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Lynchburg


Tennessee

Jack Daniel's master distiller Jimmy Bedford

As master distiller for the Jack Daniel Distillery, Jimmy Bedford has what many consider the ultimate dream job. He’s the person with chief responsibility for making Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey. While he’s not a household name, his position is recognized around the world as one of the most enviable jobs. “It’s funny to see the reaction I get from people when I tell them what I do,” Bedford admits. “Most people find it hard to believe at first, but when they realize I’m telling the truth, most of them will ask me for my autograph.”

While many say, “the only constant in life is change,” nothing could be further from the truth in Lynchburg (pop. 361), Tenn., the county seat of Moore County and one of the few that remains “dry.” “The biggest constant in Lynchburg is Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey, and it’s my job to see that it never changes. If it does, I’m in trouble,” Bedford said. “I remind myself every day that there are millions of people the world over counting on me to do my job right.”

While his job involves overseeing the entire whiskey-making process of milling, yeasting, fermentation and distillation, Bedford admits one of the more important parts of his job is the tasting part. He regularly tastes new batches of Jack Daniel’s whiskey against old batches to ensure the whiskey remains consistent. However, when doing the taste testing, Bedford is not allowed to swallow. He has to spit it out. “People tell me I have more will power than anyone they’ve ever known.”
Only five others have held the position of master distiller at Jack Daniel’s during the 130-year history of the distillery. Jack Daniel held the position first, serving from 1866 to 1911. The other four were Jess Motlow (1911-1941), Lem Tolley (1941-1964), Jess Gamble (1964-1966) and Frank Bobo (1966-1988).

Despite having grown up on a farm only two miles from Lynchburg and having worked at the distillery for 20 years before assuming his current position, Bedford says he never envisioned that one day he would have one of the most important jobs in America. He admits it’s a pretty unique career path.
Officially registered by the U.S. government in 1866, Jack Daniel Distillery, Lem Motlow, proprietor, is the oldest registered distillery in the United States and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Based in Lynchburg, Tenn., the Jack Daniel Distillery is the maker of the world-famous Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey, Gentleman Jack Rare Tennessee Whiskey, Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Tennessee Whiskey and Jack Daniel’s Country Cocktails.

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The Still House at Jack Daniel's Distillery
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Source: Jack Daniels, photos: magazineUSA.com
Last modified: 20130110
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