Master Distiller Jim Rutledge Introduces His First Straight Rye Whiskey

By Gary Carter / July 21, 2021

Master Distiller Jim Rutledge has poured more than four decades into making bourbon whiskey, establishing himself as a legend during his time at Four Roses. Now, he’s throwing his hat into the rye whiskey ring with High Plains Rye Straight Rye Whiskey, set for release this summer.

The J.W. Rutledge Distillery team worked on High Plains Rye for more than a year, and this blend includes five straight rye whiskeys from four states – Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and New York.

Rutledge said that each straight whiskey used in High Plains Rye has its own unique recipe, varying from 51% rye grain to 100% rye, and each a unique yeast strain. The result, he said, is a distinct flavor profile that clocks in at 97 proof.

High Plains Rye

High Plains Rye (image via J. W. Rutledge Distillery)

“A lot went into the selection of the whiskies that we use for this blend,” Rutledge said in a prepared statement. “I’ve wanted to do a rye for a long time, but I wanted it to be something unique. By combining these five different recipes, we created a really nice straight rye whiskey that is gentle on the palate with a nice, smooth finish.”

Rutledge offered his official tasting notes for the High Plains Rye.

“When first nosing the rye, the mellowness of the four-year-old whiskey is quite apparent. Light spicy notes of allspice, nutmeg and white pepper are noticeable … hints of cinnamon, brown sugar and butterscotch also present themselves. The whiskey changes slightly to persimmon fruit, light caramel and rye grain when a couple chips of ice are added.

“When sipped, persimmon is found mid-palate along with a gentle hint of cayenne pepper. There are also notes of soft vanilla bean, yet the rye stays assertive. The relatively short finish, which is typical of younger whiskeys, is surprisingly gentle with a nice dry quality.”

Rutledge retired from Four Roses Distillery several years ago, but his passion and enthusiasm for the bourbon and rye whiskey industry continues to flourish. Starting with Cream of Kentucky Bourbon and now continuing with High Plains Rye, Rutledge said he has no intentions of slowing down and that he continues to have the same drive and passion for whiskey as when he first entered the industry.

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High Plains Rye will debut in 24 states across the U.S. with plans to expand distribution in the future. Suggested retail is $54.95 and it will hit shelves by late July.