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Al Young of Four Roses

Four Roses has a fascinating history and one of the people involved in that history was Al Young, Distillery Manager and Brand Ambassador. Hear him talk about the legacy of the whiskey.

Listen to the Episode

Show Notes

The Al Young interview is likely my most treasured interview. It spoke to the very reason I started Whiskey Lore, to capture stories while the storytellers were still here to tell them. Little did I know that one month after our interview, Al Young would pass away at Christmas 2019. 

It's been just about a year since his passing and one thing I have never done is release the entire interview, front to back. I did release a couple split versions around the launch of the episode, but pulled them down after some time. But even those were not complete.

This recording is complete and I hope you enjoy it. It is fun to revisit.

Transcript

When you tell a friend about Whiskey Lore it does have an impact and I appreciate everybody that supports the show through your generous recommendations and through your contributions to patreon.com Whiskey Lore it's your recommendations and your financial support that make this independent podcast a reality. Thank you

Welcome to Whiskey Lore. I'm Drew Hannush

Now during this 12 Days of Whiskey Lore I've been doing my best to bring you something new and maybe bring you something old that you haven't heard in its entirety. 

And if you are a listener to Whiskey Lore and you have been listening from the beginning, or if you're one of many of our listeners who caught us somewhere in the middle and then went back and started binging through the first few seasons - then you have no doubt heard my interview with Al Young the brand ambassador and former distillery manager of Four Roses.

I love the Four Roses story. One of the first episodes I wanted to do was around that and there was so much more information I wanted to gather on that story than he had written about in his book and so I got together with him, we sat down, we had a great discussion. Part of that shows up in the episode other parts of it I had put out in some early interview episodes but even those didn't contain the complete interview. So for the first time I'm going to do an encore version of the Al Young interview and we're going to talk all the way from the early years when it was started by Paul Jones and it was the Paul Jones Company up through Prohibition into the Seagram's years. And then into those critical years where the distillery was being brought back online by Jim Rutledge and Al Young.

So lots of stuff in here I actually even take a wild left turn into asking a question about the Civil War because I had intended on doing a history of Kentucky during the Civil War episode but I'm not going to hold on to it anymore. I am just going to get this out here for you to listen to and enjoy this great conversation that I had full interview a lot of great stories from the late Al Young. This is coming almost a year after his passing. I hope you enjoy this encore presentation of Whiskey Lore

So we'll talk a little bit at first here about the history of the company where it basically started as a Paul Jones Company?

 that's correct yes 

and they they started as rectifiers

 yes they did 

so rectifiers in the 19th century some had a good name some had a bad name how did they go about keeping a good name

well first of all a rectifier was an honorable title back in that day because there were a lot of people that were doing it if you go down to main street in Louisville Kentucky you'll be traveling where before Prohibition there were 125 different offices representing brands right there in that one two or three block long stretch of main street where Paul Jones was doing his business but as a rectifier that meant that he would buy whiskey in Louisville Frankfort Lawrenceburg Kentucky take it back to his central place and mingle them together to make his products. So the interesting thing there is he would not use any whiskey that was under seven years old 

Okay and so when it got to a point where they came out with the Pure Food and Drug Act there was a real push to define what whiskey was but they didn't really do a great job of it and so what part did the company play in trying to get that settled before the Taft Decision?

Well the Paul Jones Company made a big big effort to say we comply and they did because they weren't putting any artificial additives into it you know like they weren't putting barbed wire in it that was rusty to give it color. They weren't putting off flavors in it like shoe polish or whatever to give it that kind of brackish association with bourbon at the time. So they were very very strong on that. In fact we have an old photograph that was put in a book right where Macy's is today in New York City and the Paul Jones Company had a office there right above a jewelry store and they put banners out saying we conform we conform, to make sure that everybody knew that we were doing the right thing 

Did it feel like after the Taft Decision they didn't have to do that as much or did that practice continue all the way up to Prohibition.

Well they stayed that way all the way up to Prohibition they didn't to my knowledge they never tried to to deceive anyone about the products that they were putting out that was. Funny enough they were in for the long haul they weren't just trying to make some money real quick and then disappear from the scene. So but they they rode the tide of what was there and what was offered and over so many years and so forth they were slammed with Prohibition, slammed with temperance, slammed with women and the right to vote, and you say well what in the world has that got to do with whiskey well it has absolutely nothing yet everything.

Because the women could sway that vote on Prohibition in one direction or the other 

That's right and their husbands you know after they're working all day in the factory all week long they get paid on maybe Thursday or Friday and there or Saturday even and they would take the money home and maybe they passed a saloon and some of the money stayed there on the first floor, and on the second floor maybe they gambled some of it, and we won't talk about the third floor. But basically the women were getting a little upset with that because they needed money to run the family so when they got the right to vote and the referendum came for Prohibition or whatever you can bet they were in line to make their presence known,

You made an interesting observation in your book which really does seem to hold water which is that it was almost an opportunity with World War 1 for them to and maybe the only opportunity they had to get Prohibition passed because the men were off the war and the government had already suspended alcohol sales at that time.

Well you know people had wanted Prohibition since the Mayflower landed but they never had the forces marshaled together to make it happen. Every time they got a good speed built up we had a war we had an economic downturn, we had things that aren't even in the book about the financial disasters of the 1880s and so forth for example. And whiskey and alcoholic beverages have always added to the coffers whether it's in increased taxes general sales tax or whatever they've always added to that. But here we sail along and we're going into WWI and so they said well now you know we think we want to do a ban on alcohol production so that we can devote the grain to making bread for the troops in Europe. Well I mean you think about when the bread is made in the United States and how long it takes to get across the ocean and what's it going to end up like when it gets there it was a little convoluted, But it worked and they got some sympathy for that as well and they told the major producers look we're in the war now but we're really thinking about extending this thing about making whiskey to drink and turning it into Prohibition in 1921. So that'll give you time to get everything out of the way that you need to get done with the business so that when it comes you can explore other interests or whatever. And then somebody said hey wait how are we how come are we being so charitable we're already in it although it's not defined, so let's just do it now. And when they did they caught a lot of whiskey in the warehouses that people couldn't get rid of. So they ended up selling it to people who in time bought a license to sell for medicinal purposes only and gave the producers pennies on the dollar for the whiskey sometimes. Unless they were good buds and you saw a lot of cross bottling you saw a lot of label attempts to stay alive buy bottled by other people even you know like old hooky or whatever being put out by a different distilling company so it was a desperate time for the alcohol producers. Four Roses was lucky enough that the Jones family got a license to vend alcohol for medicinal purposes when they purchased the Frankfort distillery.

Okay so that was an interesting time because they weren't allowed to produce any alcohol but they could sell alcohol. Is that true or were there any were there any of those six allowed actually.

Well nobody could sell on the open market alcohol it had to go through a really tightly controlled system for medicinal purposes, so consequently some of the big producers resorted to making different products. Whether it was like Anheuser-Busch even though they were in beer they made near beer which was just slightly under the alcohol limit. and then they went in the baking business and they went into all kinds of stuff to try to keep themselves alive and it was pretty rough.

It's interesting I grew up with Stroh’s ice cream 

Yeah exactly yeah yeah that had to have been a byproduct it was it was yeah but the devastation had already been done when they did Prohibition they took away the revenue that the united states needed and inc in taxes thank goodness for income tax that helped to save a little bit about the revenue that was being avoided in terms of the government but it bit pretty heavy into the treasury of the United States to have Prohibition 

Then of course as everybody knows through television and everything else Prohibition brought about its own spoilage with gangsters and that sort of thing but I like to look at it as being a caveat because of the speakeasies that attracted some of those women that wanted to have Prohibition. Now found out that they would go out and have a drink had to speak easy. So unofficially I think there were more women that went into the into the drinking culture then than there were before then. But to make that palatable then the bartenders who were doing this probably more in the open than people would like to think, had to make drinks that were appealing to women so they perceived it so they added fruit juices and made different cocktail variations to make it profitable.

Well I'm guessing that a lot of times they were also masking rot gut and stuff that just was a very low quality whatever they could get their hands on 

That's right so it was it was it was a time when the law was dry and the country was wet.

So it was interesting to see that when it came time for them to repeal Prohibition there was this okay you can go and get started but we all know that whiskey doesn't just come right out of the still and suddenly get on a shelf it takes time to go through that that process 

Sure

And one of the things I read in your book was about a Stitzel Distillery was actually the first one because they still had all their equipment that were able to start producing in the late 20s and then I saw that that company was bought by Frankfort distilling was that purchased because they knew that was probably the quickest way to get back on the market.

Well they didn't have a distillery themselves frankfurt didn't up until this point and most of the other distilleries had to sell off their equipment by law. So there wasn't anybody really out there doing it if you recall I believe it's what 1928 they had what they called a Distiller’s Holiday where they say we're using up so much alcohol for medicinal purposes we've got to make so many million gallons to take care of that void. Well there was nobody left to do it so A.P.H. Stitzel did it for all of them and made their whiskey so it was natural for Frankfort to want to pick them up and it's odd how this works they always seem to have some money 

Well another thing I wonder about Prohibition is was Prohibition pretty much the end of family distilleries in Kentucky 

It was the end of no actually it really wasn't it it but it was it took a dent in it it put a dent in it. A lot of the small mom and pops went by the way and there were a lot of producers you know we got our origin with the farmer distillers they were making whiskey or alcohol out of excess corn excess corn and selling it off to make some money. Well those folks if they had anything about them at all and tried to produce a brand they were hit hard and probably didn't come back. For example here in Anderson County there were probably 12 to 15 distilleries before Prohibition and when we came back there were three.

And how does a town or an area recover from that sort of thing what did the towns do 

Well they reached out for other businesses and here they attracted a meat packing company, they attracted a tile company a button factory anything to try to make it more palatable for people to stay here in the community rather than to try to get jobs somewhere else.

So a distillery pre-Prohibition versus now do they pretty much need the same amount of manpower to run them or has it increased since then or 

It's hard to say don't really have any accurate figures of the manpower to run this place for example Four Roses distillery before Prohibition I do have the Union rolls that are available it looks like we had quite a few people on there but over time we have dropped the number of people to actually make the process from about 11 down to five per shift and we've done that but it wasn't wholesale bloodletting it was done through attrition as people retired wereduced those numbers of people in each area needed to five although there are 25 because we have a 24-hour operation and it's a three-shift day and we always have another crew kind of running around there somewhere that's either on or off maybe it's 20 instead of 25 but but that's a close look at how the staffing is done. But now we have support groups with maintenance and you know that's an interesting thing that you asked that because this is the home for Four Roses there is no other. So we have all of our marketing team here our accounting team personnel and all of the things that it takes to run a very small corporation are right here. So we certainly have more people than they would have had before Prohibition 

Okay yeah marketing was always a big thing for Four Roses from the sign in Times Square to even when Seagrams took over the advertising was very creative and and trying to create that whole brand image that Four Roses wanted to be known for it's amazing

It really is it started out as as more or less what they call it linograph kind of kind of ads in the in the before the Prohibition and then shortly thereafter they had a few more of those and then it jumped to Kodacolor and then it got more creative with different themes but you know 1938 after Prohibition everybody got together and said well we've got to regulate advertising a little bit because you know we don't want to let this thing run away with us. So they finally came to a common agreement that they wouldn't use women in advertising because they thought that was demeaning and they wouldn't use animals and they wouldn't use members of the armed forces because that would kind of may paint them to be a little bit different than they were. And then they kind of got a little lenient on the animals and threw a dog in every once in a while or whatever in the ads and 

They didn't realize that pets do sell products 

Well yeah of course they did and then they said more importantly we can't use Santa Claus. We can't use the people of the day that indicate a seasonal influence on the product. So you won't see a lot of ads from that time up until the 60s that had any kind of bow to women bow to animals. You saw more of a product-centered thing and then I think in the 50s the late 50s before all of the craziness came about in the 60s we did a lot of ads that were regional like city ads building up different cities and trying to increase the market share there. We even had the Four Roses Society that was our glee club if you will for the brand and they had a bulldog as a mascot called Battling Bill and he was in a lot of ads even when they did one for Alaska when it became a state they had a bunch of stuff about him being on a dog sled which I thought was kind of funny and then they had him on a surfboard for Hawaii. And then in the 60s in the late 60s early 70s Seagram's was on the cutting edge in terms of working women into advertising on television.

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So one of the things that the product has held for most of its life is this feeling of quality and during Prohibition another special packaging that you guys were doing for the product what kind of innovative packaging…

Well we had a we had a carton that was developed that was supposed designed to guarantee the purity of the product by being a tamper-proof seal. Once you put the product in there you put a metal closure on the top and bottom of it that if it was tampered with you could see it. And the revenue people that were out there looking at all these shipments suddenly got to recognize this and figured that it was okay when it was being shipped out even for medicinal purposes. So that helped a lot and the idea of guaranteeing purity and quality was something that never left the brand. I mean even when Seagram's bought the whole operation in 1943 after the last Jones family member died in 1941, they didn't really care a whole lot about how Frankfort made their whiskey they wanted to add their own flourish to it but the one thing they did was they always adhered to quality integrity and craftsmanship in everything they did. So they elevated the Four Roses brand and first into an A blend which was a blend of all whiskeys before they thought about turning it into a B blend which indicated that they had something in it less than bourbon.

So 1952 an article came out or a Spirits Magazine pretty much said that it was one of america's best known and most admired brands in America was that pretty much the top of the hill before seagram started diluting the product and making it a blend rather than a straight whiskey and was it a straight whiskey at that time and 

It was slowly being slowly evolving into a blend with with some other things in it like less age on the alcohol you neutral grain alcohol blending spirits stuff like that being put into it. And you have to remember that this was done during a time when and it wasn't just prevalent in Seagram's hierarchy but ever all of the other major producers like Schenley, they were masters at it too. We'd actually influenced the public as to what you were gonna drink and how you were gonna drink it in addition to telling you where you could get it so we were shaping the public's preference and backing that up with a lot of sales people going from door to door in all of your major cities to just tell retailers you know. Anything we can do to help right what can we do for you that we can make you need a little bit of a price reduction we might be able to work out something for you so it was all legal all labor 

Yeah but it was kind of the industry saying maybe it's better for us to move towards blends rather than straight whiskey 

Well the taste preference the United States was being shaped that way as well so you know. We after that after the war and all that sort of thing we're doing a lot of home entertaining blended whiskey was in vogue. People like that the heavy bourbons and so forth were looked upon as grandpa's whiskey. So consequently blends were the tour de force until somebody realized hey we've been over in Europe we've been fighting over there and we had some vodka that was pretty cool why don't we get somebody to bring vodka over here. And then another one spoke up and said well we've always known about it but we never took it seriously how about scotch? Maybe we should become upper crust by drinking scotch like all the big people back did back in the 30s and 40s. So preferences changed and Seagram's tried to keep up with that change by having over 300 different products on the market including Four Roses blended whiskey. But they had always decide well they decided after the war to take Four Roses into the export market because they had a lot of whiskey aging in the warehouse and they thought maybe this will work if we just take it over there and sell it in the export market as a full-blown bourbon with putting all of America behind it you can 

So how did that transition happen to where suddenly Four Roses went from being a straight whiskey to suddenly being sold in Europe and Asia and then all of a sudden disappearing from the shelves of the United States 

Well it went very carefully it was very orchestrated and it was I'm sure it was a question of supply depletion to the point where you know when it when it got when they got done with the Four Roses straight bourbon they had the blend ready to go in this place.

Okay and you joined the company in 1967 

That's correct so you were kind of coming in when these plans were already done and there was nothing being sold in the United States was there nothing being sold in the U.S. or was there a bottom shelf brand at that point 

Well Four Roses was being sold in the United States as a blended whiskey only okay so when I was coming in they were making plans down the road to turn it into Four Roses premium whiskey which would have taken the advantage of light whiskey which is distilled above 160 proof and is aged only for a short period of time in previously used barrels. So I mean these guys were always thinking about how can they squeeze that nickel out of whatever they can make yeah I mean they were certainly not short when it came to creation and innovation 

So light whiskey is a fascinating thing to me because I missed that I didn't even know it existed and when I read about it it just fascinated me because light beer came out just a couple of years after light whiskey so this whole light trend was was rolling in. But it wasn't about keeping calories down it was more about trying to soften the whiskey up a little bit or make it more palatable?

Well it was to try to make it more identical with some of the lighter alcoholic beverages that were out there like vodka and so forth. There were some companies, and we did not engage in that, that tried to put out a clear whiskey that had no color to it at all and it was moderately proofed and it just died in a noble death. Because the drinking public was too astute to fall into that trap. You know if you had your people that really liked bourbon they gravitated toward the brands that were still around Old Crow and things like that on the American market but if they wanted blended whiskey they stayed with the blends as long as they could or when James Bond movies came out they wanted that vodka martini that was shake it had not stirred which caused quite a flurry in the alcohol industry 

Do you think James Bond had a lot to do with the fact that people were moving away from 

I can't negate it 

I love that because that is a story I'm kind of following it's interesting to see the different opinions especially since in the books Ian Fleming had James Bond as a bourbon drinker more than anything else.

Yeah 

So yeah it's fascinating. So you were also, were Benchmark and Eagle Rare around already when you started with the company or where they come in.

They came in after I was with the company 

Okay and those were sold as straight whiskeys 

Yes they were 

So why did they decide to go with those instead of Four Roses 

Well they were making an attempt into a market that was trendy they were trying to look for something that that would be sophisticated, yet something that had a regional flair for it. So the Eagle Rare came about because they decided that they would tie that in with saving the American eagle So they had a big campaign that if you bought you donated to the Save the Eagle campaign it's a very good whiskey at 101 proof. It was excellent as a matter of fact and I was infatuated with it when I first came out here because we made all that whiskey for it here. Benchmark was made in louisville and it was a little higher in phenols aldehydes and esters which made it highly conducive to short return - in other words you drank it and you were in toxic you were on the verge of feeling the effect of your alcohol.

Yeah so you came out here in 1990 ?

1983 oh that was when they were doing the big shutdowns they shut down I was here 82-83 and they shut Louisville down in 83 so I was out here and given the opportunity to go to Indiana and worked for what was Seagram’s and Sons in Lawrenceburg, Indiana for approximately seven years and I worked in warehousing in the distillery there.

And then when you came back here you came back as distillery manager 

I came back as the ship supervisor actually and they quickly made it to the distillery manager 

Okay very good so you were here really well actually Jim Rutledge the master distiller started with a company in 66 and you started in 67 so you guys knew each other long time ago pretty well

In fact Jim often tells the tale that he gave me my first tour in Louisville and he was lucky we got through it because he said I probably didn't know more than you did so we knew each other for a very long time yeah very long time 

He was a strong supporter at Seagram's for Four Roses as a brand. Oh my grace he had he had followed the brand and he had gone up the corporate ladder very well and ended up going into working in New York for a long time. If you will almost sitting at the right hand you know that sort of thing yeah. And then with the opportunity to come back to Kentucky presented itself he said he wanted to do that and see what he could do to bring the quality up of the brand itself and try to reestablish it

He probably had to fight for that I'm guessing because 

that wasn't an easy road for him no yeah 

so he came back here in 1995 I understand but in 94 was a year where you guys actually got back into the united states well now Jim was back here in 93. 

was he okay 

He was down in Cox's Creek 92 93 somewhere in that area and he was working up budgets and he was becoming slowly a Kentucky area manager before he replaced Olva Haney here as he as a master distiller in 1994. okay so Jim was here to begin to get his influence known in that area.

What what was it like to finally see Four Roses on the shelves in Kentucky again?

It was exciting because for years we had made Four Roses and couldn't buy it. I mean you know and and it's it's frustrating to be able to tell people how good it is but if you can't get to it yeah what are you going to do?

All of that premium light Four Roses never hit the U.S. shelves the premium light whiskey. 

It did hit you it did the U.S. shelves that was the bad part we had to get rid of all that stuff if I buy up as much of it as we could yeah I mean he probably might find a couple bottles out there even today but we tried to get everything off the shelf so we could bring the whiskey back into the market 

Okay so 19 when that happened and you were trying to make that - and you were just selling this in Kentucky what what I mean - how long did it just sell in Kentucky how long was it before you finally could start

It wasn't a long time okay it was a relatively short time in the late 1990s but we we it was kind of funny they had misquoted the price on the bottle and it was selling for 9.95 for a 750 mil of Four Roses bourbon so we're all out running out buying everything we could just to keep it in the market but to take advantage of the price and we went to the first we went to the Bourbon Festival in Kentucky and in Bardstown rather with special permission and we had to get that to bring the whiskey even into Kentucky to bring it there and I mean we had a borrowed rug we had a card table we had I brought my champagne pot from home, and we had roses in it and we were all standing around over on the other side for some of the bigger producers with their pre-made front porches and so forth. And we thought man how are we ever going to compete with that. And the door opens to bring everybody in and the first people that came in were the Japanese and they saw our Four Roses and they kept running across the floor yelling Four Roses bro roses burrows and we haven't had to worry about looking back since.

Wow so that was the introduction of straight Kentucky whiskey again to the market very nice. So there was a period between 1999 and 2002 where you had to feel like a ping-pong ball going between corporations. 

Well you know we didn't real I mean Jim probably did and kept it to himself but we didn't really look at anything we just figured we're making whiskey every day making it the best way we know how keep doing that everything's going to be fine we're going to be sold what are we going to do now? I was concerned actually as a distillery manager I was concerned I had kids in college I had kids in high school I went home and told my wife I said it doesn't look good and she said well what's going to happen. I said well they could do two things they could either sell the whole place out from under us and other people would come in and bring their people into running or more importantly they could take the brand and make it somewhere else and that third idea is they could shut the whole thing down buy the brand and retire it because we'd seen them do that with other brands in the 1980s. So she said well what are you going to do I said I have to ride it out. So I had calls from people in Bardstown that said if things get bad you always have a job with us which helped a lot you know. But Jim tried all kinds of things to get people interested he even told us we should all invest our retirement funds in it and then when we looked at how much everybody had in retirement we figured it wouldn't be near enough. So then we were fought over by Pernod Ricard and Diageo neither which could buy without getting to be the monopoly holder in Europe so then Kiren who we'd had a business relationship with since 1971 found that we were available and Jim courted them they courted Four Roses and ended up buying the whole thing.

This is the part of the story that I absolutely love the irony that it was sold in Asia and Europe and wasn't being sold in the United States for so long and then a japanese company comes in and makes the purchase did what was your. So you guys already knew because of your relationship with them through the Seagram's distribution channels that they weren't going to go back to just europe and asia with that this was going to be opening the door to the United States.

Well that was one of the basic things they said you remember that picture of the nurse and the sailor at the end of the war in new york city with the big time big sign they said they wanted to bring it back in the United States and make it as strong as it was back then so that was a win-win right there

Beautiful. So now you have a damaged brand or a brand that's had some time where it's been seen as a bottom shelf whiskey or is completely forgotten by the American public how do you go about bringing that back to not only being a whiskey that somebody wants to drink but one that again gets its stature amongst the best whiskeys.

A lot of foot pounding, a lot of attraction to the press, a lot of distributor interface you know we started out in Kentucky grabbed up Indiana Tennessee then we got into illinois kind of baby steps trying to get everything back in order we even had people that came down with pickup trucks to buy whiskey from us that they couldn't get in their respective areas and take it back with them because they knew it was so good. So it was just a question of concerted effort. Jim was running all around the place. Our one of our engineers John Ray made up shelf talkers or knickers to put on bottles here in Kentucky. He was running around we were going to bars anybody that would that would take a bottle in we'd give him a bottle even to let him just put it on the shelf to see how it would work. And we had time on our side in a way because a lot of the people that had followed the brand closely were getting older so consequently we had to do more of an educational technique to get new drinkers involved with the brand so we started doing some of that. And then we increased our efforts with international sales teams brought them over here from Japan and Europe to teach them about bourbon and it just had a trickle-down effect all over the place as we began to teach they began to disseminate that information out to everybody else and you know - are we masters at it heck no we've got a long way to go but it seemed to work 

Well you also came out with two products small batch and single barrel were those concepts that were out there already, had you seen other people doing that 

Other people were doing it but we thought being as unique as we are with 10 different recipes we ought to be able to come up with something that would set us apart from everybody else so the I believe I got it right the single barrel came out in 2004 and Jim chose the OBSV recipe for that so that was the high-rye mashbill and the fruity yeast and they were the barrels he chose were eight or nine years old and it was 100 proof and the gamble paid off because the single barrel suddenly jumped to the top of the charts. It's interesting to note that it was at one time the best-selling bourbon at the Maker's Mark lounge in Louisville on fourth street interesting yeah very interesting so that was 2004 2006 we came out with a small batch which we had help from the blender from kieran Jota Tanaka who came over here and decided the ratio for the K and the O yeast with both match bills everybody agreed that this was just if you liked it we've accomplished our objective 

Yeah well another thing that I notice about the product or the bottles the bottles feel very substantial was that a a conscious decision as well? 

well we had a choice we could go cheap or we could invest in bottles that are singularly unique and and readily identifiable so we went that way and we tried to get bottles that no matter what you do to them on the shelf you can't crowd them out so if we made the small batch to resemble a rosebud if you turn it over. The statuesque single barrel is the way it is so that it doesn't look like a trade bottle. And then a small batch select has the bottle just like the one for a regular small batch but it too can't be muscled out of the shelf 

Nice, it has elbows. This will be kind of moving off in a slightly different direction because I've covered most of the questions that I wanted to cover on on the distillery itself. Because I know you're a lover of history - and so I always have this fascination with the state of Kentucky during the Civil War because during the Civil War it really sat as a battleground state almost between who's going to get it the north or the south and my understanding is that it probably leaned South but when the South tried to invade it created a situation where they had to defend themselves and pull North and then the whole idea of how the how the South couldn't get bourbon. Do you have any thoughts on it - because of course the Mississippi River would have been shut down so there have been no way to you know get the bourbon down the river what is your your knowledge during that well 

Now if we if we can walk it back for a minute and say that we couldn't get bourbon down the river that would indicate that we're thinking of bourbon being in the volume that it is today so bourbon as a category probably wasn't better known as a name until after the Civil War like in the 1870s. But before that farmer distillers were making their own hooch and they were drinking their own stuff but they were doing that courtesy of thinly rolled copper stills. So when the when the Civil War came about and mostly the northern parts of the state and a lot of Eastern Kentuckians stayed with the union the south was opened up to the middle of the country if you if you go up into Lawrenceburg itself and you go to the courthouse you'll see a big Confederate soldier monument up there because that this was a pro-South area but the the point is Kentucky was strategic because it has all of that coastline for the miss for the Ohio River leading down to the mississippi so whoever controlled Kentucky controls the Ohio. So that's one of the reasons that Lincoln said you know we can lose everything else but we must have Kentucky. 

And then later on he found out that he needed Kentucky because Old Crow was what was keeping General Grant

Exactly exactly and and that that worked out to his advantage (laughs). But you know the South came north to try to take Kentucky and they fought a Battle at Perryville which is about 40 miles away and in addition to that battle as it says in the book I believe they were looking for copper stills on the farms with that thinly rolled copper to take as many of those back as they could to turn into percussion caps for their weapons because the Federals had already overrun the copper fields for the South so it was just a question of time you know before the South got strangled you know and I certainly don't want to minimize Jim said that I minimized the the Battle of Perryville in the book they I said they blundered into each other well if you read several accounts it was pretty much that. But a lot of people died I mean it wasn't like just a walk in the park but it halted successfully the incursion into Kentucky even though they did have some things to do in Lexington and ran around Louisville for a little while it never was to any major import and Frankfort they even installed a Confederate governor in Frankfort that lasted about 12 hours and then they had to run because the federals were coming down from louisville so yeah it was a rough time.

This is the reason why I wanted to interview you is because even especially in the bourbon industry in the whiskey industry as a whole there is sometimes misinformation or there are stories that go about that you know sometimes gotten used to hearing those stories over and over enough that they start to become printed fact when in reality they aren't necessarily so 

Well you never let a good story get in the way of the facts absolutely or let the facts get in the way of a good story actually. You know and before long and you can draw any analogies you want with the current day but if you say something over and over and over again then it becomes true yeah in everybody's mind. So then people print the legend and they don't remember the facts. 

Well thank you so much I appreciate your time doing the interview today 

Well thank you for coming by and I appreciate the opportunity to sit and talk with you as well.

I hope you enjoyed that encore edition of my interview with Four Roses' own Al Young. There was so much more we could have talked about, but I'm thankful I got a chance to capture a lot of his story. You can find his book: Four Roses The Return of a Whiskey Legend on Amazon.

Whiskey Lore is a Production of Travel Fuels Life, LLC

Research and production by Drew Hannush

For information, transcripts and show notes, head to whiskey-lore.com/episodes

And until next time Cheers and Slainte mhath

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