Jim Rutledge Talks about the 40 Year Exile of Four Roses Bourbon [Video]
Paul Jones, Jr. started Four Roses Bourbon in 1888. While most distilleries were shuttered in the 20’s because of Prohibition, Four Roses was one of only six distilleries that was legally allowed to continue to distill Bourbon for “Medicinal Purposes” during Prohibition. (Cough, cough, I think I feel a cold coming on and need a little medicine.) After Prohibition was repealed, Four Roses Bourbon was the top selling bourbon in the U.S. during the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.
Stay Informed: Sign up here for our Distillery Trail free email newsletter and be the first to get all the latest news, trends, job listings and events in your inbox.
In 1943, Seagram purchased the Frankfort Distilling Company primarily to acquire the most recognized name in the business at that time – Four Roses Kentucky Straight Bourbon. Seagram made the decision to discontinue the sale of Kentucky Straight Bourbon in the U.S. and Four Roses was moved to the rapidly growing European and Asian markets where it quickly became the top-selling Bourbon and remains a top-selling Bourbon in Europe and Japan.
Jim says, “Seagrams being a blended whisky company introduced their blended (Four Roses) whisky in two years after the purchase, they purchased in 1943, blended whisky in 1945, which was made in Indiana and Maryland. It had nothing to do with our Kentucky Bourbon but eventually, Seagram’s being a blended whisky company pulled the top selling bourbon in the U.S. off the market to focus on their blends. Including their blended whiskies which eventually destroyed our (Four Roses) name.“
It wasn’t until 2002 when Kirin Brewery Company, Ltd. of Japan purchased the Four Roses brand trademark and named the new acquisition Four Roses Distillery LLC that they started the return of Kentucky Straight Bourbon in the U.S. again.
Seagrams wasn’t willing to spend the millions of dollars to fix the mistake they made 40 years ago when they pulled the brand off the market. We introduced our single barrel in September 2004 and that’s what started our return. ~ Jim Rutledge, Four Roses Master Distiller