Whisky Advocate

RIP: Jimmy Bedford, Retired Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller

August 8th, 2009

The whiskey industry lost a legend yesterday. I am very sad to say that the AP reports that Jimmy Bedford, ex-Master Distiller for Jack Daniel’s passed away, apparently due to a heart attack. He was 69.

Jimmy worked at the Jack Daniel’s Distillery for 40 year, the last 20 as the Master Distiller before retiring last year.

He was a great ambassador for the whiskey industry, and was always pouring Jack Daniel’s at our WhiskyFests. In fact, he was at our very first WhiskyFest in New York in November 1998, and he signed and dated a bottle of JD Single Barrel for me that night, which I have sitting on the coffee table in front of me.

I was very sad when he retired. And now this…

Jimmy, I will have a good measure of JD Single Barrel tonight in your name. I encourage the rest of you to do the same for the man who worked tirelessly to promote this great American spirit.

15 Responses to “RIP: Jimmy Bedford, Retired Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller”

  1. Kevin says:

    The first and only time I had the pleasure of meeting Jimmy Bedford was at the first WhiskeyFest SF – A fantastic man. I am having a tasting at my house tonight, we will be toasting him and his life.

  2. John Hansell says:

    That’s great Kevin!

  3. Rick Duff says:

    Will have a glass of JD and toast him tonight. Sad loss.

  4. John Hansell says:

    My father-in-law never drank Jack (except during weddings when he would drink a lot a do cart wheels), but everyone thought he drank it all the time. So, he had this stash of JD for decades and never touched the stuff.

    After he died, I was given one of those bottles. It was 90 proof! I guess the former rendition to the 86 proof. I will have some of that tonight in his (and my Father-in-law’s) honor.

  5. Mark says:

    Dear John

    Thank you for posting this. Jimmy was a wonderful man. He was a constant presence in my treks across the US from 1998 to 2008. So humble (when he had did not have to be), 10 minutes in his presence made up for 5 hours of slog during and event. A true master and a wonderful human being. Despite his creations he would still approach a Scottish Single Malt table like an amateur.

    A huge prayer from me.


  6. Very sad to read this news. I remember hearing about his retirement last year, I wish he had longer to enjoy it. May he rest in peace, and enjoy his angel’s share!

  7. Bill says:

    Very sad to hear. Jimmy was a wonderful person and a family friend. Just last week he called and a gave a toast at my daughters wedding. Jimmy will be greatly missed by our family and everyone else’s lives her touched. Our prayers are with his family and his extended Jack Daniel’s family.

    Bill from St. Louis

  8. John Hansell says:

    Yes, a sad weekend in so many ways regarding Jimmy Bedford. It was sad to hear he passed away, but was equally sad to hear how his career ended last year–after 40 years.

  9. Rob says:


    I had the privilege of attending the services yesterday in Lynchburg. It was a beautiful celebration of the man who so many of us knew as larger than life. Under his watch, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey became the world’s number 1 selling whiskey with distribution increasing to more than 130 countries. He played an integral role in taking his product category to greater heights globally and earned tremendous respect from the industry for his pioneering of his trade. Yet anyone who ever spoke to Jimmy would instantly feel as if they had been friends for years – and he would certainly treat them as such should their paths ever cross again. Now our friend Jimmy rests a mere few steps from Mr. Jack – both of them overlooking their distillery and the product they made an American icon.

  10. Jon Hieb says:

    Oh my god ! That was a shocker ! Too,too young……..

  11. John Hansell says:

    Thanks Rob, for giving us your perspective. Jimmy was always very nice to me. Everytime I saw him.

  12. Mary Ann Johnston says:

    I had the wonderful opportunity to spend an entire evening dancing w/Jimmy Bedford at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar in Jackson, WY, where he was the utmost southern gentleman. Still to this day have the autograph photo he sent me sitting above this computer, therefore, he may be gone but not forgotten. Continue the “smooth sippin” Jimmy..good night sweet prince..

  13. Jenna Ainsworth says:

    I met Jimmy Bedford 2 weeks ago in Jackson Wyoming, where he signed my bottle of single barrel and had a couple of pictures taken with him. He was such a gentleman even asking my where stonehenge came from (I am English). So shocking that he passed away. RIP

  14. Roy says:

    I met Jimmy Bedford several times at Lynchburg, he signed a lot of bottles for me over the last 10 years, especially memorable was the day he signed the Worlds Fair collection and box…made my day. Also met him at a few NASCAR races at Bristol.

  15. Emily says:

    I had been so busy getting my child enrolled in college that I missed the sad and upsetting news that Jimmy had passed away. I am from TN, I’m a TN Squire, a Gentleman Jack drinker and a BIG JIMMY BEDFORD FAN! I had my picture taken with him at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo pre-events at Spec’s in 2006 and I have a beautiful picture of just his hands, and him signing on of my MANY bottles of JD. I’ll never be able to open them for sure now. But mostly, the year I moved back to Houston from TN, was from my B&B near Lynchburg where I served my guests, from all over the world, many, many goodies made with JD, and if they didn’t know about JD and Jimmy Bedford before their visit to my place, they certainly knew about them afterwards. God Rest his soul, and I’ll have a shot of Gentleman Jack tonight in his honor and memory!!!!!!!!!!

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