Thursday, February 16, 2012

Jim Rutledge is coming to town

If you're a fan of Four Roses bourbon -- not the old blended shtuff, the revived and wonderful straight bourbons -- got the hot ticket for you in Philly. Master Distiller Jim Rutledge is coming to town next week, and will be at two events for you to meet and get the real word about Four Roses' unique approach to making bourbon.

He'll be at Percy Street Barbecue on Tuesday the 21st, with a crowd-sourcing approach for selecting a barrel of whiskey for Percy Street's own bottling -- as you'll soon see, an excellent chance to get right inside how Four Roses is made -- in which you'll taste whiskey samples from different barrels under consideration for the honor (PAYG).

On Wednesday the 22nd, Jim will be at Jose Garces's JG Domestic for a four course, four bourbon "Meet the Maker" dinner ($55, 215-222-2363 for reservations), which will include Jose's own selected Four Roses Single Barrel (JG is a big bourbon drinker, as you'll learn in the March issue of Whisky Advocate; a really fun profile of Village Whiskey that I got to write).

Why "unique"? Why is sampling individual barrels anymore interesting for Four Roses than for other bourbons? As Jim will explain better than I can, Four Roses bourbons rely on two different mashbills and five different yeast strains to make ten different straight whiskeys. These ten whiskeys are then aged in single story warehouses under conditions as identical as possible, so the variance comes from the mashbill and yeast strain, not the different aging conditions (different floors (higher are generally hotter), different warehouse sites). The straight bourbons are then blended -- "mingled" -- to create Four Roses.

However...the Four Roses Single Barrel bottlings give you a chance to try one of the ten whiskeys -- it varies from release to release -- alone. You'll get to try at least two of those at JG Domestic, and the night at Percy Street will allow you to taste several, side-by-side. To top that off, you'll have one of the most skilled and knowledgeable master distillers in the business -- Jim's been doing this for over 40 years, and actively campaigned internally to bring straight Four Roses bourbon back to the U.S. market -- explaining it to you; and Jim does a great job at explaining bourbon.

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