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In 2001, Rutledge was inducted into the inaugural class of the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame. He was given a “Lifetime Achievement Award” by Malt Advocate Magazine in 2007, and in 2008 Whisky Magazine named him “Whisky Ambassador of the Year – American Whiskies.” In 2012, Whisky Magazine also named Jim to its Icons of Whisky Hall of Fame, for global whiskies. He was the 2nd American inducted into this elite group of whisky makers.
When asked about retirement and what may lie ahead, Rutledge stated that his passion for the Bourbon industry, and especially Four Roses, will never diminish, and he went on to say he plans to stay involved in the industry he loves in so much – perhaps including various roles as Four Roses’ Master Distiller Emeritus.
Like other Master Distiller’s Jim’s retirement may be short lived. According to Kentucky.com, Rutledge said he also hopes to get back into actual distilling, perhaps with the many start-up distilleries that ask for his input. This is a similar path to how long time Brown-Forman Master Distiller Lincoln Henderson retired and soon thereafter joined with his son Wes Henderson to create Louisville Distilling Company and Angel’s Envy. Angel’s Envy was acquired by Bacardi Ltd. in March 2015.
Eric Gregory, President of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association said, “Jim Rutledge has become synonymous with the highest standard of excellence in distilling and is one of the Commonwealth’s most treasured Bourbon ambassadors. He has spent his entire life working tirelessly to master the intricacies of our signature industry while crafting some of the most celebrated Bourbon in its history.
“Jim’s passion for Kentucky is legendary, as evidenced by his driving role behind the rebirth of Four Roses. In addition, he was a long-serving member of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association Board of Directors and spent many years guiding the growth of the Kentucky Bourbon Festival as its Chairman representing the KDA.
“His status as a Bourbon icon was cemented in 2001 as a member of the inaugural class of the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame, and he was recently inducted as an elite founder of The Order of the Writ – Spirit of Kentucky Bourbon Society.
“On behalf of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association and all our members, we wish Jim the best in his retirement and thank him for his years of outstanding service. We also congratulate and welcome Brent Elliott to his role as Master Distiller, and we look forward to spending many mellow moments with him as the new face of Four Roses Bourbon.”
Four Roses is the only Kentucky Bourbon Distillery to use 5 proprietary yeast strains in combination with 2 mashbills to distill and age in new white oak barrels 10 unique Bourbon recipes. Rutledge went on to say that nothing will change with his retirement, and Four Roses will continue producing the 10 Bourbons with the same loving care to ensure the continuance of the very mellow and smooth Bourbons as its consumers have become accustomed to finding with all its Bourbon renderings.
Rutledge announced, with his usual passion and enthusiasm, that Brent Elliott will replace him as Master Distiller. He went on to say: “With Brent’s knowledge of the Bourbon industry, the distillery process, and his passion for all facets of Four Roses Distillery operations, I have every confidence the growth of Four Roses Bourbons will continue under Brent’s leadership.”
Four Roses Distillery’s CEO and President, Satoko Yoshida stated that she and the entire Four Roses team of employees wish to sincerely thank Jim for his many years of passion for the Bourbon he made for so many years and also the dedication and loyalty he exhibited throughout his career for the employees of Four Roses. “He will be missed as the ‘face of Four Roses Bourbon,’ but we now wish him much happiness and success in his retirement years. I am also excited to have the opportunity to work with Brent in his new capacity as Master Distiller.”