Jim Rutledge

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Time travel in a bourbon bottle

 

Usually the b&t blog is written by Dan, but today I’m pushing him to one side and taking my turn in the spotlight. The reason for this is simple; we wanted to write about Four Roses but as many of you will know Dan works for the brand as an ambassador, and so I felt that he might be biased on this particular subject! We try never to blur the line between our personal writing and the brand that Dan works for, but when we found out the Master Distiller from Four Roses was coming to the Uk and bringing a new bourbon with him, we knew we had to share it with you.

 

I am a big fan of bourbon; some I love simply because they’re easily enjoyed and are sympathetic to my female palate, no matter the serve. Others because their aroma transports me back to precise moment in time; a hot, sweet rick house in Kentucky, a September evening with wood smoke and blankets. Sometimes a bourbon manages both and in fact this week I tasted a limited edition that I knew I would like, but also (rather unexpectedly) instantly reminded me of the first time that I ever tried a whiskey straight out of the barrel. 

One day in the life of a Bourbon Master Distiller

This week I am feeling pretty lucky. You see Jim Rutledge, the Master Distiller from Four Roses is over in the UK and I have been invited to tag along with him as he does various events and trainings in bars across London, Leeds and Glasgow. He's here in the UK to kick start the new focus that Four Roses has on the UK market, since teaming up with InSpirit. So as we reach the half way point in Jim's stay I thought it only right to share some Jim's teachings and insight with those who've not been able to meet him in person.

 

I thought I would pick one day during his visit and share my notes from his training sessions as they panned out across the day... I guess I had better start with the bourbon Breakfast. That's right, you heard me, bourbon Breakfast!

 

Yesterday started with a small group of us meeting Jim for breakfast at Smith's of Smithfield as a chance for a few industry bods to get to know him in a fairly relaxed setting. It was only a matter of time before someone suggested that we 'just quickly run through the range' (while tucking into a full English fry up of epic proportions). I should state for the record that it's not my usual practice to have neat bourbon with my breakfast... but actually it did go really well with the bacon! So Jim kindly obliged by giving us a brief run through of the three products in the Four Roses range, Yellow Label, Small Batch and Single Barrel. He also talked a little about the history of Four Roses and how it has arrived at this point in time:  its rejuvination.

 

A rose by any other name

Well we made it through RumFest (just!) which was once again a great show. I have to say I really love the fact that it is the one event here in London that has some real life to it. I think that everyone there was shocked at how great the turnout was and how many people both in the trade and consumers are really passionate about rum!

 

But enough about rum, I have a few other things on my mind at the moment so if you will indulge me once again, I am going to talk a bit about bourbon, a bit about homemade ingredients, a bit about autumn and winter flavours (again) and a bit about garnishes.

 

I’m going to start with garnishes because I feel the need for a short sharp rant. Talking to American bartenders and friends in Canada there seems to be a dislike of garnishes by consumers over the other side of the pond. To my mind though a relevant garnish can take a good cocktail and elevate it into a drinking experience.

 

A great booze related road trip (or visiting an AOAS)

So what makes a visit to an Area of Outstanding Alcoholic Significance (AOAS) an exceptional experience? Why would you want to give up your precious holiday time for a busman’s holiday? Would it really be worth your time to travel half way around the world to have a booze related holiday?

 

I guess for me the answer depends on how seriously you take your interest in spirits. If you are a bartender who likes to party hard then visiting a small city with a small nightlife may not be your scene. If you are a cocktail snob, then visiting the places where drinks were once made famous can be a disappointment when you realise their glory days are long since over. If however you are willing to invest a little time to meet a few interesting characters and can have an open mind about learning a thing or two about your favourite spirit, then the idea of visiting an AOAS might not be so crazy!

Whiskey o'clock... make mine a Four Roses, right out of the barrel

With Tales over, hangovers recovered from and New Orleans left as a distant memory in the rearview mirror, we have finally made it into the heart of American Whiskey country. As we drove from New Orleans the countryside slowly changed from monotonous swampland (how and why anyone settled this area is a mystery to me) to heavily forested flatlands, to wooded hills and finally to more open farming land with rolling hills stretching as far as the eye can see.

 

Our original plan was to hit Kentucky and do ‘the bourbon trail’ but someone told us that we might be pleasantly surprised if we stopped in at Lynchburg to check out Jack Daniel’s. So that’s where we find ourselves on a hot and sunny Tennessee afternoon. After a quick pit stop in town for a bite to eat at the bbq caboose (if you get there try the pulled pork sandwich!) and to stretch our legs it’s up the road to the main attraction.