Thursday, April 28, 2016

Here Is the Scoop on Jim Rutledge from the Man Himself



Rumors about Jim Rutledge have been burning up the interwebs for the last few days. Today, he revealed his plans. To get right to the heart of the matter, click on "Jim's Message" and watch the video.

Just in case you don't know, which is hard to imagine, Rutledge was Master Distiller at Four Roses Distillery for nearly 21 years. He has been in the distilling business for 50 years, most of that with Seagrams and its successors, until Four Roses was sold to Kirin in 2002. He started out at Seagram’s Calvert Distillery in Shively (a Louisville suburb).

Rutledge was inducted into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame in the inaugural class (2001) along with Parker Beam, Lincoln Henderson, Elmer T. Lee, Fred McMillen, Booker Noe, Jimmy Russell, and Bill Samuels, Jr. He served on the Board of Directors of the Kentucky Distillers Association for 13 years and on the Board of Directors of the Kentucky Bourbon Festival for 9 years – the last 7 years as Chairman.

Without his advocacy, it is possible Four Roses Bourbon would never have been re-introduced into the U.S. market. His initial argument was that they should at least sell it in Kentucky so the people who made it could buy it. He then led the brand's re-launch into all 50 states, in the process visiting most of them as brand ambassador.

His partners in the new venture are a lawyer and a finance guy, both of whom are industry veterans.

They plan to raise some of their capital through crowdfunding, but that site won't go live until next week.

20 comments:

snakeman 48 said...

Man, I'm liking this. Hard to keep a good man down. I can't think of anybody more qualified to start up this venture. I will be contributing to the funding when it goes live.

kaiserhog said...

I am worried about Four Roses.

Chuck Cowdery said...

Don't be. They were just fine before Jim Rutledge, they will be just fine now.

C Rink said...

I randomly happened into a Northern KY liquor store last year. Jim Rutledge had stopped in, unexpectedly, and did an impromptu tasting. Only seven or eight customers were in the place at the time. I shall never forget having Jim peruse the bourbon aisle with me. I was on a bottled in bond kick at the time, and he was freely recommending products from other distillers and commenting upon their qualities and deficiencies. Once he figured out my personal tastes, he advised one of his bottles. He said it would be slightly out of my comfort zone, but asked me to give it a chance. I'm glad I did. Thanks to Jim Rutledge for expanding my horizons and being an ambassador for bourbon.

Tyler Kleinow said...

That is service at its best.

Mark said...

How can you say Four Roses was fine before Jim given the rotgut they put out prior to his convincing Kirin to sell straight bourbon in the US?

I know they sold some good stuff overseas during that time, and I have to think these days Kirin sees the value/money to be made selling good stuff here, but I can't agree with the statement that 4R was fine pre Jim.

Chuck Cowdery said...

You have to distinguish between the Four Roses brand and the Four Roses Distillery. The awful Four Roses blended whiskey sold in the USA wasn't even made at the Four Roses Distillery, except for its small straight whiskey component. The GNS portion was made and the blending and bottling were done at Seagrams Lawrenceburg, Indiana distillery. During that period the Four Roses Distillery made the same bourbons it does now, at the same quality levels, all for either blending or export.

Stacey Hager said...

Not two days ago I picked up a bottle of Four Roses Single Barrel (barrel proof variety) OESK. I'm glad I did - that stuff is incredible. We will be enjoying Jim's Four Roses make for years to come, but I am indeed glad to hear
of this new venture. Lot's of cool stuff happening in bourbon nowadays. I'm
just hoping here in 6-8 years things are more available than they are now.

Doctor Tarr said...

I'm looking forward to the crowd sourcing options.

I really like this idea. I hope they can keep it going long enough to age the whiskey.

Clint said...

I think Jim Rutledge is clearly a master of his craft and it makes perfect sense to see him starting his own distillery (after all, on a comparative level, Tom Brady can be the best player in the NFL year in and out, and make a lot of money for doing so - but Bob Kraft is making a lot more money than Brady). Rutledge has clearly built up a deserved legacy as a master distiller and has really built kind of a "cult" following amongst the bourbon obsessed, so why not capitalize on that track record and reputation and make more than for his golden years than he would have before - plus, is making great bourbon really "work" anyway? haha.

As Chuck noted, 4 Roses isn't going anywhere though - they'll keep making excellent bourbon, no doubt about that. For starters, 4 Roses isn't going to be changing it's mash bills or it's yeast strains, it's also still going to be using the same single story rick houses, 6 barrels tall, and those are the main factors that have helped produce such excellent bourbon.

I think that if there's a drop off, it could be in the selection of certain barrels for blending into their Limited Edition Small Batch releases each year, as Rutledge clearly had a palate and vision on how to blend certain barrels of stock to create the perfect marriage of flavors. Brent Elliott will have some work ahead of him in that regard, but at 4 Roses you've got a lot of top employees who have been there a long, long time from my experiences getting to meet some of them while on tours or picking out private barrels - these folks have fantastic palates for great bourbon too, and usually distilleries have several folks that are entrusted with "tasting" reviews before products get released for sale, so I'm not expecting too much, if any, of a drop off there.

I'll continue buying 4 Roses bourbons, especially the LE Small Batches, and I'll also buy Rutledge bourbon once it's ready to go - I'd much rather have companies like these do well in the bourbon business than those who are hiding the sources of their non-distilled bourbon in hopes of fooling consumers.

MadMex said...

JR, I'm begging you. Please don't charge $75 for a 4 y/o bourbon, like some start ups like to do.

Chuck Cowdery said...

The Indiegogo crowdfunding site for the J. W. Rutledge Distillery is here. It is live.

Bear in mind that this is a donation, not an investment. But like PBS there are thank you gifts ranging from a t-shirt ($50) to an invitation to the grand opening ($1,250).

Austin Jackson said...

Jim is catching some flak for crowd-sourcing his funding. I'm curious why he decided to go that route when he obviously has the industry connections to get this project off the ground.

Chuck Cowdery said...

If your reputation gave you the ability to raise $2 million in free money, wouldn't you do it?

Austin Jackson said...

Fair question. If your reputation gave you the ability to avoid crowd-sourcing your distillery, wouldn't you do it?

I guess my point is that he obviously doesn't need to crowd-source the money, but I don't see what he stands to gain from it. The response I've seen so far from some of the forums and from Sku's blog haven't really been positive.

What do you think about his decision to crowd-source funding?

Chuck Cowdery said...

You seem to have missed the free money part. No other funding source will give him money he does not have to repay. If he succeeds, it will be like finding $2 million under the couch cushions.

Mr Manhattan said...

The indiegogo site just refunded my money. All the premiums are gone and the "Total Raised" has been reset to $0.

Huh?

Austin Jackson said...

Apparently they cancelled it for the lackluster response.

http://www.jwrutledgedistilleryllc.com/contribute-1.html

Oscar said...

best new bourbon news I have heard in years, I'm 62 years old so I hope I'll be around when the Rutledge whiskey is ready

Chuck Cowdery said...

He's 73, so he does too.