Exploring America's Native Spirit
Exploring America's Native Spirit

Mellow Moments in Lawrenceburg

Monday morning, I had the extreme pleasure of visiting Al Young at Four Roses distillery in Lawrenceburg. This would be the second time I have had the honor of talking with Al. The first time I met him was in a brief conversation at the 2013 Bourbon Classic in Louisville organized by The Bourbon Review. Even in that short discussion with him some time ago, I could tell two things: 1) he is a very personable and engaging individual and 2) he is very knowledgeable about bourbon and open to sharing his experience.

This would also be the second time that I have been to the distillery. Just like my first meeting with Al, my first stop at Four Roses was brief in nature. In August, 2013 my wife Cassie and I had taken a tour of Woodford Reserve and had hoped to fit another location in on the way to the Beaumont Inn in Harrodsburg.  With this in mind we charted a course to see the beautiful Spanish-Mission architecture of Four Roses. Unfortunately, we arrived shortly before the facility closed for the day and missed the last tour. On the other hand, we did get our feet in the door and were able to spend some time in their gift shop, which has a very nice selection of goods and fine Four Roses Bourbon. My wife has commented often that Four Roses “gets merchandising right.” The staff was also very welcoming and invited us to join the last tasting of the day with the group who enjoyed the tour we missed.

So when an opportunity arose to get to talk with Al again and take a special tour of the facility, I was very excited to say the least. We arrived around 10 AM and started off in the visitors lobby. Al started with a brief history of the distillery and the legend of the Four Roses moniker. If you have not heard the story, Paul Jones Jr., Four Roses founder issued a proposal to a Southern Belle and if she were to accept, she was to wear a rose corsage to a certain grand ball. Evidently, for Mr. Jones everything ‘came up roses’ at the gathering that evening as that corsage made an appearance and with a little faith/imagination it may have given direction to two passions in his life.

We then talked about the rising interest in Bourbon throughout the U.S. and worldwide. He interweaved insight into Four Roses’ two mash bills and five proprietary yeasts with history lessons and thoughts on the evolution of marketing. I shared with Al, an experience we had in Budapest with a taxi driver a few years back. Most the time in my travels abroad, when I tell someone I live in Kentucky, their mind jumps to either the Kentucky Derby or Kentucky Fried Chicken – believe me, there are much worse things to be known for! Anyway, we told the cabbie we were from Kentucky and he about had a heart attack. When he calmed himself, he blurted “Four Roses Bourbon” and then proceeded to show us what seemed to be a miniature museum of the company’s paraphernalia in his glove box. I am happy to say, he was sober at the time and was also happy to see such appreciation of our native spirit far removed from our soil.

It may be interesting to note that the owner of Four Roses is Kirin Brewing Company. Kirin purchased the Four Roses brand back in 2002 and since that time, this bourbon has risen in popularity worldwide and was reintroduced back in the States after an extended absence. For the past several years, Four Roses has been as golden as Michael Phelps - check out their recent awards.

As we walked around the distillery, you could tell that Al is the perfect Brand Ambassador for Four Roses. He came up through Seagram’s and worked at a few different facilities over his career. He started in the quality lab and then took multiple positions until becoming distillery manager. He said that he worked very hard and did just about anything he could do in order to advance within the company. Sitting there listening to his stories, I believe him. He seemed to be a candid straight shooter and hearing his reflections on his career was a treat. He talked favorably about his co-workers and Master Distiller Jim Rutledge. Answers to questions about the facility, process, and the bourbon itself came as fluidly out of his mouth as the beverage out of its bottle. A true storyteller. I guess that’s one of the many reasons why Al is a member of the Bourbon Hall of Fame.

I had chance to do a tasting, which included the Yellow Label, Small Batch, Single Barrel, and the 2012 Limited Edition. Here we revisited some of the steps in the distilling process and talked about the key goal of creating a consistently great product within a certain flavor profile while maintaining a mellow bourbon. I won’t tell you all my thoughts on each drink, but I will say that I would take any of them any day and that the 2012 Limited Edition was very nice. In general though, my personal preference is the Small Batch. I find it to be very enjoyable and I know it will be readily available. I was pleased to hear that the Small Batch is a regular choice for Al as well. For him, it’s the flexibility of the product – neat, on the rocks, in a Manhattan – all good.

As we came to a close on our bourbon discourse for the day, Al provided two signed copies of his book and we headed off to lunch at Talk of the Town. I know I left Lawrenceburg a stronger fan of Four Roses and a new fan of the restaurant. If you get a chance, I would suggest you check them both out!



What's in my bar now...

Ancient Ancient Age 10 Star

Ancient Ancient Age 10 Year


Basil Hayden's

Buffalo Trace Single Oak #32

Buffalo Trace Single Oak #59

Buffalo Trace Single Oak #60

Buffalo Trace Single Oak #62


Col. E.H. Taylor Warehouse C Tornado

David Nicholson 1843 BIB

Eagle Rare

Elijah Craig 12 Year

Elmer T Lee

Elmer T Lee Commemorative

Evan Williams SB Bourbon Affair

Ezra Brooks Black Label

Four Roses Small Batch

George T. Stagg 2013

Heaven Hill Gold Label BIB

Heaven Hill White Lable BIB

Henry McKenna 10 Year BIB

Jim Beam Black 8 Year

Jim Beam Choice 5 Year

Kentucky Vintage

Maker's Mark

Maker's Mark 46

Michter's Single Barrell 10 Year

Old Bardstown Estate

Old Fitzgerald BIB

Old Forester

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon

Old Grand Dad 86

Old Weller Antique 107

Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year 2013

Spring Mill

Stagg Jr. 2013

Town Branch


Wild Turkey 81

Wild Turkey Tradition 14 Year


Willian Heavenhill 15 Year 2015

Woodford Reserve

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