Interviews

Published on March 13th, 2018 | by Darren Paltrowitz

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Brand Director John Higgins On The New “Around The Barrel” Podcast From Jack Daniel’s

Officially registered by the United States government in 1866 and based in Lynchburg, Tennessee, the Jack Daniel Distillery is the oldest registered distillery in the States. The Jack Daniel’s distillery — maker of the world-famous Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey, Gentleman Jack Rare Tennessee Whiskey, Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Tennessee Whiskey, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select, Jack Daniel’s Country Cocktails, and Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire — also holds its own in being on the National Register of Historic Places. Unsurprisingly, Jack Daniel’s is the top-selling American whiskey around the world, yet as its home base of Moore County is considered a “dry county,” the product is not available for purchase in nearby stores or restaurants.

The Jack Daniel’s brand has long been associated with entertainment — references to Jack Daniel’s have been made on-stage and/or on recordings by Van Halen, Ke$ha, Eric Church, ZZ Top, and Dean Martin — the brand recently entered into the podcast space. Around The Barrel With Jack Daniel’s is a new podcast hosted by Lucas Hendrickson. Season 1 guests on Around The Barrel include distiller Jeff Arnett, tour guide Ben Spears, brand ambassador Eric Tecosky, and R&B singer K. Michelle.

To learn more about Around The Barrel, I had the pleasure of speaking with John Higgins, Jack Daniel’s North America Brand Director. More on the podcast — which can be downloaded via Apple Podcast, Google Play, and Stitcher — can be found online at www.jackdaniels.com/en-us/podcast.

As Jack Daniel’s North America Brand Director, what’s a typical day like at the office? Or do you travel a lot for work?

John Higgins: Like most of us, there is no typical day. I do find myself traveling quite a bit talking to bartenders, retailers, consumers and work colleagues; during this time, I’m constantly reminded how special Jack Daniel’s is and I garner many insights and ideas on what we need to do to keep it special. Days in the office are great; I work with some smart people.

How did you come into the Jack Daniel’s fold? Do you come from a spirits background? Were you ever a bartender?

John Higgins: While I was never paid to be a bartender, if you are ever at a house party you’ll find me behind the bar – one of the many ways the Jack Daniel’s Brand Director is taken advantage of by his friends. You probably won’t believe this, but when I turned 21, Jack Daniel’s was my drink of choice. I can remember ordering it in bars and bringing it to friends’ homes. At the time I liked the taste and since then I’ve fallen in love with the stories of those who make it, the way they make it and a place called Lynchburg. Being able to share all these rich stories on Around the Barrel is what excites me about the podcast.

Who came up with the idea for the podcast?

John Higgins: We’re always looking for new ways to keep in touch with our friends and over time, it just seemed like this was the right opportunity to do so in a new way. We’ve been around for more than 150 years, so there are some stories to tell and some characters to tell them.

Before launching this, were you a big podcast fan? Do you have a favorite podcast?

John Higgins: I am a fan of podcasts, most of the ones I listen to are those shared to me by friends or work colleagues. My new favorite is Around The Barrel!

How would you describe the podcast to someone who hasn’t listened to it yet?

John Higgins: The best podcast ever. But really, we have friends from around the world, many of whom don’t have the opportunity to visit Lynchburg, so we’re hoping Around The Barrel will give a behind-the-scenes look into what has made Jack Daniel’s an iconic brand.

Will the podcast be posting every week indefinitely? Going season by season?

John Higgins: We’re starting off with 12-episodes in the first season, publishing about every two weeks. If the listeners are there, we’ll keep going. We’re looking forward to seeing what stories resonate the most and what listeners want to hear.

Has there been a highlight for you so far in producing the podcast?

John Higgins: The excitement from our employees, our guests and our friends around the world. And it never gets old hearing these stories. I pick up something new every time.

Podcast aside, what is coming up for Jack Daniel’s?

John Higgins: We’re right in the middle of our first full year as an official marketing partner of the National Basketball Association, our biggest partnership in the brand’s history. We’re extremely excited about the potential this brings for us to reach new friends of Jack in the coming years.

Jack Daniel’s was often synonymous with the band Van Halen as David Lee Roth drank JD on-stage and Michael Anthony had a JD bottle-shaped bass guitar. Does the brand ever pursue musicians? Or is it more that the brand finds out about musicians that are JD fans and relationships happen organically?

John Higgins: The relationships are pretty organic. Frank Sinatra’s love of Jack help put us on the map, followed by bands like Van Halen making Jack a fixture in rock ‘n’ roll music. We are fortunate to have so many friends in the music and entertainment business today who love our whiskey.

When not busy with the brand, how do you like to spend your free time?

John Higgins: I have an amazing wife and three wonderful kids — 19, 17, 15. I try to be engaged with their lives as much as they will let me. I’m very active both indoors and outdoors and have a set of core friends that we enjoy cooking and entertaining with.

Finally, John, any last words for the kids?

John Higgins: For the kids, eat your vegetables and pay attention to your parents. For the legal drinking age adults, we hope you’ll find the stories around Jack Daniel’s as engaging as we do. If you have a story to share of Jack, I’d love to hear it.


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About the Author

Darren Paltrowitz is a New York resident with over 20 years of entertainment industry experience. He began working around the music business as a teenager, interning for the manager of his then-favorite band Superdrag. Since then, he has worked with a wide array of artists including OK Go, They Might Be Giants, Mike Viola, Tracy Bonham, Loudness, Rachael Yamagata, and Amanda Palmer. Darren's writing has appeared in dozens of outlets including the New York Daily News, Inquisitr, The Daily Meal, The Hype Magazine, All Music Guide, Guitar World, TheStreet.com, Businessweek, Chicago Tribune, L.A. Times, and the Jewish Journal. Beyond being "Editor At Large" for The Hype Magazine, Darren is also the host of the bi-weekly "Paltrocast With Darren Paltrowitz" podcast, as co-produced with V13 (formerly PureGrainAudio.com). He has also co-authored two published books, 2018's "Pocket Change: Your Happy Money" (Book Web Publishing) and 2019's "Good Advice From Professional Wrestling" (6623 Press), with a second podcast set for a June 2020 launch.


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