Jim Rutledge’s J.W. Rutledge Distillery Abruptly Cancels Crowdfunding

Sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to in the crowdfunding world. The highly talked about new distillery planned by former Four Roses master distiller Jim Rutledge, J.W. Rutledge Distillery, learned this first hand unfortunately as the team behind it abruptly canceled today an Idiegogo campaign it just kicked off a few days ago.

Jim Rutledge

image via screen grab

The campaign, which Rutledge talked about with us in a lengthy interview recently, was designed help raise funds for the distillery’s development and also get the buzz out about the new project. Here is a letter from Rutledge posted on the distillery website today talking about his reasons for pulling the campaign:

Dear Friends,

Based on the lackluster performance of the Indiegogo crowd funding platform, the management team of the J. W. Rutledge Distillery LLC has decided to close the campaign. The people having contributed to the campaign will be refunded 100% of their contributions.

The main reason the Indiegogo campaign was initiated was to give people who enthusiastically support the J. W. Rutledge Distillery endeavor, but do not have the personal resources to invest for equity, an opportunity to be part of the distillery start-up efforts and making it happen.          

Mistakes were made by the management team effectively communicating the purpose of the campaign, as well as the ongoing perks of the company’s ambassador club – “The JWRD Whiskey Alliance.” Members of the JWRD WA will receive quarterly newsletters to keep members apprised of distillery activities, including Special bottle releases, annual gatherings at the distillery, pre-purchases of Limited Edition releases, discounts for merchandise purchased at the gift shop – excluding beverage alcohol. 

The “perks” program could have been handled a lot better as well.  

The Indiegogo program was never meant to be a substitute for raising the required capital to bring the distillery project to fruition. The good news is a number of additional private investors and groups of private investors have come forward to express a passionate interest in investing in the JWRD, as a direct result of the Indiegogo campaign. Prior to launching Indiegogo the management group of JWRD were already in contact with agents representing three additional investor groups. Funding of the entire project looks very promising.

I wish to thank everyone for the support and overall very enthusiastic communications we’ve received since the announcement of the crowd funding efforts. We listened to all feedback, and we are taking action consistent with that feedback.  We continue to welcome your input on what you, whiskey lovers and possible future JWRD Whiskey Alliance members want from a J. W. Rutledge Distillery.

For those who contributed to the campaign, in addition to the 100% refund, we will grant lifetime membership to the JWRD Whiskey Alliance, and when the distillery opens we will personally invite each of them, and their spouse or guest, to our grand opening ceremonies and party, to be held on the distillery grounds. 

Thanks again to all for your very positive and passionate support of our distillery project.

Jim Rutledge
Managing Partner and Master Distiller
J. W. Rutledge Distillery LLC

Some criticism I had read recently was been leveled online in some corners about how the crowdfunding campaign was unfolding, and the perks being made available at different support levels. Rutledge addresses this in the letter above, saying “the ‘perks’ program could have been handled a lot better as well.”

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While this is a setback, Rutledge does seem to have drawn enough support from other quarters to continue the development of his distillery.