Master distiller dies of heart attack at 69

JIMMY Bedford, a lean, laconic Tennessean who for 20 years held what he considered one of the most enviable jobs imaginable - making sure Jack Daniel's Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey tasted just the way it had since 1866 - has died. He was 69.

JIMMY Bedford, a lean, laconic Tennessean who for 20 years held what he considered one of the most enviable jobs imaginable - making sure Jack Daniel's Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey tasted just the way it had since 1866 - has died. He was 69.

The apparent cause of his death last Friday was a heart attack.

Bedford was the sixth master distiller in the 143-year history of the Jack Daniel's distillery.

His job was to oversee the entire whiskey-making process of milling, yeasting, fermenting and distilling.

But Bedford took it far beyond the hollows of Tennessee. He travelled the world as something of an ambassador for Jack Daniel's.

He led tasting seminars, signed bottles and appeared in television commercials and print advertisements, including one in which he stood, arms folded, with whiskey bottles before him and photographs of the first five master distillers behind him.

Lynchburg is a famously unlikely site for a distillery that dispatches 9,5million cases of whiskey a year to 135 countries. It sits in Moore County, one of the last dry counties in the country.

In 2007 Whisky Magazine presented Bedford with its Icons of Whisky Lifetime Achievement Award.

Bedford was born in Franklin County, Tennesee. He grew up on the family cattle farm in nearby Lynchburg. Bedford graduated from Tennessee Tech University in 1962; there he met his future wife, Emily Gregory.

After college, Bedford and his wife returned to his hometown, where he went to work at the distillery and, over the next 20 years, learned all aspects of the process.

After being named master distiller, he said, sipping became one of his most important tasks - comparing new batches of No. 7 with old batches to ensure consistency. But he was not allowed to swallow. - New York Times

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