Jack Daniel's distiller evolves into 21st century

Tue Sep 14, 2010 7:42am EDT
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By John Irish

PARIS (Reuters Life!) - When Jack Daniel one day in 1911 lost his temper, kicked a safe and died from blood poisoning, it would not have been a surprise to see the whiskey he had created gradually pass away with him.

But about 150 years since the distillery was created in Lynchburg, Tennesse, the secret recipe has been nurtured by just seven master distillers who have turned the brand into one of the world's best-selling liquors.

The latest man at the helm Jeff Arnett took over in 2008 after starting out as an engineer, joining the food and beverage industry before entering the whiskey firm as a quality manager.

The native Tennessean adopted the square bottle and black label early on. Living just a few hours away, he was a Tennessee squire - an invitation-only club for Jack Daniel's connoisseurs.

In seven years, he learnt everything from the cave spring water that embodies its flavor to flaming the oak barrels that give it color and the maple charcoal mellowing process that crafts it.

"From an engineer's standpoint I enjoyed the science, but the one thing that fascinates me is the art that comes along with it," Arnett told Reuters in an interview. "You don't sit down and read a book about how to make Jack Daniel's, you have to learn the nuances that separate us."

The company, now owned by Nasdaq heavyweight Brown-Forman Corp, still retains some of its original quirkiness.

Lynchburg, a town of just under 6,000 people about 650 km (404 miles) south of New York and deep in America's bible belt, has been "dry" since the days of prohibition, a paradox given its global appeal.   Continued...

<p>Jeff Arnett, master distiller at the Jack Daniel&rsquo;s distillery, looks at a glass of whiskey as he poses during an interview with Reuters in Paris September 9, 2010. REUTERS/Charles Platiau</p>