Lego Crowd

Ever since Four Roses Master Distiller Jim Rutledge “retired” in September of 2015 after almost 50 years in the bourbon business the question has been, “What will Jim do next?” That question was answered on May 2, 2016 when Jim officially launched his crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to help raise nearly $2 Million to start the J.W. Rutledge Distillery LLC.
JW Rutledge Distillery logo

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Unfortunately, after only 5 days on the crowdfunding site, Jim and his partners Stephen Camisa and Jon Mowry, decided to pull the plug based on some negative feedback on social media and lackluster results. By the week’s end, they had only raised $11,000. According to Jim’s letter that he posted on the J.W. Rutledge Distillery site and their Indiegogo page everyone that contributed will receive a full refund and will be granted a lifetime membership to the JWRD Whiskey Alliance. In addition, when the distillery opens they will be invited to the grand opening ceremonies and a party to be held on the distillery grounds.

Fortunately, when you have the industry stature of someone like Jim Rutledge, you know this isn’t the end, it was simply a bump in the road, a public bump in the road but, it’s still just the beginning of a long journey. Now that word has gotten out about the new distillery, several investor groups have come forward and expressed an interest in participating in the project. According to his interview with Mark Gillespie on WhiskeyCast one group has verbally offered up to $20 Million.

We rushed in too much. We didn’t have everything put together and then sit back and look at everything and say ‘how could we improve on this before we jump in.’ We got everything together boom, boom, boom, boom and then let it go and that was a mistake. ~ Jim Rutledge via WhiskeyCast

The fundraising on the Indiegogo site may have been a flop but, it was likely the start of something much larger.

What Went Wrong with the Crowdfunding Campaign?

  1. No Real Plan – There was the start of a plan but there were not enough details to really get people jazzed about the new distillery. No pictures of  the land, no rendering of the new distillery, no list of vendors, and no mention of who was going to build the shiny new copper still. As Jim said in his interview he wrote the crowdfunding letter the night before it went live. They were not quite ready when they jumped on the big stage.
  2. Weak Incentives – I’m not an expert on crowdfunding but many of what I would call the basic crowdfunding distillery items were missing. Where was the first bottle, the first batch and what I thought would be obvious the $10k Single Barrel offering? I’ve included some details below on what another distillery offered along with their incentives that helped to exceed their crowdfunding goals. Granted, their goals were not as lofty but, they had a plan and they offered some great incentives.
  3. Tell a Better Story – If you have ever talked to or listened to Jim speak at many of the Four Roses events, he’ll tell you he used to get so nervous when speaking in front of a group that he would sweat. That nervousness ended long, long ago and Jim is a wonderful public speaker and brand ambassador for the bourbon industry. His “Better” story will come as they continue to develop their plan, tell it over and over to each other, let others hear it, vet to others and then officially release the Story.

Related Stories
Legendary Master Distiller Jim Rutledge Officially Out of Retirement – Starting New Distillery
Former 4 Roses Master Distiller Starts $2 Million Crowdfunding Campaign for JW Rutledge Distillery
Women Owned D.C. Startup Republic Restoratives Distillery Raises $75k in Just 7 Days
How 2 Women Crowdsourced $75k in 7 Days for their Urban, Small Batch, Distillery

Rutledge Distillery Crowdfunding Levels and Perks

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Cost[attr style=”width:1px”],Perk

$25, Welcome Donation
$50, JW Rutledge Distillery T-shirt
$100, “JW Rutledge Distillery Commemorative 2 Inch Coin”
$175, “JW Rutledge Distillery Commemorative 2 Inch Coin and 15% Discount on all Non-Alcohol Merchandise in the Gift Store”
$400, Engraved Brick to be Placed on the Distillery Campus
$500, “JW Rutledge Distillery Commemorative 2 Inch Coin, 15% Discount on all Non-Alcohol Merchandise and Engraved Brick”
“$1,250”, “Exclusive JW Rutledge Distillery Opening Day dedication services. ”

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Republic Restoratives Distillery Crowdfunding Levels and Perks

The Republic Restorative Distillery crowdfunding campaign was smaller but, they had a plan, they explained their detailed plan in a video on their site and on Indiegogo and they offered contextually relevant incentives. They hit their initial goal of $75,000 in seven days and exceeded their stretch goal of $100,000 for a total of $119,643. Watch their video here and you will see that they were well along the way with their project before they ever started a crowdfunding campaign. They had already invested a lot of time, money and resources. They have a great understanding of creating community in a social media world.

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Cost[attr style=”width:1px”],Perk, Details, Sold, Value

$10, Cheers, We thank you, 7, $70
$25, Vodka Lover, “Voucher for a free bottle of vodka, redeemable at the distillery tasting room”, 195,”$4,875″
$35, Bourbon Lover, “Voucher good for a free bottle of our bourbon. Redeemable at our tasting room and participating liquor stores in NYC, San Francisco, LA, Chicago, Austin and Boston”, 206, “$7,210”
$100, The Sipper, “A voucher for one free bottle of vodka, One free tour & taste pass, Your own whiskey sipping glass with our logo, Distillery branded button”, 76, “$7,600”
$250, The Signer, “Name on the wall of distillery, A voucher for one free bottle of bourbon or vodka, A distillery button, Set of 10 coasters”, 64, “$16,000”
$500, The Drinker, “Invitation to a pre-opening tour and tasting session, Your name on the wall of distillery, 2 vouchers for free bottles of bourbon or vodka, 5 free tours, 5 vouchers for free cocktails, A distillery button, Set of 10 coasters”, 25, “$12,500”
“$1,000”, The Bartender, “One free cocktail each month at our bar, forever. Vouchers for free special edition, personalized, signed bottles from each of our product lines batch one, Invite to our launch party, 10 free tours, Your name on the wall of distillery, A distillery button,  Set of 10 coasters”, 23, “$23,000”
“$2,500”, The Regular, “A bar stool named in your honor, Entrance to a one day whiskey tasting seminar, A private dinner with master distiller Rusty Figgins, Access to our monthly friends and family only nights at the tasting bar, Your name on the wall of distillery, A distillery button, Set of 10 coasters”, 5, “$12,500”
“$5,000”, The Barrel Filler, “A barrel with your name on it and a case of the whiskey that comes from it, A private party in the tasting room for you and 25 friends, An invite to a special investor dinner, Your name carved into the concrete of our building, Exclusive access to our reserve product lines before they run out, Your name on the wall of distillery”, 3, “$15,000”
“$10,000”, The Master Distiller, “Your name on one of the fermenter tanks, Drink for free at the tasting room bar forever, Free tours for you and all of your guests forever, Private dinner for 8 guests in our barrel room, A barrel with your name on it and a case of the whiskey that comes from it, Exclusive access to our reserve product lines before they run out, Access to our monthly friends and family only nights at the tasting bar, Our first born”, 1, “$10,000”

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