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Ask Jim Rutledge

It’s not every day that you have an opportunity to meet with one of the finest Master Distillers in the whiskey industry. This coming Monday (2/7) I will get a chance to sit down with Four Roses Master Distiller, Jim Rutledge, at both their Warehousing/Aging facility in Cox’s Creek, KY as well as the main distillery in Lawrenceburg, KY Certainly I have a lot of questions for Jim, but I’m always impressed by the knowledge and passion visitors to this site have. So with that, let me pose this question to you all:

What questions do you have for Jim Rutledge or about Four Roses that you would like Jim to answer?

Let’s hear it, and don’t be shy!

25 Comments

  1. sam k says:

    No questions, because its hard for a distillery to be more transparent than Four Roses. I wish more (all!) were as up front.

    Please send along my congratulations to Jim and his crew for delivering their great whiskeys back to the American public, where they’ve been missing for so long. Single Barrel is my absolute favorite bourbon, and it’s finally available in the People’s Republic of Pennsylvania, so I’m grateful.

    Keep up the good work, don’t move forward too quickly just because you’ve been successfully innovative in the recent past, and do your best to maintain the creativity and innovation that Four Roses has established as its hallmark!

  2. Good stuff Sam. Will pass it along.

  3. Franco Campanella says:

    Jason. Love the 4 RSB. Since the mashbill is 35% rye, would Jim entertain a true Rye whiskey out of Four Roses?

  4. Chris says:

    You know I am not a big whiskey drinker, so the answer to this might be out there already but can he provide some information as to what goes into the Super Premium “Platinum” series?

  5. Hey Chris. I know very little about this one. Japan only correct? Thanks for the question.

  6. Drew W. says:

    Jason, I am in my late twenties and growing up, bourbon seemed like something your dad or your grandpa drank, but now it seems to have resurged in popularity, not just with an older generation, but with all ages. I am wondering if Jim has any thoughts as to what might be the driving force behind this? (I personally wonder if there is any connection between this and the rise in local beer microbreweries. People seem to want to connect with local product and favors and while the bourbon industry is international by the very nature of its distilleries and people like Jim at Four Roses, they still feel approachable, intimate, and highly crafted.)

  7. Great question Drew! Thanks!

  8. Chris says:

    Jason, yes I believe it is for the Japan market only.

  9. Snakeman says:

    I would like to personally thank Mr. Rutledge for his preservation in bringing 4R back to the US market. It’s one of my favorite Kentucky Bourbons. In fact I’m sipping on some 4r SB as I type this. Now my question; Which of the 10 recipes do you use the most for 4R’s SB expression?
    There is no statement on the SB label of which recipe is in the bottle, unlike my other limited edition expressions of 4R I have.
    2nd; What is the age of the SB bourbons.
    Thanks

  10. Great question. Thanks!

  11. Joe serapilio says:

    Jason,Ask Jim if stores can get on a barrel program with the distillery.Like Buffalo Trace offers.Big store near me has BT,ER,Weller90-107,Old Charter& Blantons all on program.Thanks,Joe

  12. Joe, I’m glad you asked that. Four Roses has 2 programs very similar the ones you mention. They have one program that’s a Barrel Select (Barrel Strength, Non Chill Filtered) where the store merchant chooses a barrel from all 10 recipes and it is bottled for the store. There is a second program that sort of sounds like an express version of the more extensive one mentioned above. In this smaller program 5 barrels of one recipe are pre selected and 1 is chosen by the merchant. In this later program it’s bottled at the 100 proof that the current standard Single Barrel is bottled at. I actually will be sitting in on the later while I’m up there.

    It’s also worth mentioning this program in not unlike what some of the ones you mentioned are doing. The neat thing about the first program is you can select from 10 extremely distinct barrels. Pretty amazing stuff.

    I am sure your store near you is aware of this. Maybe they have one in the works. Thanks for the question Joe.

  13. Greg says:

    Jason – great that you’re going to interview Jim. I’ll be in KY in April selecting a barrel and Jim will be there during the pick so looking forward to seeing him. Here’s a question:

    To my knowledge, Four Roses is the only distiller that uses low slung warehousing. What is gained or lost using this configuration?

  14. Greg, this is one of the main questions I want to ask him also. FR is one of the few (maybe only) that has single story aging. Few really ask Jim this and I’m not sure why. I am assuming that it helpscontrol variables and alleviate some of the inconsistencies that can come from multi-level aging. But that’s just a guess. I am anxious to see what he says. Should be interesting.

  15. Greg says:

    The multi level aging provides a greater degree of variances that the master distiller can control. If the distiller wants a big bold bourbon, throw those barrels up on level 7. If you want a bourbon that will age slower and potentially decrease in proof from it’s entry proof, keep it low to the ground on level one. I’m curious what is lost by not being able to influence the exit proof to a great degree. Many of the Four Roses barrel proof releases have been less than 120pf and as low as 104pf which is less than the entry proof.

  16. Greg, I think we’re saying a similar thing, but where we’re differing is what constitutes “more control”. Putting a barrel at the upper floors and/or outer edges of a traditional 5-7 floor aging warehouse certainly exposes it to higher temps, colder temps, and varied humidity. As you mentioned, that brings a bigger expression from the wood. Wood varies and this can also bring undesirable elements as well. Perhaps it picks up too much oak, or too much barrel tannin. The MD and Warehouse Mgr have an idea of what it will bring, but it’s teetering on the edge. For the record I do love this approach because it’s aggressive and bold as you mention.

    But that said, you could argue it also requires a lot more management. The heart of the warehouse and lower levels obviously mature slower as you mentioned.

    I’m no MD and have never aged bourbon, so take this with a grain of salt. But when I see single story aging, I am assuming that Four Roses is trying to eliminate those extreme variables. In that way they are trying to dictate flavor more by the use of the two different mash bills in conjunction with the 5 different yeasts and then mated to a more gentle aging approach. They may lose some of those ultra huge, bolder bourbons (which they do in my opinion), but they have more control on the end flavor. It’s also rounder and less sharp. Even with a high rye mashbill (really high rye actually) the spice is controlled and not as punchy. It will be interesting to get Jim’s take, but it would seem there is much more predictability essentially.

    As for Proof, that’s a great question – I will ask him. They may put it in the Barrel well below 125. Do you know what they entry proof at today? Wild Turkey puts their distillate in the barrel at 120 or lower and thus rare breed is rarely much above 108 proof.

    It’s fascinating stuff for “BourbonDorks” (plug alert) ; )

  17. Texas says:

    I received the 4R Small Batch for Christmas and I love it. Have their been any thoughts about introducing a rye whiskey from 4R?

  18. Yep I would love for them to release a rye. They’d be a good one to do it.

  19. Chimay says:

    I would like to know if he remembers the first whisky he drank, what it was and did he like it? How did he become a Master Distiller and is it a real passion for him?

    Dennis

  20. Good questions Dennis. Although I can definitely say without speaking to him that it’s definitely a passion for him. On their website they have dates for where he’ll be traveling throughout the first part of the year. So he takes his job as MD AND Four Roses Brand Ambassador very seriously indeed.

    Thanks again for the comments today. Much appreciated. Glad you are getting into whiskey.

  21. sam k says:

    My two high-rye recipe Single Barrels using the two different yeasts came from The Party Source. I believe Jay Erisman was the first to get Four Roses to do the ten recipe bottlings.

    Great idea regardless, and it’s pretty impressive what differences the two yeasts provide!

  22. I’d love to know what advice Mr. Rutledge can offer to people interested in getting into the industry. I unfortunately have no practical experience or training in the spirits industry, but would love to know how I could become involved.

    Love the blog, keep them reviews coming!

  23. Ben says:

    Hi Jason,

    I’m a 26 year old Englishman, living approx 70 miles away from London. I love bourbon, but find that basic Jim Beam is all that I can get most of the time in local stores. Do you know why it is that Four Roses and other better brands are often so unavailable in the UK? Jack Daniels is everywhere in abundance, but good real bourbon is hard to find. Can Mr Rutledge answer this question? Well done with the site by the way.

    P.S. I was able to buy a bottle of Buffalo Trace for the first time recently, but I wasn’t that impressed! Wasn’t as flavoursome or well-balanced as I’d hoped. Do you have an opinion on this one? All the best.

  24. Ben, thanks for the comment. One of the reasons it’s taken me so long to get back to you is I just returned from Four Roses today. But I will check with Jim. I’ve got a few other things to get with him on.

    Buffalo Trace for my tastes is good solid bourbon. I find it to be a good value for the money. I have not reviewed it but I plan on doing so soon!

  25. Ben says:

    Looking forward to the interview. I’d love to know if they have any plans to make F.R. more widely available in the UK.

    Regarding the Buffalo Trace, it’s definitely a solid bourbon, but maybe my expectations were too high. I’d seen great reviews and was hoping for a better bourbon to the similar priced Maker’s Mark. Both are £20-25 over here (when you can get them!) but I prefer Maker’s. Although as I’m mostly a Scotch drinker, that probably affects my preferences. Good to hear from you and will watch out for your take on it!

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