16 June 2011

Whisky Insiders Interview - Jim Rutledge

Four Roses Distillery

Master Distiller


How long have you been working in the whisky industry?
On November 14, 2011 I will celebrate my 45th anniversary working in the business.

What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
In 2002, when Four Roses commenced planning the return of the brand back home to the USA. Seagram had pulled the brand off the domestic market in the late 1950’s to focus on their vast array of blended whiskey brands, including a blended whiskey with our name on the bottle – but not a product of Kentucky.

I had a long-standing debate with Seagram marketing for many years to discontinue the blended whiskey and bring Four Roses Bourbon home. The introduction of Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon in Kentucky in September 2004 is the most memorable occasion in my career. It was the beginning of a successful return home.

Can you remember your first dram, and indeed what it was?
Yes, I can remember my first dram, and it brings a smile to my face – probably because I thought I would choke to death. I don’t recall the details other than I was too young to be drinking an alcoholic beverage. The brand is not important – since I would have had the same reaction to any distilled spirit – and probably beer or wine as well.

What does whisky mean to you?
I’ve spent my entire working career in this business - and the majority of my life. I’ve seen technologies develop “light-years” since my first distillery shift supervisory position in 1969, but the “art” of making a great Bourbon whiskey will always be present. I feel like I’ve been very fortunate to have loved the industry from day one and I look forward to each new day.

Where would you like to see yourself in five years time?
I’m 67 years old and in five years I’d love to be responding to similar questions regarding my career with Four Roses Distillery and our Straight Bourbon brands.

What was your last dram?
Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon.

Do you have a favourite whisky and food pairing combination?
No, not really. Bourbon is a versatile beverage and no matter what I enjoy for dinner it’s nice to finish the meal sipping “neat” one of our Four Roses Bourbon brands.

What’s your favourite time and place to enjoy a dram?
I don’t know that I have a favourite time. Whether I’m relaxing at home after a long day, or at a restaurant or bar, etc. talking with friends about Four Roses they are all special, but each in its own way.

What do you think is going to be the next big thing on the whisky horizon?
The recent growth of Straight Bourbon in a global market is just scratching the surface, and I think this trend will continue for many years to come.

What’s the one dram you couldn’t live without?
Four Roses!

Many thanks to Jim Rutledge. Who will be the next Whisky Insider? Click back soon to find out!