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Gather Round

This is Your Invitation for Time Well Spent

Becoming the Master Distiller at Jack Daniel’s was never Plan A for Jeff Arnett. The Jackson, Tennessee native studied engineering at the University of Alabama and intended to build a career in the automotive industry. However, after General Motors laid off thousands of employees the year he graduated college, Jeff interviewed instead with Procter & Gamble and landed a job in the food and beverage sector where he cut his teeth, so to speak, studying the sensory sciences of coffee at Folgers. 

“We’d bring in beans from around the globe and assess them for flavor, acidity, body, and mouthfeel,” he says. 

Little did he know that developing mouthfeel – the sensation a food or drink creates in the mouth, a concept that overlaps with taste and flavor – would be a skill he’d take into the next phase of his career. 

Master Distiller at Jack Daniel’s 

After ten years with P&G, Jeff took a chance and sent out a resume, and a headhunter approached him about a job with Jack Daniel’s in 2001. Turns out the leap from coffee to whiskey was one Jeff was excited to make. 

“They needed a quality control manager, and I was lucky enough to interview there,” he says. “I started in the single-barrel processing area, and I’d been there about seven years when the Master Distiller prior to me said he was retiring. They asked me if I was interested.” 

The answer was both yes and no. Yes to the opportunity, but no, perhaps, to all the required travel. Jeff and his wife had young kids at the time, and the thought of being away while they were so young – five and three years old – gave him pause. Fortunately, the company opted to limit the out-of-town requirements, and Jeff retained his production abilities, a role he took seriously. 

“Track 1 was under my care – water, grains, and yeast are distilled and mellowed. I was doing it correctly, and that’s what put me on their radar,” says Jeff, “someone who could do that job for them.” 

His time in Lynchburg was pivotal, professionally and personally. He expanded Jack Daniel’s portfolio from three products to 11 and was awarded Master Distiller of the Year in 2017 by Whisky Magazine.  As the seventh person ever to hold the position, working as the Master Distiller for a 150-year old company with a rich history and cultural stamp on Tennessee was bound to leave a mark. 

And yet, Jeff had already been tossing around the idea of building something for himself, something he could call his own.  He’d watched his uncle, Garney Scott, the president and CEO of Scepter, Inc., an aluminum recycling and trading company, do that very thing. Garney graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in engineering and started his career at the Alcoa Corporation. Once he’d reached the pinnacle of what he could do at Alcoa, Garney took the risk and started his own aluminum company, patenting technologies along the way.  

“He was a role model for me on how to navigate a career, to bet on yourself,” says Jeff. “I felt like the time was right. Success [at Jack Daniel’s] was selling a million cases. That’s not my goal. I want to sell a product that people enjoy and let the cases shake out.” 

Company Distilling

No one set out to call the company Company, nor did they intend to start a business during a global pandemic. And yet, something about all of that time apart, separated from those they cared about, drove the story forward and together.  

“We didn’t let the pandemic stop us. We’d taken for granted being together, so it’s an appropriate name. We want the brand to be what you think of when celebrating life’s best moments. It’s about the people you break bread with. Mom would say, ‘Clean up your room. Company’s coming over’,” says Jeff. “We value that time together, and that’s where the name comes from. It’s our story.” 

In September 2020, Jeff announced he’d be leaving Jack Daniel’s, a heartfelt goodbye to great people and hearty hello what was coming next. He and the other founders of Company Distilling – former president of the Tennessee Distillers Guild Kris Tatum, founder of H. Clark Distillery Heath Clark, Clayton Homes CEO Kevin Clayton, and construction executive Corey Clayton – felt the time was right to take a chance. They’d attend events together, like the Grains & Grits Festival in Townsend. It was there where they all started asking, “What if?”  It was more than a passing fancy. They wanted to build a brand that’s multi-site and multi-product. 

After announcing Company’s name and distillery locations in April 2021, the first product – straight bourbon whiskey – was on shelves and in restaurants across Tennessee. Soon, construction was underway in Townsend for their first commercial location, a spot that’s both intentional and distinctive.

“We fell in love with the beauty of Townsend. They are thoughtful about developing the area,” says Jeff. “They want it to stay special and peaceful, and we’re going to respect that.” 

The 4,000-square-foot tasting room in Townsend, nestled against the Little River and across the street from the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, will open this summer and sits about a mile outside the entrance to the national park. It aims to be both a stopping point for passersby and a destination for those who want to experience craft spirits on the Peaceful Side of the Smokies. Though the population of Townsend ebbs and flows with the seasons, the spirit of the existing community falls in line perfectly with principles and values of Company Distilling. 

“We intend to create destination distilleries, warm and welcoming places that allow you to spend quality time with friends and family surrounded by the natural beauty of our locations,” says Jeff. 

Complementary to the Townsend location, and what Jeff’s calls “the mothership”, will be a 20,000-square-foot family-friendly facility in Alcoa’s growing city center. Set to open in 2023, the distillery will serve as Company’s main manufacturing location and is designed to include a tasting room, a restaurant and brewery, and plenty of outdoor space for entertainment and, of course, gathering. 


In the end, it has to be the products – the whisky, the gin – that form the foundation of Company, and there is every measure of success to be made here considering the collective years of professional and personal experience among the founders. 

Beyond that, there is much more exploring to do. 

“One of the things we want to explore is going after wood finishes,” says Jeff. “There are 150 hardwood species in the park, more biodiversity than in all of Europe. That’s why it’s so beautiful when fall comes. It’s nature’s show. That’s represented in all of the trees. Just like different coffee beans have different mouthfeel, so does wood. You can introduce different woods to create natural flavors. You can take the underlying character of the spirit and match that wood to it. That gives us a lane to explore.” 

Plans for more products are already in the works, such as H. Clark Distillery’s award-winning gin, now merged with Company Distilling and being rebranded under the new name. With Company as the umbrella, more products will follow to please a wide range of existing customers and newcomers. 

“We’ll focus on creating a range of quality spirits that further explore wood finishes to be enjoyed at our facilities or purchased and later served at gatherings in your home,” says Jeff. “We believe we can create unique products that bring people together and satisfy everyone from the novice to the true whiskey connoisseur.” 

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  • Photo Provided by Company Distilling
  • Photo Provided by Company Distilling
  • Photo Provided by Company Distilling
  • Photo Provided by Company Distilling