Bourbon Distillery Nearly “Maxed Out” in Keeping Up With Demand

Kentucky’s distilleries are making more bourbon than ever, and one distiller in particular is having a tough time keeping up with the demand.

The master distiller for Four Roses, Jim Rutledge, says quality comes with time. But, time is of the essence as customers flock to pick up more bottles of the company’s product.

For 50 years, Four Roses’ employees couldn’t even buy the bourbon they made, as the company’s former owner, Seagrams, only sold the drink overseas.

When Seagrams folded in 2001, Rutledge convinced the new owners to bring Four Roses back into the Bluegrass.

"We figured we might only have one chance, let’s do it right," he explained.

Now, Four Roses bourbon is flying off of shelves. The domestic numbers show an increase of 42 percent in sales between 2010 and 2011, and the past year alone, sales have skyrocketed around 70 percent.

Rutledge said workers can’t seem to bottle their bourbon fast enough.

"We’re about maxed out," he admits. "We know we’re going to have to build. Now, it’s just how much larger we want to go, and the type of equipment we’re gonna use."

Rutledge said the only reason Four Roses has been able to supply demand in the U.S. is because after European countries went into recession, whiskey sales plummeted and have yet to recover.  For years, it was known as the top-selling brand in Europe.

But, Rutledge believes word of mouth and social media has helped boost Four Roses’ sales in the states and made it one of the fastest growing distilleries in the country.

"It’s just been a wonderful experience in seeing something you’ve worked so hard on for so many years," he noted. "Now, it’s becoming the talk of the town. We’ve got a base…I think we’ll be here forevermore."

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