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Whiskey

Jack Daniel’s master distiller on marijuana, Brexit and Trump

By Nicholas Robinson+

28-Nov-2016
Last updated on 28-Nov-2016 at 15:28 GMT2016-11-28T15:28:28Z

Master distiller: Jeff Arnett on the future of JD
Master distiller: Jeff Arnett on the future of JD

Brexit and Trump are not big business concerns for Jack Daniel’s (JD), which is to grow its understanding of pub culture in the brand’s largest export market the UK. However, further legalisation of marijuana in the US could pose an issue.

That’s according to JD’s seventh master distiller Jeff Arnett, who told The Morning Advertiser the distiller had not signed any special deals in light of the UK’s vote to leave the EU.

“The UK was one of the first exports for JD,” he said. “It is the largest and of all the 160 countries we export to, we feel like keeping business here healthy.

“The pub culture is very valuable to us to understand and it’s something we will continue to work on.”

Donald Trump’s recent presidential victory in the US does not look as though it will raise any issues for the US’s alcohol trade and JD, he added.

Trump not hostile

“We don’t think Trump is hostile to our industry. There has been talk that he might be able to lower export taxes, which will benefit us. Other than that, we are worried about trade agreements, but it’s too early.”

The whiskey boss did draw similarity between some of the UK voters’ wishes to leave the EU with the American voters’ sentiments to vote in Trump.

He added: “Some of the rationale that led to Brexit also led to Donald Trump.”

One of the biggest worries for the brand is the legalisation of marijuana in the US, recently brought to the spotlight when California and two other states voted in favour of the rule change, he explained.

“Honestly,” said Arnett, “one of the things that we have listed as a risk to JD is legalised marijuana because if people can do that at home then are they going to want to drink?

“On our report to shareholders we have been highlighting that it could impact sales.”

More flavoured variants

Other areas JD would be looking at in the years ahead could include producing more flavoured variants of the whiskey, added Arnett.

He acknowledged that flavoured variants, such as honey, may not have been well received by die-hard JD fans, however, he believed they were made to a high standard.

“I think as long as the products are good, then they won’t harm the reputation of the brand,” he explained.

“The variants are a different market for us and we’re having to learn that these customers won’t be as loyal as our usual JD drinkers.

“We’re not aggressively working on flavours and I will supply whiskey to the part of the business that that works on them.”

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