Interview Phoebe Calver

At home with: Jeff Arnett

Working from home has taken on a whole different meaning this year, with staggering numbers of employees from all manner of sectors bringing the office to their own door.

For many, this experience is shining a new light on their careers, industries on a larger scale, and what it all means to them. The whiskey world is no different, with the full spectrum of roles across the industry drastically altered, we thought it would be interesting to see how some of our friends feel as we come to the end of 2020.

First up is the man that is perhaps best known for his years as master distiller at Jack Daniel’s Distillery, a role that he stepped down from earlier this year, Jeff Arnett. It has been a huge year in many ways for Jeff and we’re excited to see what’s next in the coming year.

What have you learned about yourself and the whiskey industry since going into lockdown?  

Personally, I’ve learned that I really enjoy time with my wife and kids. The lockdown has had many negatives for me, and for everyone else I’m sure, but if I’m focusing on the positive, this has been the silver lining for my family.

As far as the whiskey industry, I saw that people were no longer shopping new brands, but buying familiar brands, which definitely favors a brand like Jack Daniel’s. Also, the size mix began to skew heavily into the largest bottles available. It appears that many people in their desire to minimize exposure began going to package stores and grabbing the largest bottles of brands that they know and trust. I guess when your world changes, people often find some comfort in the familiar.

Has your view of the industry, and its purpose, changed during that time, and if so, how?  

I think beverage alcohol plays an important role in our society and that it is, by its nature, a very “social” product. Many of my friends love to gather, enjoy a couple of quality drinks, relax and share or make memories together. Lockdowns have made creating those opportunities much more difficult, if not impossible, based on local guidance and restrictions regarding gatherings.

Even still, the industry has shown great resilience and an ability to maintain its customer base under the toughest of circumstances.

What are your whiskey-related hopes for 2021?  

For me personally, I’ve taken a huge leap of faith and have left Jack Daniel’s after 20 years to build my own distillery and whiskey brand. I’m hoping that 2021 will see society return to normal as vaccines become more widely available. I’m hoping that people will have a new appreciation for the freedoms that we too often take for granted and will have a renewed interest in exploring new whiskey brands.

 

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