that he would carry on the long tradition of folks who have made the world’s best whiskey for more than 150 years, and that’s exactly what he’s done,” said Larry Combs, Jack Daniel Distillery SVP and General Manager. “He has worked tirelessly on behalf of the distillery and brought with him the creativity and the expertise that makes Jack Daniel’s the most valuable whiskey brand in the world. We thank him for his leadership not only at Jack Daniel’s but in the whiskey industry and wish him all the best.”
Chris Fletcher to be Jack Daniel’s Next Master Distiller?
Chris Fletcher has been raised with the smell of fermenting mash around him his entire life. Not only is he a native of Lynchburg, Tennessee he’s also the grandson of the late Master Distiller Frank “Frog” Bobo. In addition to his pedigree he also has the education and experience. After earning a degree in chemistry, Fletcher joined the Jack Daniel Distillery first as a tour guide in 2001 and then gained a complete knowledge of production at Jack Daniel’s including milling, mashing, fermenting, distillation, mellowing and maturation.
After working a few years in Lynchburg, Fletcher worked for Brown-Forman Corporation in Louisville, Kentucky on Jack Daniel’s quality control. In this role, Fletcher touched everything that had to do with the whiskey-making process, from the still to the barrel. Following two years of gaining valuable experience working for distilleries across North America, Fletcher returned to the Jack Daniel Distillery in 2014.
Fletcher is the current Assistant Master Distiller under Jeff Arnett. His current role allows him to utilize his sensory skills and extensive knowledge of the whiskey making process while providing support for Arnett.
Watch this video to hear about the whiskey making process from Arnett and Fletcher.
Jack Daniel’s Master Distillers Since its Founding
|No. 1||Nearest Green||1866 to 1881|
|No. 2||Jack Daniel||1881 to 1911|
|No. 3||Jess Motlow||1911 to 1941|
|No. 4||Lem Tolley||1941 to 1963|
|No. 5||Jess Gamble||1964 to 1966|
|No. 6||Frank Bobo||1966 to 1988|
|No. 7||Jimmy Bedford||1988 to 2007|
|No. 8||Jeff Arnett||2008 to 2020|
|No. 9||Chris Fletcher?||2020 to ?|
Jack Daniel Distillery is expected to make an official announcement on Arnett’s replacement in the coming weeks.
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