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Interview with Jim Rutledge, Four Roses Master Distiller (Part 3)

This is the final segment of a 3 part interview with Jim Rutledge, the Master Distiller at Four Roses. Frankly, this was my favorite part of the conversation because it shed so much light on Jim’s thoughts on the industry. What fantastic insight from arguably the most noted Master Distiller in the American Whiskey Industry today.

This piece of video starts after I had asked a question to Jim about the somewhat touchy subject of “blending”. I was concerned he might give me the boot for even bringing it up. I’m serious – I wasn’t sure how he was going to respond. The term “blended whiskey” was talked about a good bit in my piece on the history of Four Roses. And when you consider their history, it makes perfect sense why Four Roses would want to move far away from associating with the term “blend”. On their website they even go so far as to describe the “blending” of their 10 recipes of straight bourbon into their batched products as “mingling”. Remember, “blended whiskey” has historically referred to whiskey blended with grain neutral spirits (GNS). Some folks consider it whiskey-flavored Vodka.

I feel the connotation associated with this term is old and stodgy. It doesn’t have to be negative. If you’re interested to learn more about great blending, I encourage you to do a search on Compass Box Whiskey Company and owner John Glaser. Compass Box is doing amazing stuff, and it’s all blended whiskey (or vatted). In the course of this segment, Jim Rutledge talks about David Perkins, proprietor of High West Distillery and Saloon in Park City, Utah. David worked a bit with Jim before starting High West. High West distills their own spirits (Vodkas, “white” whiskey, and a number of other cool things in the works), but like Compass Box, they source (purchase from other distilleries), blend, and bottle some fantastic stuff. I’ve reviewed some of them here and here. In short, blending is an art and can be a big part of creating a great whiskey.

Now let’s look back at Four Roses. I’ve always felt that Four Roses, more than any other American Whiskey Company, was the most like the Scotch Industry in their philosophy and approach. They distill 10 different straight bourbon whiskeys, and blend them to create harmonious end products (for all but their Single Barrel products of course). In my opinion I consider this ultra premium blending or vatting of various straight bourbon recipes. It just all happens inside their own walls. But did Jim agree?…….

In addition to touching on that subject, Jim also talks about the prospects of a Four Roses Straight Rye Whiskey (cross your fingers and give your opinions to Four Roses if you want it!), his thoughts on the craft movement, and finally the level of camaraderie between the Master Distillers and other distilleries.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this 3 part conversation, because I really enjoyed doing it. What a pleasure to speak with Jim Rutledge, and I look forward to the opportunity to do so again……….hopefully soon.

11 Comments

  1. Franco M. Campanella says:

    Jason,
    Awesome interviews. Your sight is rapidly becoming my favorite spirit resource. Thanks for asking Jim about the rye possibilities. I think he’s got something up his sleeve on that issue.

  2. Franco, thanks so much man. That’s really a great compliment. And boy I hope you are right about the Rye. We can all hope.

  3. charles says:

    Wow! Thanks Jason, and thanks Jim. You are both very generous with your time and knowledge! Thanks for sharing and making my bourbon experience all that much better! I love it

  4. jfw says:

    Great Stuff Jason.

  5. Vince Carida says:

    Great stuff Jason! Let’s hope we get a rye in the future from Four Roses. For my money, you cannot beat Four Roses products. Extremely well crafted!!
    Keep up the good work!

    By the way, I hear that Bulleitt will be coming out with a rye. Its going to be 95% Rye from what I hear

  6. sam k says:

    Good news, Vince! Thanks!

  7. sam k says:

    P.S. 95% rye? Sounds like LDI product…or is Four Roses distilling this?

  8. Sam, Tom Bulleit confirmed it’s LDI. I think it’s like 6-7 years old or something, but it’s definitely LDI.

  9. Vince I missed this one – sorry about that! Thanks for the comments and the visit. I’m looking forward to trying this Bulleit. I enjoy their bourbon and it’s a versatile bourbon – makes a great cocktail with that high rye, but is a great sipper as well. As mentioned above, this new rye is distilled at Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana (LDI). It’s the old Seagrams distillery. Many folks out there bottling rye whiskey are sourcing their whiskey from LDI. Templeton is one such company. Though this Bulleit sounds older. I think it hit on March 1.

  10. Texas says:

    Although once again all the name nonsense is kinda irritating, I did like Bulleit pretty well. Hopefully the new Bulleit rye will be available here in Houston. WT Rye has not been on the shelves much here lately..so not sure what’s up.

  11. Jon says:

    What a wonderful video series. WR was my first bourbon I enjoyed. 4 Roses was my first bourbonI fell in love with. I am in Lexington about twice a year and every time I tour 4 roses and by bottles because in Alabama it was not carried until this year ( YEA!!!! Finally!) The family feel 4 Roses conveyed at their distillery is unique. When I tour it I am allowed a “behind the glass” experience unlike Wild Turkey and some other large distillery. I learned quite a bit about the flavor profile from your videos that make perfect sense and now will enhance my experience ( particularly the Small batch and single barrel my two favorites). Also Jim Rutledge seems so personable and kind not to mention passionate. That combination IMHO is the reason 4 Roses is on top and will continue to be my very favorite bourbon. Thanks for sharing such a neat video series allowing us a behind the scenes view of 4 Roses.