Sunday, July 27, 2014

Chris Fletcher, Asst. Master Distiller at Jack Daniel's, Is a Good Righthand Man with a Good Right Arm

As Assistant Master Distiller at Jack Daniel's, Chris Fletcher is Master Distiller Jeff Arnett's righthand man. His right arm is pretty good too, as he demonstrated Thursday at Wrigley Field in Chicago, throwing out one of the ceremonial first pitches before the Cubs-Padres game.

Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane's pitch was better, but he is a professional athlete, and his whole team was watching. (They played a friendly with the Chicago Fire last night.) Fletcher's throw was at least as good as that of Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder.

Fletcher's job as part of the distilling team at Jack Daniel's, involving as it does public relations appearances like the one Thursday, is very different from that of his grandfather, legendary Jack Daniel's Master Distiller Frank Bobo (1968-1988). “My first memory of the distillery is watching my grandfather make sour mash and operating the stills,” said Fletcher, who was born and raised in Lynchburg, Tennessee.

In Bobo's day, the bosses didn't like the distiller to leave town, ever. Today, public appearance demands are one of the reasons Arnett needs an assistant. That and the fact that Daniel's now sells about 15 million cases of its iconic whiskey a year.

After working as a tour guide at the distillery during college, Fletcher finished his chemistry degree and joined Daniel's parent company Brown-Forman full-time. He left there to work at other distilleries including Buffalo Trace in Frankfort, where he succeeded Truman Cox as Lead Chemist in 2011. He took the Assistant Master Distiller position at Jack Daniel's earlier this year.

With American whiskey currently experiencing such a renaissance, the 32 year-old Fletcher is an ideal fit for Jack Daniel's. He has the heritage and authenticity of Jack as his birthright, but also brings a fresh approach to product innovation. As his grandfather often reminds him, the incredible growth Jack Daniel’s has experienced since his days at the distillery is a result of the process and quality controls established by its founder. Now it’s Fletcher’s job to help ensure that the craft of making great whiskey remains true to Mr. Jack’s mantra of “Everyday we make it, we’ll make it the best we can.”

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