Whisky Magazine Issue 34
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Four Roses has thrived since it was bought by Japanese brewer Kirin. Stuart MacLean Ramsay found out why.
You never know what's round the corner on the back roads of Kentucky.
Three years back I was meandering alongside the Salt River by Lawrenceburg, searching for Julian Van Winkle's overworked bottling plant.
I crossed the river, drove by a cluster of whiskey warehouses and stumbled onto Four Roses distillery instead, as ‘purty' a production site as you'll find on any whiskey journey.
Built by a Louisville architect in 1910 in the California mission style, it is painted beige-cream with an ochre tiled roof and glass windows that celebrate the production of whiskey taking place inside.
It was a sticky, bug-laden Kentucky twilight when I came across it, and a venerable oak tree shaded two distillery workers, Jeff and Bonnie, as they finished their supper on a bench outside.
“Come on in, you must have come a long way,” they said, and proceeded to give me a friendly tour round their plant.
I called Jim Rutledge, Four Roses master distiller, the next day and arranged to meet him to discover why this hidden gem was virtually unknown in the United States.
“Actually, you can find Four Roses in a few places in Kentucky and Indiana,” he told me.
“Only because I didn't want the distillery employees leaving the country to buy a bottle. There was no marketing money from Seagram to do this, so I carried a case of whiskey around and sold it the old-fashioned way.”
Things are looking up for the employees and the rest of us in the United States, however. On February 19, 2...