Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with E. Peter Rutledge, October 22, 2013

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries

 

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00:00:01 - Decline in the bourbon market in the 1960s

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Partial Transcript: This is Mike Veach interviewing, uh, Pete Rutledge on the twenty-second of October, 2013 for the, uh, Kentucky Bourbon Tales project.

Segment Synopsis: Pete Rutledge talks about the beginning of his career at the Brown-Forman Corporation in the marketing department and his responsibilities there. He talks about the decline of the bourbon market and gives his opinion on why it may have occurred.

Keywords: Bourbon industry; Bourbon market; Brands; College degrees; Competition; Louisville (Ky.); Market declines; Marketing research; Problems; Product promotion

Subjects: Brown-Forman Corporation; Economic conditions.; Marketing.; Sales promotion.; Whiskey industry

GPS: Brown-Forman Corporation (Louisville, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.25, -85.766667
00:04:38 - Changes in the bourbon market / overseas market

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Partial Transcript: Um, so what do you think turned the industry around and brought, brought back the, uh, uh, the bourbons?

Segment Synopsis: Rutledge talks about why the bourbon market began to become successful again after its decline. He talks about bourbon's sales in the overseas market, and the challenges of selling bourbon outside of the U.S.

Keywords: Australia; Bill Samuels Jr.; Bourbon industry; Bourbon market; Changes; Cooperation; Europe; Germany; Global market; International markets; Investments; Jack Daniel's whiskey; Jim Beam bourbon whiskey; Maker's Mark bourbon whiskey; Overseas markets; Relationships; Scotch whisky; Traveling; Woodford Reserve bourbon whiskey

Subjects: Branding (Marketing); Brown-Forman Corporation; Business enterprises, Foreign.; Consumers.; Economic conditions.; Export marketing.; Sales promotion.; Whiskey industry

00:10:51 - Brown-Forman's role in the resurgence of the bourbon market

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Partial Transcript: So let's talk about, uh, uh, Brown-Forman's role in all this.

Segment Synopsis: Rutledge talks about how the Brown-Forman Corporation contributed to the "rebirth of bourbon." He talks about different marketing strategies for various bourbon brands, focusing on Jack Daniel's.

Keywords: "Bourbon Renaissance"; Bourbon market; Early Times Kentucky whiskey; Jack Daniel's whiskey; Old Forester bourbon whiskey; Single image; Woodford Reserve bourbon whiskey

Subjects: Branding (Marketing); Brown-Forman Corporation; Consumers.; Economic conditions.; Marketing.; Sales promotion.; Whiskey industry; Whiskey.

00:15:14 - Career path at Brown-Forman / marketing bourbon overseas

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Partial Transcript: So, uh, let's talk a little bit about your job.

Segment Synopsis: Rutledge talks about some of the jobs he has held at the Brown-Forman Corporation throughout the years. He talks more about the challenges of marketing bourbon overseas, and how well bourbon sells in various countries.

Keywords: "Assistant to"; Advertising; Alcohol proofs; Alcohol taxes; Apprenticeship; Careers; Changes; Europe; France; Global market; Growth; International markets; Jack Daniel's whiskey; Japan; Jobs; Overseas marketing; Packaging

Subjects: Alcohol--Taxation--United States.; Branding (Marketing); Brown-Forman Corporation; Business enterprises, Foreign.; Economic conditions.; Export marketing.; Marketing.; Sales promotion.; Whiskey industry; Whiskey.

GPS: Brown-Forman Corporation (Louisville, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.25, -85.766667
00:23:20 - What makes a good bourbon

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Partial Transcript: So in your opinion what makes a good bourbon?

Segment Synopsis: Rutledge talks about what makes a bourbon a good bourbon. He talks about the particular tastes he prefers. He discusses the flavors the distillers were looking for when creating Woodford Reserve bourbon whiskey.

Keywords: Afterburn; Bourbon whiskey; Experimenting; Flavors; Image; Maker's Mark bourbon whiskey; Products; Rye; Taste; Wheat; Woodford Reserve bourbon whiskey

Subjects: Alcoholic beverages.; Branding (Marketing); Distilleries--Kentucky; Marketing.; Quality of products.; Whiskey.

00:29:37 - Working for the Brown family

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Partial Transcript: So let's talk a little bit about the people and personalities.

Segment Synopsis: Rutledge talks about working for various members of the Brown family during his time with the Brown-Forman Corporation, and the jobs he had. He talks about the company culture at Brown-Forman.

Keywords: "Assistant to"; Brown family; Comfortable; Company culture; Gentlemen; Hands-on; Involvement; Jobs; Lee Brown; Lyons Brown; Management; Martin Brown; Owsley Brown; Politeness; Robinson Brown; Working

Subjects: Brown-Forman Corporation; Families.; Family-owned business enterprises.; Whiskey industry

GPS: Brown-Forman Corporation (Louisville, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.25, -85.766667
00:35:51 - Relationships with people in the bourbon industry

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Partial Transcript: Well with the, uh, uh, the passing of Lincoln Henderson here just a, a month ago--

Segment Synopsis: Rutledge talks about the people in the bourbon industry he has met over the years. He talks at length about Max Shapira of Heaven Hill Distilleries, and tells a story about Bill Samuels Jr. of Maker's Mark.

Keywords: Barrels; Bill Samuels Jr.; Fires; Global market; Heaven Hill Distilleries; International markets; Jim Rutledge; KDA; Laboratory; Lincoln Henderson; Maker's Mark Distillery; Mark Brown; Max Shapira; Overseas markets; President of Hiram Walker & Sons; Woodford Reserve Distillery

Subjects: Brown-Forman Corporation; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Kentucky Distillers' Association; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

00:43:02 - Declining sales of Old Forester bourbon whiskey

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Partial Transcript: Okay so let's uh, uh, move on to, uh, um, the brands here.

Segment Synopsis: Rutledge talks about Old Forester bourbon whiskey, how it has changed over the years, why he believes its' sales have declined, and the popularity of Old Forester Birthday Bourbon and other single barrel bourbons.

Keywords: Brands; Changes; Flavor profiles; Jack Daniel's whiskey; Modern bottles; Nostalgia; Old Forester Birthday Bourbon; Old Forester bourbon whiskey; Products; Sales declines; Single barrel bourbons; Variation

Subjects: Alcoholic beverages.; Branding (Marketing); Consumers.; Distillation.; Marketing.; Quality of products.; Sales promotion.; Whiskey industry; Whiskey.

00:49:23 - Early Times Kentucky whiskey

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Partial Transcript: So let's talk about Early Times.

Segment Synopsis: Rutledge talks about Early Times Kentucky whiskey and how it has changed over the years from a bourbon to a Kentucky whiskey. He talks about the trends in sales of Early Times and whether he believes those trends can be changed.

Keywords: Bourbon whiskey; Changes; Early Times 354 Bourbon; Early Times Kentucky whiskey; Experimenting; Flavors; Sales

Subjects: Alcoholic beverages.; Branding (Marketing); Brown-Forman Corporation; Quality of products.; Sales promotion.; Whiskey.

00:53:22 - History of Woodford Reserve Distillery

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Partial Transcript: So you were involved with the, uh, uh, the creation of Woodford Reserve and the, uh, the rebuilding of the distillery there.

Segment Synopsis: Rutledge talks about why Brown-Forman decided to create Woodford Reserve, and how the location for the distillery was chosen. He talks about the choices made concerning the distilling equipment and the brand name.

Keywords: Bottles; Budgets; Company names; Cypress fermenters; Derelict; Flasks; History; Lakes; Lebrot and Graham; Locations; Maker's Mark bourbon whiskey; Original buildings; Pot stills; Prices; Properties; Scotland; University of Kentucky (UK); Warehouses; Woodford Reserve Distillery; Woodford Reserve bourbon whiskey

Subjects: Branding (Marketing); Brown-Forman Corporation; Distilleries--Kentucky; Quality of products.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Whiskey.

GPS: Woodford Reserve Distillery (Woodford County, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.112778, -84.811944
01:02:32 - Current state of the bourbon industry

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Partial Transcript: Okay so let's, uh, change subjects--

Segment Synopsis: Rutledge talks about the growth of the bourbon industry and his thoughts about the future of the industry. He talks about the risks involved in the industry. He discusses the trends of craft distilling and flavored bourbons.

Keywords: Bourbon industry; Competition; Craft beers; Craft distilleries; Demand; Distribution; Flavored bourbons; Global market; Growth; International markets; Jack Daniel's whiskey; Jim Beam bourbon whiskey; Kentucky; Large brands; Limits; Maker's Mark bourbon whiskey; Overseas markets; Production; Risks; Small brands; Trends; Woodford Reserve bourbon whiskey

Subjects: Brown-Forman Corporation; Business enterprises, Foreign.; Consumers.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Economic conditions.; Export marketing.; Sales promotion.; Whiskey industry; Whiskey.

01:11:01 - His legacy at Brown-Forman / promoting products in the bourbon industry

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Partial Transcript: So, uh, what do you think your legacy here at Brown-Forman is going to be?

Segment Synopsis: Rutledge discusses Brown-Forman's entry into the overseas market as his legacy at the company. He talks about how the bourbon industry as a whole handled the promotion of bourbon, and how other distilleries felt about Brown-Forman's involvement in the situation.

Keywords: Bourbon industry; Control; Global market; International markets; Jack Daniel's whiskey; KDA; Kentucky Bourbon Trail; Legacies; Overseas markets; Product promotion

Subjects: Branding (Marketing); Brown-Forman Corporation; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Kentucky Distillers' Association; Marketing.; Sales promotion.; Whiskey industry

GPS: Brown-Forman Corporation (Louisville, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.25, -85.766667
01:16:15 - Kentucky Bourbon Trail's effects on tourism and legislation

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Partial Transcript: So let's just talk a little bit about the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, um, and the role of tourism in, in bourbon.

Segment Synopsis: Rutledge discusses how the Kentucky Bourbon Trail has affected tourism and sales in the bourbon industry. He talks about whether the Kentucky Bourbon Trail has affected alcohol-related legislation in Kentucky, and gives his opinions on Kentucky politics.

Keywords: "Bourbon Renaissance"; Advertising; Alcohol taxes; Drinking; Dry counties; Government; Growth; Kentucky Bourbon Trail; Kentucky politics; Legislation; Rebirth; Visitors centers; Wet counties

Subjects: Alcohol--Taxation--United States.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Economic conditions.; Marketing.; Sales promotion.; Tourism.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

01:22:55 - Long careers in the bourbon industry

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Partial Transcript: So just a few more questions--

Segment Synopsis: Rutledge talks about the trend in the bourbon industry of employees working for the same company for many years, often for their entire career. He talks about the culture of the bourbon industry.

Keywords: Arcane; Bourbon industry; Conservatism; Industry culture; Jobs; Longevity; Mistakes; Products; Regulations; Working

Subjects: Careers.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Occupations.; Quality of work life.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Work.

01:27:06 - Fire at Heaven Hill Distilleries / artisanship in the bourbon industry

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Partial Transcript: Uh, you asked about Heaven Hill and, um, how I--that's where I really got to know Max Shapira.

Segment Synopsis: Rutledge discusses the fire that occurred at the Heaven Hill Distilleries, and talks about how other distilleries offered assistance. He discusses whether there is artisanship in the bourbon industry, and the decisions that must be made when creating new products. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: Artisanship; Bernheim Distillery; Decisions; Experimenting; Fires; Heaven Hill Distilleries; Helping; Max Shapira; New products; Production

Subjects: Artisans; Brown-Forman Corporation; Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Quality of products.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

GPS: Heaven Hill Distilleries (Bardstown, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.0487074, -84.499245