By Alex Lippa
---- — KINGSTON — With a big smile and a Southern drawl, Angelo Lucchesi fits right in as the face of one of the biggest whiskey producers in America.
Over the last 60 years, Lucchesi, 92, of Memphis, has traveled all over the world, first as a salesman, then as an ambassador for Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey.
This week, Lucchesi made a rare stop in New Hampshire and visited with longtime friend Don Jean of Kingston.
“He’s our company treasure,” said Jean, who is an off-premise manager for the company. “He is a true legend of our business.”
Lucchesi was hired by the distillery in 1953 as its first salesman from outside the family that owned it.
Lucchesi was a friend of the four sons of Lem Motlow, master distiller and nephew of the original Jack Daniel. The legendary Daniel, who became a distiller at age 13, was childless and gave the business to Motlow when he became ill in the early 1900s.
Lucchesi is credited with helping Jack Daniel’s take off outside Tennessee and eventually become a brand known around the world.
“When I started, we sold roughly about 155,000 cases per year,” Lucchesi said. “We couldn’t give it away. Now we sell tens of millions of cases.”
Lucchesi’s role grew along with the company, until he was named its ambassador in 1998. He still does appearances for Jack Daniel’s and conducts tastings.
His continuing tour brought him to New Hampshire this week. He stopped in Hampton at a bar to sign whiskey bottles and even went to Concord to meet with the New Hampshire Liquor Commission.
Along the way, Lucchesi shows off his favorite collectible: A limited edition commemorative bottle dedicated to him in 2010 when he turned 90.
The label reads: “Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Brand proudly honors Angelo Lucchesi on his ninetieth birthday.” The label on the back gives his history with the company.
“There’s only a few people who have ever been dedicated with a bottle by Jack Daniel’s,” he said.
One of those people was Frank Sinatra, someone who became a friend of Lucchesi through his passion for Jack Daniels.
“There would be shortages of Jack Daniel’s from time to time,” Lucchesi said. “In Tennessee, there was a young man who used to take me to Mass every morning. His uncle was Sinatra’s right-hand man. He told Sinatra about me and he called me up.
“I said, ‘Mr. Sinatra,’ and he didn’t know how I knew who he was. Well, I told him that he was the only one who sounded like him.”
After that meeting, Sinatra would call Lucchesi when he ran short of the whiskey and Lucchesi would send some to wherever Old Blue Eyes was.
Jean’s first meeting with Lucchesi was less memorable. They met when Jean went to work for the company more than 20 years ago and became fast friends.
“He has become a very good friend to me,” Jean said. “I’m fortunate every time I get to see him.”