It takes a special person to become the master distiller at Jack Daniel’s. For a starter, there have been only been six since the distillery was founded, including Jack himself and the legendary businessman Lem Motlow. When Jimmy Bedford took on the role in 1988 he was inheriting some legacy. He has not only proved himself worthy of the challenge, but has played a major role in taking his whiskey to greater and greater heights. Jimmy Bedford was brought up on a farm just outside Lynchburg, Tennessee, where the distillery is sited. He started working there in 1968, nearly 40 years ago, and worked in yeasting, fermenting, milling and distillation during the next 20 years, gaining invaluable insider knowledge of the Jackmaking process. His appointment to the master distiller’s job coincided with a phenomenal growth in demand for the whiskey and Jimmy has worked tirelessly both in maintaining the quality of the whiskey and in championing it across the world. It’s not the easiest of jobs. The distillery sits in a dry county a few hours south of the whisky-making heartland of Kentucky. There is no whiskey community to fall back on, and because Jack Daniel’s isn’t a bourbon, the distiller there is treated as a distant relative in every sense.
No matter. In the years at the helm Jimmy has earned the respect of the industry by playing major part in taking a strong-tasting brown spirit to iconic status within the drinks world. And his whiskey-making skills have been recognized through the outstanding single barrel Jack Daniel’s releases that he has presided over. Jimmy is a gentleman in the truest Southern sense of the word. He has Jack Daniel’s flowing through his veins. He has given his working life to a whiskey he loves. For that alone I can think of no worthier winner of the Icons of Whisky Lifetime Achievement Award