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Issue 61 - Rising spirits

Whisky Magazine Issue 61
January 2007


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Rising spirits

Bourbon is not only continuing its growth in profitability but is carving out a new premium image for itself. Dominic Roskrow reports

You don't expect to find a top Kentucky distiller conducting tastings on a Saturday afternoon in a sprawling shopping mall on the edge of Louisville. Mind you, until relatively recently you wouldn't have expected to find his whiskey there either.

Jim Rutledge is the master distiller at Four Roses and a key figure in the organisation of the annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival.

Until two years ago Four Roses sold in Japan and Europe and it was as rare as a Derby winner in its home state.

But all that's changing. First Four Roses started winning accolades from whiskey experts and picked up Whisky Magazine's Best of the Best Award for American whiskey under 10 years old. Then the distillery got a make over. And finally its owners, Japanese drinks giant Kirin, set about making the whiskey available elsewhere – including its home state. Indeed you might argue that the proudest words on the Four Roses website are those in the description of the small batch: ‘sold in Kentucky only.' So it's not so surprising that a proud man like Jim would be seizing every opportunity to let others share the joys of what is a very fine bourbon indeed. And sure enough here he is behind the tasting table handing out samples not just of the original Four Roses whiskey but two new versions of it – the single barrel version and a small batch version.

The liquor store meeting is completely unplanned, but I'd spoken to Jim by phone just weeks before to find him in bullish mood.

“It's taken a long ...

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