207 – A Rare Breed, Jimmy Russell of Wild Turkey

Today’s guest needs no introduction. He is one the most iconic living figures in bourbon today. He’s been on episodes 77, 105, and 175. He’s even got his own personalized scooter to get him around the distillery and that is Jimmy Russell. This podcast touches on his early years and how he was selected to become the next master distiller. He talks about the changes he saw at the distillery as it exchanged hands throughout the years. Also, we get to hear the story on the birth of Rare Breed and his opinion on chill filtering vs non-chill filtering debate.

Show Notes:

  • The history of JW Dant and Log Still Distillery – https://www.distillerytrail.com/blog/j-w-dant-investing-12-million-to-restart-historic-distillery-in-the-bourbon-capital-of-the-world/
  • Heaven Hill 7 Year Bottled in Bond Launch – https://www.facebook.com/bourbonpursuit/posts/2640636035998401?__tn__=K-R
  • Leave us a review! https://link.chtbl.com/LeaveAReview
  • This week’s Above the Char with Fred Minnick talks about speaking at a Total Wine event in Atlanta.
  • Does limestone water make a difference in bourbon?
  • How long does it take to cook bourbon?
  • Can you burn the mash?
  • When did you start at the distillery?
  • What roles have you had at the distillery?
  • What Master Distiller trained you?
  • How did he decide he wanted to train you?
  • What were the early years like?
  • Was there anything from prohibition that affected the distillery operations when you started?
  • Will you all need to increase capacity soon?
  • What was it like when you first started traveling to talk about Wild Turkey?
  • What were your biggest challenges on the road?
  • Were you nervous when you first went out on the road?
  • Were you happy traveling and talking to the consumers?
  • What was the name of the distillery before Wild Turkey?
  • What was it like to distill then ship the bourbon away?
  • Tell us about the other former Lawrenceburg distilleries.
  • What was it like when you were out on the road? Do you think it helped grow the brand?
  • Do you prefer to travel or be at the distillery?
  • Tell us about Kentucky Spirit and Rare Breed.
  • How often are you going through and sampling barrels?
  • Do you have a favorite warehouse?
  • Do you have a favorite floor?
  • Why do you only have 7 floors?
  • What innovations have you seen throughout your time in the bourbon industry?
  • Talk about your rye mashbill.
  • What do you think of non-distilling producers?
  • Tell us about the inception of Rare Breed.
  • Do you like the barrel char flavor?
  • What do you think of chill vs. non-chill filtered?
  • What kind of steak do you like?
  • How much time do you spend at the visitor’s center?
  • What do you drive most of the time?
  • Are you excited to have Bruce at the distillery?
  • Did you ever want to own the distillery?
  • Why do whiskey consumers get enthralled with age statements?
  • Any life advice for younger generations?


I’ve had one bad job since I’ve been here. My dad worked for Old Joe Distilling company. The last 10 years of his life he worked here.

You know what the problem was? You were working here too? Yeah, I was his boss.

Oh really? (laugh)

Hey, it’s Kenny here and this is episode 207 of bourbon pursuit. It’s been a pretty busy week and a half of bourbon news. So let’s get to it. Another warehouse comes crashing down. However, this time it’s not because of unknown reasons, but it was because of disastrous weather in wind. O.Z. Tyler located in Jonesboro, Kentucky, had a corner of warehouse age get ripped off and barrel started coming to the ground back on Monday, June 17. About 4500 barrels and bourbon more in that quadrant that have now been rescued. The warehouse has been successfully deconstructed, and the cleanup process is underway. That particular warehouse holds around 19,400 barrels. O.Z. Tyler has been in daily meetings with the Environmental Protection Agency to make sure that everything stays contained. On the right side there has been minimal damage in very little leakage because bourbon barrels are constructed to withstand plenty of movement. JW Dant, you’ve heard the name before because it’s one of the many brands owned by Heaven Hill and is also one of the prominent bottled in bond Bourbons that you see on the shelf. And it’s been talked about previously with Bernie lovers back on episodes 3637 and 89. Well, heaven Hill may own the name JW Dant as the brand but they don’t own the person. j w. Wally dance surprised the crowd during the national bourbon Day celebration in Bardstown, Kentucky, announcing a $12 million investment to build logs still distillery on 2200 acres of land that he purchased that was once guessed them and he decelerate until that was actually shut down back in 1961. In 1883, that distillery at this site was called head and beam distillery but was closed during Prohibition. The distillery reopened the repeal of prohibition, eventually selling to United distillers and later Shanley production at the old distillery was relocated to Louisville in the early 1960s. And production at this location had ceased. The JW dant brand name was sold to heaven Hill in the early 1990s. Heaven Hill still produces JW Dant bourbon today, so don’t expect this name on a future bottle from logs still distillery. You can read more about the history of JW Dant and logs still distillery at distillery trail.com with the link in our show notes. while speaking of heaven Hill, everyone is up in arms either celebrating or chastising them over the new announcement of the relaunch of their heaven Hill bottom and bond. You may remember this last year when this product was only available Kentucky and it disappeared from shelves when it had announced its retirement. However, it’s back. But there are some catches. The age statement has been increased one year from six to seven years old. It’s still bottle and bond at 100 proof the packaging is a bit more flashy than its white label screw top predecessor. Now the big news might be that it’s not launching in Kentucky, and it’s not going to be available in Kentucky on the first release. Instead, it will be immediately available in California, Texas, New York, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, South Carolina and Colorado. And the prices jumped from the once low budget daily bourbon of $12 and 99 cents to nearly three times that with a suggested retail price of 3999. We’re gonna be discussing this one in a lot more detail on the next round table. So we can see where this new price point positions them in the market. So stay tuned for that one. Today’s guests, he needs no introduction. He’s easily one of probably the most iconic living figures in bourbon today. He’s been on episode 77 105 and hundred and 75. He’s even got his own personalized scooter to get him around the distillery and that’s Jimmy Russell. This podcast touches on his early years and how will you selected to become the next master distiller and how he saw the changes of his own distillery changed hands plenty of times throughout the years. It was certainly an honor for myself to sit there and chat with this man one more time to really just hear more about his story. You’re listening to this podcast so we know you enjoy it a little bit. So if you can please be our boots on the ground. leave us a review because that helps the show grow and find new people. Now let’s hear what Joe Beatrice over a barrel bourbon has to say. We’ve got Fred Minnick with above the char.

Hi Joe from Barrell Bourbon. Here we blend cask strength

high quality spirits to explore the effects of different distillation methods, barrels, and aging environments.

You can find it on the shelves at your nearest retail store. I’m Fred Minnick, and this is above the char. I was changing my nine month old baby’s diaper. When suddenly an enormous back pain struck my lower back a spasm seized my spine. It says if 1000 vodka troops grabbed their pitchforks and started stabbing me. Thank goodness I was able to place Julian gently down and the changing station as I toppled over and intense pain. I simply couldn’t move. And all I could think about was the total wine event I had in Atlanta later that day. I considered canceling it decided to push on. I drove to Atlanta from Louisville stopping every hour to stretch my back. At one point I thought I was going to pass out in the middle of $1 general and chat and knew them as I was shop for back support things. If I did pass out there, I don’t think I would have woken up with much. It was a very interesting crowd shopping that day. I pressed on, I get to the total wine two hours late, and there was a decent crowd waiting for me. I tried standing and talking but could barely stand. So I sat and talked about taxation and bourbon. I never really know what I’m going to talk about with these things. I like to feel the crowd out. And this was one I felt was really hungry for geeky knowledge and somehow bourbon taxes just kind of rose to the forefront of what to talk about. I went through my spiel sign some books and magazines, but couldn’t have a tasting. For some reason. Georgia doesn’t allow people to have tastings and liquor stores. When will our country figure out that responsible alcohol actions are the answer, not pesky bands on things like tastings. I feel really bad for those total wine workers because they can’t really share the goodness of bourbon. Anyway, the next day I went to Atlanta’s other times wine. When I ran into the show’s good friend Kerry, aka suburbia who taunted me with a vodka bottle and took a picture of the pleasure he had. You should check it out on his Twitter handle look for suburbia, it really captured my disdain for the bourbon job stealing parasite known as vodka. Seriously, vodka sucks. Okay, I told my therapist I would cut back on my vodka rant. So let me get back to the total wine stuff. I did a similar talk about taxes at Kennesaw store and later hung out with the club Atlanta bourbon barons, where the founder Giuliano opened up his house and insane collection to me, at this point, after hitting up the urgent care center the day before, I was on some medication for the back and couldn’t really partake in much of this great whiskey tasting. But I slipped a little, just a little. One of the members is Atlanta’s leading personal trainer and geologists who sees Atlanta Braves players and people who have a bunch more muscle than me. He offered to look at my best And that, to me is the epitome of the bourbon community. We like to help one another. Atlanta was gracious with the bourbon hospitality and concerns from a health and it just made my trip all the worthwhile. So thank you so much to the Atlanta bourbon community for opening up your arms and accepting me and my bad back because I hobbled to and from all the total wine stores and to your homes. I shared this with you because I feel like the bourbon community is at a breaking point on the internet. I’m seeing constant trolling and bickering and online forums. And maybe it’s time we go back to the old ways of the bourbon social life. You know, when you invited total strangers into your home and poured over your conversations with your very best Bourbons. Those were the good old days, and I’d like to see us get back to them. And that’s this week’s above the char. Hey, have you subscribed to my new magazine bourbon Plus, you should. Latest cover features the actor Jeffrey Wright, who’s starring in James Bond and john wick. He’s on the cover. Check it out. Until next week. Cheers

Welcome back to the episode of bourbon pursuit the official podcast of bourbon back in Lawrenceburg filming recording on site at wild turkey distillery wild turkey Hill I believe one time is what you call it right Jimmy

is known as wild turkey he’ll it’s been named Ed bar county is known as wild turkey. He’ll

There you go. So we have master distiller Of course, bourbon legend, Jimmy Russell on the podcast today. And before I kind of dig into it, just want to say thanks to everybody from the empire that helped set this up everybody that also kind of figured out the logistics for it as well. We are recording outside today. So if you hear some trucks going by, it’s something that Jimmy had already mentioned earlier to us that there is a rock quarry probably about a mile and a half down the road. And apparently they make some pretty damn good limestone and that’s where you hear these trucks that are just going back and forth all day. Right You know, this is where all the lamps only had to have good limestone water to make good bourbon and the Kentucky River is all spring fed limestone water. So I guess we’ll go ahead and we’ll kick it off with that. So anybody everybody knows Jimmy so we’ll get we’ll get past that but you know, we’ll we’ll talk about water in general right because I think it’s one of those things that gets a lot of talk about when it comes to Kentucky bourbon you know, you talk about limestone and about limestone filtration but does it really matter at the end of the day because a lot of stuff goes to like reverse osmosis and it’s really filtered heavily through there so what’s

kind of your thought process well done in the cooking process we use just limestone water is no go so old time we use house Moser is I use when we’re cutting a bourbon after it’s been aged for years, but it’s just regular Kentucky River water when when you’re actually cooking it

coconut. Okay, so I guess let’s let’s give some people a little bit of a schooling. So when you’re cooking bourbon, what’s what’s the usual time process when it goes into the masher and everything like Well,

it depends on time a year we’re cooking 400 bushels to a mash corn rye and barley malt. Now the cooking times are the same we cook corn up to 212 degrees and then we cook it for a period of time. Then we start cooling down we had a rather certain temperature has a little more starts a little more flavors, and then we cooling down to certain temperatures. It had we had to barley malt barley malt converts all starches into fermented will sugars. Then we pump at our firm better at our east and East a non ferment will sugars produces a bourbon in 72 hours. And this depend on temperature cook, the cooking temperature is always the same. But cooling down from 200 and 20th. We’re cooling water outlet Kentucky River used to cause and all in the wintertime, we can cook and pump a fermented mash mash out in a firmer and three and a half, four hours. And when we just shut down and last part of June the water was hot. It was taking four and a half five hours. So what you’re doing, you’re setting there and beating that grain to death cooking in the I use simple terms. Just like cooking at home, we leave something on the stove too long. It gets mushy and not as good. So

yeah, but do you get any like, like say you’re putting in like a baking pan? Does ever actually get like black underneath of it? Like if you actually cooked it too long? No, no, no. So you’re not gonna actually get can actually burn it.

No, you’re not going to burn it.

So is there? Is there a point when you know that the mash is done?

In your opinion? Oh, yes, you can tell by looking at the firm better. First day is pretty smooth and even on top. And they used to own sugars and the apartment or is rolling and moving and it’s the natural movement was the East really known the sugars scene. And as it starts finishing Oh, we call it down down they’ll start dying down and it’ll be come out clear on top.

Oh yes. The father the firm enters right? Yeah, yeah, yeah.

We call it beer at that stage.

So distillers beer. Absolutely. I so what’s let’s let’s give everybody a little bit of a history lesson too because you started here at wild turkey back in September 10 1954 Okay, so you know the exact date remember the time

6am seven o’clock in the morning

maybe I’m not the first person to ask that one. I don’t know. Yeah, so you you’ve pretty much taken you’ve done a pretty much every single role with inside as

well yes.

Most of times you started in the bourbon business you started one place you stayed there all master still it took me under his wing. And that started out in the lab and salary time I learned that you know we learned a job well you can sit back and take it easy, then a boom into something else moves. So that experience in running the ball and operation running the whole client and exercise client management for several years. So what what made it into balls By the way, who was your master distiller that Mr. Bill Hughes he was young distiller for probation and Helio God appeared top heel. And he’s took me under his wing started training and were born raised here in Lawrenceburg, Anderson County, and he’d known me you know, all my life and he more or less took me under his wing started training me.

What What was it about you that? Did he see something? Was there a glimmer in your I did you? Did you ask like, what was it?

No, I didn’t really know. He just they just started trading me doing everything here.

He’s like, here’s the here’s the biggest sucker in the room. And probably

nobody else would ever

know how to use it.

So what were those were those beginning years, like when you’re when you’re trying to have this apprenticeship.

While he’s learning everything in the story. I worked in quality control and the story that day and time we didn’t have all is saying they will quit what you have now. we’d run analysis on the corn, check it make sure it meets our standards, everything we done by hand. Now you have good equipment to check off, they’re going to say you check all the grain and maybe four days are with you my brother scoop shovel shovel, and done a little bit everything.

So So you started 1954. Right. Yes. So at what point was that during pre post, sorry, post prohibition and and was there anything that really that was, I guess, prohibition ask that that affected your your job at the time? Or is everything just running full cylinders? We started of prohibition in 1933. And this story, some of the buildings and our storage bill some our storage building here

was built for and 1890s. And most of the steel was, was dismantled cause it was 1919 1933. A lot of them didn’t think they’d be back in operation. But the family that owned this at that time is a big rock where why the amount of limestone out here blows. And they own that rock quarry too. So they work here in wintertime. Work in Iraq, we’re in the summertime.

So yeah, you weren’t running full cylinders, like you are today.

Still the same way as to the hot mush July which medicine we don’t make any bourbon you just too hot. Doing it now bottling in Hawaii, how’s everything Danish goes on all the time? Before it’s a cooking mash? It just takes too long to cook them and cooling down.

Now, do you think that has any effect on the supply of what you all can try to produce? Or? I mean, do you look at it as maybe we should throw in some air conditioning units or open some windows? And

well, that’s not the problem is the water? Oh, is it we say we start having chill water to cooling down. And it just takes along with our we’ve doubled the capacity owners are to steer in the last few years. So we’re running about 346 faster right now. So when we build servers angry, the refurbished everything, we doubled our more than doubled our capacity. And the way we got it now we can put in extra parameters, we can still put in more firm owners and increase more and more.

I mean, do you do you see the day coming? Where you’re going to where you’re going to need to do that? Or is right now everything pretty good. And status? Well,

you know, I hope we have to go save when I started 50 or 60 barrels a day. Now, of course we’re restricting our own product, everything to wild turkey products here we make our own product, a drone product and bottle our own product.

Well, almost right you’ve got a few other things out there old recipe bond and

that was too old to steal was that was a one time deal. They went back and done some compile on that. But that’s some older stories was here. And they’ve been looking at some of the older stories for for probation. Maybe doing a special every once while now.

Yes. What to say I was like there’s another one that could be coming out. I think it was the wash. Was it the barons? The barons releases or something like that. They look like it was kind of another another camp party thing. But we figured you probably didn’t have a whole lot of your hands involved in that one. No, I didn’t. So another thing I guess let’s give an idea of, of what so at some point, you are also Do you remember when you had to start going on the road to start talking about the bourbon? Yes,

it was probably at least 30 years ago or more. And production to master distillers working in production. They just do is to play. That’s all you done. And our company started me out going on the road and made a trip all across the United States. And it is completely different is now everybody is all whiskey don’t make it. What it is nowadays, everybody. With all internets and everything. Everybody knows everything is going just like this broadcast broadcast. You all covered everything people know what’s going on all the time now.

Well, there’s a hungry consumer out there, right? They, they, they want to know more

they want. That’s what I say when I say started. There’s always good in my country with what it was. But now they’re very well educated. They know what’s going on all the time.

So what was what were some of the biggest challenges when you were doing that in regards of trying to get people to either listen to you or try the product?

Well, they listened. When you started talking to them, they really listened and this one he’s a bourbon Sally’s come along whiskies of the world and it’s all over the world anywhere you go in the world, you know, for many years, and bourbon was strictly a Southern Gentleman strength. They got their cards or cigars and bourbon went to back room playing cards. That’s where it comes in. How will you read old story you never drank bourbon till after five o’clock? Or somewhere? It’s always five o’clock. Yeah. But that was always storing in his coming worldwide right now. The export market is huge. everywhere in the world. Now bourbon is really doing well. Were you because you were

I guess you consider yourself a pioneer when it comes to going out traveling and and talking about the whiskey. Were you nervous?

No, not really. No, I’m just playing. Oh, Jimmy. I’m saying Well, I mean,

at this point, yeah, you’ve stood up and you’ve talked in front of a bunch of people for quite a long time. And I know one of the things that was always relatively funny was Eddie would always say you know you didn’t really do a whole lot of talking at home but you should see it the distiller you’re doing you’re doing your thing then you’re always talking

well that’s what he said the first trip he made with me. Then he come back home said Mama, you don’t know that he said he’s out here so you can keep him quiet. What

do you think you think you found like

like a new new happiness when you were when you were traveling of trying to find a way to connect with consumers I

had but I’ve always been people enjoy people. I’m a call myself a people’s person. I like to be just like here. I tried to get down to Visitor Center at least once today. Talk to the venture see what they have to say about it. And my wife likes to come here to and on Saturdays. My family has breakfast to get we’re family everything’s open Joel except our home. That’s all but we have breakfast together every Saturday morning. And we she’ll come out with me actually she worked here for ideas even she worked here for eight years or children come along and she stayed home took care of the children and and we have Bing she likes come out here and see the vicious dog and they like see are so weak and then after church on Sunday we normally come out a little while on Sunday afternoons I get to spend more time in a visitor center that away for through the week. I got a job to do up there and I don’t get down here as much.

So you know I think I remember this correctly. When you said your your wife Georgia, by the way it is now was this place called was it old tub or Old Joe? Is that what all

know it was Anderson County just still in

Anniston County. Okay.

And then one time was really brothers. And it was JT s brown at one time. And then been since 1971. has been Austin Nichols.

Gotcha. All right. We’ll see. Mr. Sir. I’m learning something today as well.

They also Nichols company. They had their bourbon made here. It was shipped to New York and bottled in New York at that time. And they bought everything out here. Both the whiskey the day old already here. Um, it was already there. So they both and they didn’t buy any other products at JDs brown at them. They didn’t buy any of that.

Alright, so at what point so you were here during the entire Austin Nichols?

Since they’ve actually owned everything here in Kentucky.

Absolutely. So what was it like during that time to sit there and distill and then just ship everything away? Like what was what was the Lucille Ball and everything here? Okay, you’re still doing that too?

Yeah, we’re doing everything here. So talk about a little bit because that was in the 70s. Right. So it wasn’t it wasn’t the heyday for bourbon. No bourbon was true. Say back in that day and time bourbon restrictive Southern Gentleman. Right. So what was what was the, I guess you could say the are or the feeling that, you know, kind of went through a lot of the veins of people around here of what’s going to happen with bourbon during that time. I mean, well, you know, before prohibition, it was 12 distilleries here in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, Canada was known as one of the biggest selling cup places it was at that time. Most when I started with steel for here for roses known at nationals are still here in town. Old Joe distilling company was here, and Hoffman distillery was here, then we were here. So when I started the steel forward, now we’re down to two four roses and us,

right. And so what what was what was the Old Joe and Hoffman? What? What kind of fate were they delivered?

Well, Joe was one of the oldest brands just our 1918 is one of the oldest, oldest brands, and they had several different brands. And in Auckland, they had half and broke. Then they started days were broke. Hmm, there was worried started,

which, from what I understand is Ezra Brooks was even a real person, right?

I thought he was I’m not sure.

Fancy. I don’t know. I think that’s been one of those biggest lords of bourbon. Nobody actually knows who Brooks actually is. I think it’s just a fictional character. Good to be.

Jimmy Russell doesn’t know I’m gonna I’m gonna go ahead and put my stake in the ground. It might be fictional. I might be right on that one you might be right.

So I kind of want to go back a little bit about, you know, your time on the road and what it was to to start doing that because you said you weren’t nervous. But what was what was the reception of a lot of those people? You know, you’d said that they were they were listening. But do you think that that sort of help kick mark or sorry? kickstart the the market at the time for what we’re seeing today?

Oh, yeah. say they’ve started wanting to learn about his dad and no, back to Ezra Brooks. Love the fellowship, Assyria his his first name was Ezra now well, that had anything to do with it. I don’t know. I don’t know either. I don’t know either. But the fellow that owned all hapa distillery, while the owners first name was Israel,

we’ll have to look into that. And put that on the research papers for later. But again, I cannot go back to your traveling, you know, the reception of those individuals and how that kind of kick started. So how long? And how many years? Were you traveling? And you’re still doing a little bit not near

as much? Well, I’m still doing it in the States. I’m not going overseas at doing most of traveling overseas now. But, but I’ve been in just about every country in the world, who was talking about bourbon and say it’s become a worldwide drink people’s really educated and where you go in the world now. And so you have the bourbon side is in Japan, Australia, Europe, everywhere. Women in the bourbon women, the whiskey of the world and everything nowadays.

Absolutely. So do you. I guess I’m trying to find a good word to kind of summarize this with but when you’re Did you did you look at that time traveling as as a good time to be able to do that? Or would you rather been back here at the distillery kind of overseeing a lot Oh, I enjoy

doing that. I would want to be a distillery. I wouldn’t want to do it all the time. Like la the ambassador’s is now they’re on the road all the time. But every so often be out on the road and see what two people has to say, you know, you make it, agent, bottle it and ship it out. Unless you had complaints. And we’ve had very few of them over the years. You never heard any more about it. This way. When you’re out in the field, you get to meet people. It’s enjoying it and drink it and hear what they have to say about it.

So when we talk about just the whiskey in general, what do you what do you look at as some of the more brands that that you fall in love with? You know, we’ve talked to Eddie and and you know, he talked about everybody’s got their baby, right? Everybody’s got their baby. And so he looks as Kentucky spirit and rare breed. We’re really your babies. Yes,

Kentucky’s spirit and Blanton’s was the first two single barrels on the market. Way back in early 90s. The first two barrel proofs on the market was Booker’s and rare breed and that was late 80s, early 90s. Now everybody that has them but they were the first to own the market.

So kind of talk about what the Kentucky spirit line really is and what it kind of means to you as well

the Kentucky spirits of single barrel your hand selected and selected one when you say single barrel has come one barrel and one barrel only. So you’re selected. Now here way we do it. Every barrel has a little different taste, even though it’s the same going in his way of white oak tree grows in the woods has effect on a tree. I use simple terms. You plant flowers around your home all the way around someone who better on one side or another cause you get more sun more rain or same with white oak trees. So we were selected, were selected consistent taste Now we have this barrel program or bars restaurants, distributors can come in and select their own barrel. We’ll have some more spicy pans on the wood some lyst because they know their customer we’re trying to please everybody who are they know their customers and they were picking one one of my wanting more spicy one might not want is spicy. So when we’re selecting the single barrels

so the I mean how often were you actually going through and testing some of these Kentucky spirit barrels to see if they matched up profile that people would want to come in and actually purchase them

we we’ve always done that we check everything we’re Hey, we don’t control our grains check before it’s ever unloaded, we check it actually grounded. We check it when it’s been cooked. We check the firm owners we taste a new product before it ever goes into barrel and then we check new barrels make sure they meet our standard we use a number for heavy char we make sure everything meets our standards before

so it’s like it’s like you almost have like a battle of wills here right because you’ve got this you got this heavy lean on consistency where you’re saying like yes, we’ve got one mash bill we go in one entry proof we do this we do this that have this level of consistency and it’s like but we’re going to come up with a product where every single thing is different

you know me I like to be consistent even though I’ve come up with American honey I’ve come up with several different experiments over the years but you know I use simple terms Yeah, I certain foods and if I don’t like taste them but I’m not gonna eat them again.

Like what like what foods you’re not gonna try again?

Yeah, cuz simple. It feels like people say like, I’m too old to eat this anymore. I’m gonna enjoy the rest of what I’m going to eat.

Well my wife sure she says I too much steak and beef.

You can’t have enough steak. That’s BBQ Yeah, there you go. What about stuff that you you’re not going to touch? Anything that you’re not going to touch anymore? No Really?

Mo is not very few thanks to that. Oh like

Alright, so let’s talk a little bit about the warehouse is here. So it seems like you probably know every every nook and cranny of a lot of these things right? So do you have Do you have a favorite warehouse

you know to me, most of them. If you sit near you see they all said about the same level. Get same airflow, get same air flow and everything it or some places are you know they’re down in valleys different places. But here we’re good now at likes a and b warehouse he says it is but you know he gets something in your mind you believe it but I may. I don’t see a lot of division er houses.

What about the floors Do you have a particular floor that you’re akin to?

Well the third fourth fifth floors ideal aging. The first and second floors at same story warehouses. It can be 30 degrees difference between the top floors and the bottom floors. It ages two faced on the top floors and don’t age fast enough on the bottom floors. So at times you have to rotate bottom the middle forces idea who managed in temperature and all that there’s not that big change in it so but the bottom folders and top floors it is if you use over an hour going to the warehouse you start up steps every floor use field difference in the heat on up.

So why do you think they stopped? What do you stop at seven place? Why would you go like a 50 story warehouse?

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so why do you think they stop what do you stop at seven place? Why would you go like a 50 story warehouse like what would be the will be the the ideal way of not doing something like that? Well

I don’t know how that would look but it’d be monstrous it’d be monsters but to back in that day in time they didn’t have all this quit but you have now they they had police horses pulling the barrels up to the top floors. Oh really? Yes.

Yeah cuz i guess i mean i’ve seen you’ve seen you can go in some of these these warehouses and you do see the you can see like the pulleys and you do see like essentially like almost like an elevator shaft you put it on pull it up

cool isn’t it? That’s what they don’t leave these two for prohibition here.

They didn’t like put a put a backpack on you with a rope and make you go

away man does I now you have Rick and machines and all the put them up into three tour. So used to tear Rick’s back Ned day we call the dropper she had a cable with hooks on the end. And you looped it up over the for Buffy and one fellow would hope to borrow was a hoax and I’ll be back pulling them up earlier than Rick now you have all kinds of equipment to handle it now. Yeah, same way taking them out. You had to take them out the same way.

So what other I mean let’s let’s go ahead and rewind the clocks of time here right so during your time what other type of innovations have you seen when it comes to just yeah, either that’s rolling barrels or wrecking barrels or dumping or anything like that that sort of either made it easier or just

it’s made it easier you got better equipment now everything’s better equipment, you know in the dump room used to knock the bone out of every barrel still. Now we got you got a bone puller pulls the barrels out soaks $1 now same way and fill in barrels you field every barrel, you had to drive the bone and it rolled it out. And it’s a lot of those things is better equipment. Now that’s why I say our forum and everything, we haven’t changed anything. We just have so much better equipment now than you did and everybody to steal you run it by hand you had one hand on the steam veil, want to head on flow veil and you actually you got to be consistent improves on your steel if you prove runs up and down on the steel the flavors are going to be up and down. So you have to be consistent get good if you want consistent taste and flavor you gotta run the same prove all day long.

So I guess now it’s a lot easier because it’s all probably computer controlled

with how we have computers but we still at hand operators are still doing it by hand I can sit there and

click on click a mouse and I can make it like that and

then they had when we’re grind and grind that has to be their meals we’re cooking a cooker fella has been around the cooker we’re filling the first matter yes be there so we’re still got a computer city have sitting around doing some buy in and that’s still in the middle of steel is about 240 degrees and it was hot back in that day and time setting imagine you got air conditioning control room for no sudden oh

yeah now they’re just they’re living life of kings or is so he you got to see the hard days hard days everything done by hand


So let’s let’s talk a little bit more about the the distillation pieces of it so you’ve got one match but let you do for all the Bourbons but you also have a ride

around Nashville right? So talk a little about the rye when was that introduced? Like because I know for a while you know you used to have wild turkey from Maryland source oh not a store it is like bourbon even to this day you have allowed people to bourbon can be made distinctive product United States of America. And a lot of people thanks has been made in Tokyo it’s not bourbon. When I started in Radwan made in Maryland, Pennsylvania. It wasn’t rat whiskey rye was dominant grain on the East Coast when they come here and that’s what they first started us probably George Washington was one of the first distillers I’ll get this question all time who’s the first distiller someone says a words I you know what I say? The first old farmer got over the mountains got a steel set up claims at the first and Is that another so I don’t know whether anybody really knows who really registered still rewards.

Now that’s going to be a mystery that will never going to solve. So back to the rye You know? So when was that when was that introduced here? Because I’d we had mentioned that it was it was sourced at one point for wild turkey

well it made in Pennsylvania were made for us in Pennsylvania. Okay, but we’ve ever since I’ve been here we bottle right? Then we started Mike or own


late 60s early 70s. Most rise says 95% 100% rise. Ours is old fashioned formula. It’s got raw corn, corn and barley. And that’s way that if you look back to original recipes for and Pennsylvania, Maryland as well, they were

right. So I mean that’s so you’re keeping the same Nashville that you you sort of were even right. You can consider that contract was stealing if you were taking it out of out of Maryland and bring it back here. Is that

technically what it was? No, they was making it for us.

Yeah. Wasn’t that considered contract distilling

or they was gone? Yeah. Same way bother stores in Kentucky right now. does a lot of social media does still brands, it does not have the story as Nautica, and that’s what’s made the bourbon market short right now, a lot of Bourbons made such a huge jump in the last seven or eight years. Same way as a lot of them were selling bourbon, other people live in a barn and lived under other brands. And now they’re shorter bourbon.

So what’s your what’s your what’s your take on that? Do you think? Are you a fan of indie peas or non distilling producers? Do you

think? Well, you know, they’re making it for people how they want by either I guess or how they want it done. But no, monastery is Bowser says bourbon or rye all have come out of hit on it right.

Rising Tide raises all ships and right that’s that’s the way to look at it. So So yeah, so you’ve been doing that for a while. Rare Breed is the the barrel proof baby of yours. So kind of talk about the inception of that.

Well, actually, we were tasted we sample say we sample everything we’re saying was Asian each year sitting here in LA the visitors come in, we’d be safe and we would sample right in the warehouse at that time. Dr. Bone had a thief pulled our Berlin sampler dr. Terry lovers come in KFC. Why can we get some of this? Why can’t we get some of that? That’s what brought to me. That’s what brought the idea for us here that if they’ve wanted, that we could probably make it happen. Right? Right. It’s easy enough to just not just basically just dump it right away. Don’t need to prove it down too much. Right? You can’t prove it that Yeah, not can prove it down. Actually, the only thing you can do is put a little water behind it to clean out your filters. Because you got a filter to get this so much at char HR and dump trolls. You’ll see big flakes a char and Eric comes loose in that barrel. Then you have a lot of little fan jar that you had to filter to get f5 Charla,

a lot of people like that fine char at least some of the whiskey geeks What about you, do you when you when you have the opportunity to just go and sample something or go ahead and just fill up your own bottle? Whatever it is, do you get a little bit of that just barrel char sitting around in there? Do you

like that? Really, you don’t get with a thief pull it out. You don’t get that in there when he jumped the barrel and get everything out of it.

Right. But are you a fan of it? Because Because he don’t be people like people? I mean, I I don’t know. I look at it and you’re like, Oh, it’s kind of like an extra little little thing about having the bottles you can can you swirl it around you can see that

a lot of people’s like so something wrong with it when they see that is what it is.

Yeah, I could see a probably a general consumer market would probably look at it like that. The same reason why everybody went to chill filtration at one point because you put ice in it and all of a sudden looks cloudy, but now we’re starting to see this shift or this turn where people are, they’re asking for, you know, non shelf. They’re asking for throw a little piece of char in there for good measure. So I know

I know, I know it’s authentic or something, you know, actually we never use chill for it depends on the proof. It depends on how much water you’re adding when you cut it down whether the show failed or not. So at one on one prove up in just a few years ago we never geophones this tall it that what will happen to it. If you say you’re shipping it from here and maybe 40 degrees goes to Canada 20 below, they get cloudy and hazy. And that’s what you’re doing. You’re checking out some of those sayings. They won’t get that away when you chill.

Now there’s there’s always the the never ending debate or story. If you do chill filter it are you removing any flavor.

Well, unless you see by federal law, if you move so much flavor, you can’t call the bourbon anymore. So now you are doing very little flavors.

So you don’t think it’s really affecting anything you think it’s more of a aesthetic.

Yeah, it’s a now in the lower proves if you’re adding a lot of water. See we’re not a rule of thumb. It takes about a gallon of water Drew’s 100 gallons of bourbon one proof point. So our barrel proof right now is 116.8. And we bonded one on one. You had very little water to it. That is coming on that barrel. 140 something you couldn’t have 80 proof you had a lot of water to it. Absolutely. Because we just seal distill it low proof and put it in a barrel at low Bruce to say Hi, are you still were allowed to steal up? 160 proof? Hmm. And I use simple terms. You like to eat steak?

Do you want it well done or you want to medium rare? Yeah,

you like it? Well done.

I’m not a well done fan. I’m a medium medium rare. Just you don’t get a lot of the those flavors you

answer my question.

You’re taking the flavor. Hello.

Yeah, I mean, so it sounds like your state guy we were talking about already. So

are you uh, yeah, ribeye fillet. What’s your what’s your

what’s your Academy? Like on the primary of verse your prime rib guy? I didn’t even think about that row horse race choices.

Oh, yeah. That’s so Joe Redis she had she had prime rib cooker for you go out around. Yeah.

You know, when the children are growing up, she cooked all the time. And now just the two of us and she never knows what time I’m getting home at nights. So weed out just if I’m in town, we added lunch. And you know, it’s bad when you go restaurants now and they bring the teeth to you. Like what we said,

Jane? Yeah, well, I mean, you’re here in Lawrenceburg. So I’m sure everybody probably knows you by name, that’s for sure. Right.

Lehman likes to their place to we go to Lex and a lot of course I got a lot more restaurants and we have here in Lawrenceburg.

Absolutely. And so let’s let’s kind of talk about you know your time here at the distillery now you spend a lot of time down at the gift shop, chicken, some hand sign and bottles.

Try to get down at least once today, but I’m in distillery. Most all the time. I try to get to this person or at least once to today, usually about this time they afternoon. course they get off. Regular workers gets off at 330. So I’ll usually go down our late night afternoons and sit around. I like

is it about you think it’s the best part of your day? Or do you just like to have a healthy balance of getting in front of people?

I want to hear what people have to say. You know, I’m on the list and see what they have to say. Uh huh.

And plus you’ve got your your scooter, your own personalized scooter down there.

They had two bunnies. I can’t get around and he feels he goes in these fields and I write it down here.

Right. Really? Okay, so it’s an off road kind of guy.

Yes. Run 40 miles an hour on the road. Well, you

could just take it to the McDonald’s parking lot if you’re getting hungry today. Right.

It’s not lost in Mattoon last night for the road he’s got turns angles narrow lane. They bought that special for me I didn’t even know that he’s getting it till one day they said we need you down to Visitor Center will what it was I thought somebody that are wanting bottles I walked in and hey, come pushing that out. Sit here. This is what you go around around.

But you actually came up here we’re recording outside on this hill. You actually came up here in your car you’re looking actually drove up here on that? Yes. And now if had been the first for the week? Well, they tease me about this. You know what I draw most of the time

when you got most of the time

1998 Ford pickup truck. four wheel drive. Yeah, now I feel as well. And my wife forgot to her for Christmas. She’s never drove it much so it’s been sitting in the garage for three weeks so I told her to get out and drive Yeah, well battery dies, right? Well, it’s it’s only got 4000 miles on it. Yeah, and I’m driving a whole lot then well $2,000 we go to Destin Florida we’re vacation Fourth of July we we drove down back so to

see now everybody that lives out in the the Destin region they know where to catch you when it when it comes time to for family vacations and stuff like that is so the other thing that you know I kind of want to talk about just kind of kind of wrap it up with some more bourbon talk is over the years you know you’ve had your hands in a lot of the releases that have come out and stuff like that you’ve handed a lot over to Eddie as well and then you’ve everybody’s what he’s really banging on Bruce to really move here now. We’ve I’ve been I’ve been sensing that a lot recently. You know where do you kind of see the the lineage going? I mean you excited to have to have Bruce come into here and do you think he’s gonna do a good job like what do you think that’s gonna be like?

Well like he said if he if he says I don’t do something the heavens me.

Me and Bruce holdovers from there

but this is saying I enjoy so much about to bourbon business. All of us are close friends here in Kentucky if one of them gets in trouble others doing is anything they can to help them out. And we talked about Booker know Elmer Lee and part rain we all grew up together. Fred Nolan he grew up together at Parker son Craig been they they’re about the same age they grew up together. But Craig had to give it up you know Parker old friend of mine he had Ellis disease engages in his 70s he got the point tour he still could talk all right he couldn’t do anything they have big trucking company isn’t cattle farms. So Craig had to give it up and stay in taking care of the farms and all now you got Bruce and free its own free little free together now so steal that vision is going on in

yeah i mean you do see this this family lineage is happening across pretty much pretty much all of them right i mean there’s there’s something that that there is to be said about that

little bit different on the heaven Hill side right let disappears disappears and more more business focused rather than distilling focused but the only thing known is to relive

all of this is Sharon before and countries are stock

so at one point would you would you rather had the opportunity to like buy back wild turkey and put it under the Russell name? No, we never did own it. Yeah. Well not buy it back. I’m just saying like if the opportunity presented itself or was just something that probably would never would have happened and it wouldn’t happen yeah.

Yeah, it’s the know it’s very costly. Yes, yes, very costly. And see, most sayings if you don’t turn your inventory winter for months, you’re not going to be in business very long. See here we’re not thinking about even turned inventory with the same date 10 to 12 years from now. So we got a lot of money tied up space in the state of Kentucky we pay a tax on each barrels and since you’re in ages, yes the state of Kentucky

now you’d also mentioned 12 years but from what I understand and what I remember is that you’re you’re more of a like a seven to eight year old bourbon guys the

same to toys with seven to 12 Yeah, now we do an older limitation ever was while we put out 14 year old 15 the same thing the decades if we just finished the ad put out it’s got 10 to 20 year old version, but it’s just a few barrels and we we keep our record bottling one a lot 1400 Barroso badge bother in a small but there’s no such term as small badge

now you can doesn’t

really matter you can call whatever you want ours is about 100 250 barrels who were tasted all the time we found somebody thanks agent a little extra special will set them aside and keep taste them and if he starts getting that woody okie taste like a lot of would know he tastes you like an older bourbon but I don’t like it and he starts getting that we can move them down at the bottom of our house and slow at age and down. We can’t move same hundred thousand barrels as well on the inventory right now.

So I guess let’s let’s talk about that with Woody and okie bourbon because there is kind of a shift in the way that consumers are looking at buying bourbon when it comes to like a whiskey geek market right when people are coming out with crazy age data 2327 year old Bourbons and they do they’ve got this like heavy okie painting panicky kind of taste and flavor to it. However people like you are saying that’s that’s probably not the way you should be drinking personal taste Yeah,

how much it’s your taste you drink whatever you live with this not my taste so

why is it that you think that

I would say a new whiskey geek or new whiskey consumer gets totally enthralled with this large number on the package rather than the taste and

it’s a lot of people thanks older it is a better it is now go back to scotch which I know a lot about that to see they’re using barrels has been used to us as I get as we 1516 years old to really get some good taste in it because they’re using barrels and we’ve already used and the one thing about it when they start using your barrels they want to keep using them goes and eight years we lose about a third of a barrel is soaks into the wood and they’re getting some flavor allied barrel so if they used our barrels one year beams or makers or Buffalo Trace and then it’s going to change the taste of their product and that’s one thing it’s like food and all I want to taste the same everytime i don’t i don’t want some food taste this way tonight. Next week it tastes different way I don’t

there’s a lot of variations you can do to mac and cheese

anymore right and then you know that’s funny saying mac and cheese now is all over the world he used to be he didn’t see much but they were you going to world as mac and cheese they got it all now so many different ways they fix it now and cookies

Do you have a favorite mac and cheese rest we could just turn this into mac and cheese pursuit because I think there’s there’s not a lot of people that don’t like mac and cheese


Joe rata make a good mac and cheese. We don’t eat much. No no mac and cheese for

all much anymore. My parents put two majors in it.


That’s a new one. Here they their mac and cheese when I was growing up had two majors in it that see I don’t think I’ve ever had that.

I can always try it though. I can always try. So we’re gonna wrap it up with with one one last question here. And this actually came from a listener. His name is Jeremy. And he said me myself of several people that I know love visiting the distillery we love to visit with Jimmy for an hour. So he’s a good rich source of information and bourbon lore. Now, he kind of wants to ask, what’s a couple things to like an advice that you would give of things or codes to live by for younger generations?

me do it. Like I said a while ago, do it right or don’t do it at all. Don’t try to change keep consistent taste and flavor and all the time. Don’t keep changing different times as you say to him says I’m hard headed in ways but I’ve done a lot of experiment in over the years with American honey with the barrels has been a scotch different barrels and everything. I’ve done a lot of experiment over the years but I stay strictly to old tradition doing it the right way.

Well, that’s that’s the bourbon side. But just in life in general. And life in general. What what what do you have some good, some good little tidbits that you can hand down to young generations of whether it’s Don’t work too hard? Maybe it’s just enjoy what you love, whatever it is, enjoy

what you love. Don’t try to be somebody who are not. That’s what, you know, I don’t I hope you see I’m not put on the plane Zambia, just, that’s something I’m a piece of trash put on a big spiel. And I’m not if I really had

deep thoughts with with plain old Jimmy right. Alright. So let’s go ahead, we’ll wrap it up right there. So make sure that if you get the opportunity to come to Lawrenceburg and visit Wild Turkey, try to figure out was we’re recording around three o’clock right now four o’clock, he said he’s usually down at the visitor center then. So that’s when you know is probably a good time to go catch him. Or you can ask the visitor center and I’ll be glad to come down there and salty. There you go. You can do that as well. Right. So he’ll do that for our panel cast. Listen, I will. Jimmy thank you so much for hopping on the show today. It was a pleasure to talk to you and you know, capture a lot of that good information. I’m sure we all learned something new every single time and I think we’re gonna have to go back and figure out who this Ezra Brooks character was.

Yeah. Well, thank you for coming and being with us. We enjoy it anytime. You’re always welcome here anytime you want to come

back, except your house right. Now that

that’s all. We’re family.

It’s okay. I’ll accept that. I’ll accept that. Would you be surprised?

I’m not good on these computers. Other people tell me I saw we were home on

the internet. No.

Well, you know where you live?

Yeah, that’s that’s the that’s the scary thing about it. gotta hide your address.

No, I’m in the phone. My name is in the phone book here and everything.

Oh, well. There you go. You can you can you can find them in the local Lawrence County phone book. Right. So with that, I want to say Jimmy, thank you again for coming on the show today. It was a pleasure to have you. That’s how you can find Jimmy and I can meet him I’m sure we already talked about it will be back down in Destin, Florida at some point soon. And who knows you might see him at your favorite liquor store across the country signing bottles.

Thank you, sir. Appreciate you come. Say you’re always welcome. Anytime you want to go.

I appreciate it. And make sure you follow bourbon pursuit on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. And if you do like what you hear you want to see more interviews with legends like Jimmy, make sure you support us patreon.com pa te r eo in comm slash bourbon pursuit. That’s how we’re able to keep buying new equipment, putting miles on the car and making these good interviews happen. So with that, I want to say thank you again and we’ll see everybody next week.


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