The Title of Master Distiller

Please see below a post from Kentucky.

I appreciate the sentiments, and have no problem with the concept, except it does not sit well with me, but good on Jim Rutledge.

I always knew that the term “Master Distiller” came from from the US of A.

Actually I have NEVER felt Comfortable being bracketted in this Terminology.

No one is THE Master…..Period!

We can have our experiences of our career, we can have our experiences of our skills, we can have experiences of our successes or our non successes.

Me ? I am just so happy to still be learning my Craft going into my 55th year in the Business.

Nobody can ever convince me that He/She is a Master of all they survey.

Remember Nero ???



“The Kentucky Bourbon Festival started in 1992 as a bourbon tasting and dinner. It was a distillery party with about 250 people, most of them from distilleries with pop up tables and plastic cups. Then the Bourbon Festival continued to grow and attract more and more people. In 1995 the festival wanted to honor the distillers with a Sunday morning “Master Distillers Breakfast.”  According to Jim Rutledge, Four Roses Bourbon Master Distiller, that’s when the term was first used.

I guess it was probably about the mid 50’s that (the master) distillers also became tools of company’s marketing plans. And that was probably started by accident … when they found out some of us, when they’d asked us a question, or ask us to speak to somebody, and after a couple minutes they’d say how do we shut this guy up now that he’s talking about the bourbon he’s making.

And they began to realize that the distillers were so passionate about what they did, and the one’s that didn’t mind talking to groups of people,  began using them (Master Distillers) as a marketing term.  And ah, I was one of those that shoot, at first I was scared to death to stand up in front of people and talk, and I would walk away with my shoes squishing because I was sweating so much. But then I realized boy I love talking about bourbon, I love talking about the process. And ah, at first I would be nervous talking to five or 10 people, now, it doesn’t make any difference if its 500 now, as long as I can talk about something that I have such a passion for I find it so easy and so many of us do that now.

It took Jim about a year before he allowed the company to call him Master Distiller. He was perfectly content being called, Distiller. The marketing folks had to convince him that they were losing business because of his stubbornness. He finally agreed to allow himself to be called a Master Distiller. Now, after 49 years in the industry and almost 20 as Master Distiller, he’s calling it a day. Jim will be retiring from Four Roses Bourbon as of September 1, 2015.

The Kentucky Bourbon Festival now in it’s 24th year has continued to grow. In 2014 the attendance was around 53,000 people from 44 states and 14 different countries. You can learn more about the 2015 Kentucky Bourbon Festival here.

Shout out to Carla Carlton, The Bourbon Babe for this December 2013 Jim Rutledge interview.”

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John McDougall