Episode 28 - Expecting the Unexpected with Larry Combs


With a supply chain as complex as Jack Daniel’s, the opportunities for things to go wrong are plenty. Add in the fact that you must anticipate some of those challenges years before they happen, and you’re left wondering how any whiskey makes it to the shelf, particularly one as popular as Jack Daniel’s. In this episode, Larry Combs, Senior Vice President and General Manager for the Jack Daniel’s Global Supply Chain, joins host Lucas Hendrickson to talk about how he and his team work to anticipate and adapt to curveballs like the COVID-19 pandemic to keep the whiskey flowing and our many team members employed.


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The whiskey in your glass today started its journey many years ago, when the world looked very different. We never could have imagined Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey would end up sipped at home during quarantines around the world, but that’s the nature of the whiskey business. We never quite know what will happen by the time our whiskey is done aging, but, thanks to Larry Combs, we do our best to try.



“Every day I think about all the things that could go wrong,” he says. It’s not that he’s a pessimist; he’s just doing his job. Combs is the Senior Vice President and General Manager for the Jack Daniel’s Global Supply Chain. He oversees everything from sourcing the logs we use to make barrels and distillery operations to bottling and to shipping Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey to more than 170 countries around the world. There are a lot of opportunities for hiccups in a supply chain that complex, so Larry works every day to establish a strategy and a robust contingency plan.



In this episode of Around the Barrel, Combs joins host Lucas Hendrickson to delve into that strategy and how the team has tapped into it during the COVID-19 crisis, which happened to hit just when a string of tornadoes blew through town.



In his planning process, Combs must think about the circumstances at the distillery as well as all the other entities that play a role in making Jack Daniel’s and getting it into stores and bars. Despite the potential for hiccups in any part of the supply chain, from the glass supplier who makes bottles to the cooperages and warehouses, the distillery has not stopped producing whiskey for a single day during this pandemic. That’s good news for our friends at home, since consumers have been leaning on familiar brands and easy-to-make cocktails during the crisis. In fact, because of the consistent forethought Larry and his team utilize, the distillery even had the capacity to designate some of its stills to making high-proof alcohol to be used in hand sanitizer.



Join us to learn more about how the distillery adapts to these unprecedented situations, both today and eight years down the road, its tentative plans for welcoming visitors back to the hollow and even what it’s like to be a Kentucky boy in the land of Tennessee whiskey.

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