Retired Master Distiller Jim Rutledge, Formerly Of Four Roses, Returns - The Whiskey Wash

Retired Master Distiller Jim Rutledge, Formerly Of Four Roses, Returns

By Nino Marchetti / April 28, 2016

It turns out once you’ve been making bourbon for a long time, like former Four Roses master distiller Jim Rutledge did before retiring last year, that the itch  to be back with the stills and barrels again never quite leaves. To that end, the upcoming J.W. Rutledge Distillery has just emerged from the shadows as it prepares to launch a crowdfunding campaign for build-out support starting next week.

Jim Rutledge

Turns out you can’t keep a good former master distiller down (image via screen grab)

The J.W. Rutledge Distillery website, which went online just a bit ago, has most of the current details about what’s happening. Here’s a letter Rutledge put to the site talking more about his plans:

Hello Friends:

 As you are aware by now, my friends and cohorts – Stephen Camisa and Jon Mowry – and I are collaborating to build a modern, energy efficient and sustainable, mid-size distillery. We will produce Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey and Straight Rye Whiskey the “old-fashioned way” relative to the requisites, guidelines and standards for Straight Whiskey production that have been in place for  close to two centuries. 

     We will produce Kentucky Straight Bourbon whiskeys using both rye and wheat as small flavoring grains, and a straight Rye whiskey will also be included in our portfolio of distilled spirits. A pot still may ultimately be added to expand our beverage alcohol production to other types of beverage alcohols.

     Another goal is to remain free of corporate structuring, so we can, and will, listen to our friends and consumers regarding Bourbon and Rye Whiskey mashbills, whiskey ages, bottle strengths, single barrel and small batch renderings…. This will also mean there will not be a corporate structure in place to require addition of flavors to Bourbons, or finishing of Bourbon in used barrels, of another type alcohol, to alter and change the flavor and character of our whiskeys. 

     To achieve this goal we have begun an Indiegogo crowd funding campaign to get our project off the ground and running, and with your help we hope to raise as much funding as possible via this avenue – to remain as independent as possible.  By largely, or possibly only building our distillery via crowd funding with the direct support of the people who love Kentucky Straight Bourbon and Rye Whiskey we will achieve these goals – without outside influence.

Rutledge and his team go on to talk about how they will make use of “multiple mash bills and yeast strains” for their bourbons and ryes. The whiskey will be aged in new charred white oak barrels in single story rack warehouses “to better control consistency in maturation.” No flavorings will be added during the maturation or bottling process.

The distillery, which will be located near Louisville, will also aim to have a green footprint. It will utilize “clean, energy efficient means as much as possible – incorporating technologies such as geothermal heating and cooling, solar energy, and potential utilization of biomass energy in an onsite production facility using waste materials to generate natural gas requirements.”

More details on a press release over at Bourbonr reveals he is very much looking forward to doing a “wheated” bourbon. Also, as stated by Rutledge, “I promise, a straight rye whiskey will be distilled, barrels filled and aging in our warehouse within the first year of operation.”

I’ve embedded below a video from Rutledge talking more about his new whiskey adventure. I encourage you to visit the site and fill out the question on the “Jim’s Message” page where he asks for input on “which mashbill will be the first JW Rutledge-labeled bourbon to be produced at the JW Rutledge Distillery.” We will work to get an interview with him in the meanwhile, and bring you a more detailed story on this exciting new venture!

h/t Maggie Kimberl, Chuck Cowdery