Interview with Al Young, December 16, 2013

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

 

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00:00:00 - Duties at the Four Roses Distillery

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Partial Transcript: Okay. This is Carla Carlton interviewing Al Young at Four Roses on December 16th, 2013 for the Kentucky Bourbon Tales oral history project.

Segment Synopsis: Al Young talks about how he came to work for Seagram Company, and the various jobs he held over the years. He talks about his duties as a distillery manager at the Four Roses Distillery. He talks about how the distillery creates its ten bourbon recipes, and how they are combined to make various products.

Keywords: Brand Ambassadors; Charlie Beam; Children; Combining; Day-to-day operations; Distillery managers; Four Roses Distillery; Four Roses Single Barrel bourbon whiskey; Four Roses Small Batch bourbon whiskey; Four Roses Yellow Label bourbon whiskey; Jim Rutledge; Mash bills; Monitoring; Ova Haney; Single barrel bourbons; Small batch bourbons; Ten recipes; Wives; Yeast strains

Subjects: Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Families.; Seagram Company; Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Whiskey.

GPS: Four Roses Distillery (Lawrenceburg, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.973056, -84.897778
00:03:09 - Fall and rebirth of the Four Roses brand

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Partial Transcript: The Small Batch Limited Edition, congratulations, was just named, um, American Whiskey of the Year again by Whisky Advocate for the second year in a row.

Segment Synopsis: Young talks about how Four Roses' reputation fell because of its blended whiskey product. He talks about how the brand was sold to Kirin and the Four Roses bourbon replaced the blended whiskey, which led to the resurgence in success for the company.

Keywords: Brand recognition; Bronfman family; Comebacks; Expanding markets; Four Roses Distillery; Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch bourbon whiskey; Four Roses Single Barrel bourbon whiskey; Four Roses Small Batch bourbon whiskey; Four Roses blended whiskey; Jim Rutledge; Kirin Brewery Company; Rebirth; Sale of company; Single barrel bourbons; Small batch bourbons

Subjects: Alcohol industry.; Branding (Marketing); Distilleries--Kentucky; Export marketing.; Kirin Biru Kabushiki Kaisha; Quality of products.; Sales promotion.; Seagram Company; Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Whiskey.; Word-of-mouth advertising.

00:07:55 - Four Roses' marketing strategy

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Partial Transcript: You may not be doing great big blurbs of advertising now but at one point I know in your book you say that, uh, Four Roses was as well known a, a name as Kodak or, or Jello or--

Segment Synopsis: Young talks about the various advertisements Four Roses has used throughout history to promote its brand, including pre-Prohibition examples. He talks about how their advertising campaigns have changed over the years leading up to their current marketing strategy.

Keywords: Bourbon websites; Brand recognition; Eggnog recipes; Frozen in ice; Lighted signs; Madison Square Garden (New York, N.Y.); Magazines; Marketing strategies; Social media; Times Square Spectacular

Subjects: Advertising.; Branding (Marketing); Sales promotion.; Whiskey industry

GPS: Times Square (New York, N.Y.)
Map Coordinates: 40.75773, -73.985708
00:11:08 - Legend of the Four Roses name

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Partial Transcript: Well Al, could you talk a little bit about the name Four Roses?

Segment Synopsis: Young talks about how his work as the Four Roses Brand Ambassador lead to his discovery of the diary of a member of the Jones family that told a story about how Four Roses may have acquired its name.

Keywords: Brand Ambassadors; Corsages; Diaries; Dr. Larry Jones; English degrees; Four Roses Legend; Four Roses brand name; Historical records; History; Jones family; Lawrence Lavalle Jones; Red roses; Skills

Subjects: Branding (Marketing); Distilleries--Kentucky; Families.; Genealogy.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

00:13:51 - Duties of a Brand Ambassador

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Partial Transcript: Um, you mentioned, uh, doing some of this research and, and you've written the book as a Brand Ambassador.

Segment Synopsis: Young talks about his responsibilities as the Four Roses Brand Ambassador. He tells a story about collecting historical items that are now displayed in the Four Roses visitor center, including a bottle of Prohibition-era whiskey. He talks about the information he has learned about the history of the Four Roses brand from his research.

Keywords: "Better Times"; Archival information; Bottles; Brand Ambassadors; Brand education; Charity events; Collecting; Distributors; Duties; Fundraising; History; Medicinal labels; Prescriptions; Prohibition-era whiskey; Research; Roses; Training; Uniforms; Visitors centers

Subjects: Branding (Marketing); Distilleries--Kentucky; Prohibition.; Tourism.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Whiskey.

GPS: Four Roses Distillery (Lawrenceburg, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.973056, -84.897778
00:18:01 - History of the Four Roses Distillery

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Partial Transcript: Well speaking of the distillery, uh, could you tell me a little bit about this site?

Segment Synopsis: Young tells the story of the history of the Four Roses Distillery from its inception, through Prohibition, and its sale to Seagram Company and then to Kirin. He talks about the distillery's connection to the Earl of Montrose. He describes the distillery grounds when it first began, and how they have changed over the years.

Keywords: Basements; Brown family; Cattle; Caverns; Charles I of England; Dance halls; Distillery grounds; Duke of Montrose; Earl of Montrose; Fires; Four Roses Distillery; Garages; Gratz Hawkins; Heritage; History; Jones family; Kirin Brewery Company; Manor houses; Mills; Owners; Shoes; Snow; Sugar safes; Swimming pools; Trains; Wild Turkey Distillery

Subjects: Anderson County (Ky.); Distilleries--Kentucky; Families.; Kirin Biru Kabushiki Kaisha; Prohibition.; Seagram Company; Whiskey industry--Kentucky--History.

GPS: Four Roses Distillery (Lawrenceburg, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.973056, -84.897778
00:24:16 - Meeting Jimmy Russell / signing autographs

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Partial Transcript: Um, you mentioned that the, the house, house burning down in Lawrenceburg, not spe--not sending the firetruck.

Segment Synopsis: Young talks about meeting Jimmy Russell when a Wild Turkey-owned warehouse on the Four Roses grounds caught on fire. He talks about what it was like to sign his first autograph, and tells a story about a book signing when he met a member of the Jones family.

Keywords: Barnes & Noble bookstores; Book signings; Brand Ambassadors; Canes; Charlie Beam; Diaries; Fires; Friends; Jimmy Russell; Jones family; Master Distillers; Meeting people; Representing Four Roses brand; Signing autographs; Warehouses; Wild Turkey Distillery

Subjects: Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Fame.; Families.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

GPS: Barnes & Noble (Louisville, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.3062082, -85.5774356
00:29:39 - More on the rebirth of the Four Roses brand

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Partial Transcript: Um, I wonder if you would talk a little bit too, um--there are a lot of brands that, uh, start out and become prominent.

Segment Synopsis: Young talks more about how the Four Roses bourbon overcame the negative reputation of the brand's blended whiskey and the trend against brown liquors and became successful again. He talks about how tourism in the bourbon industry has changed over time.

Keywords: Brand recognition; Brands; Comebacks; Control; Dedication; Expanding; Four Roses Distillery; Four Roses brand; Kirin Brewery Company; Labels; Passion; Prices; Prominence; Rebirth; Success; Tour guides; Tours; Visitors centers

Subjects: Branding (Marketing); Distilleries--Kentucky; Kirin Biru Kabushiki Kaisha; Quality of products.; Sales promotion.; Seagram Company; Tourism.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Whiskey.

GPS: Four Roses Distillery (Lawrenceburg, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.973056, -84.897778
00:33:56 - Four Roses' success in foreign markets and the challenges of returning to the domestic market

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Partial Transcript: Um, going back to the, the history a little bit.

Segment Synopsis: Young talks about how Four Roses became a top-selling brand overseas. He talks more about the struggle to overcome the negative image of Four Roses blended whiskey and light whiskeys. He tells a story about his negotiation with a liquor store owner to get Four Roses bourbon on the shelves.

Keywords: Bottom shelf liquors; Challenges; Countries; Domestic market; Europe; Four Roses blended whiskey; Four Roses bourbon whiskey; Global market; International markets; Jim Rutledge; Kentucky Bourbon Festival; Light whiskeys; Liquor stores; Misconceptions; Negative image; Perceptions; Premium Four Roses; Reputation; Success; Top-selling brands; Traveling; United States

Subjects: Bardstown (Ky.); Business enterprises, Foreign.; Export marketing.; Seagram Company

GPS: Georgia
Map Coordinates: 33, -83.5
00:41:41 - Camaraderie in the bourbon industry

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Partial Transcript: Um, what, what has kept you in the industry all these years?

Segment Synopsis: Young talks about his reason for continuing to work in the bourbon industry for many years. He talks about the friendships he has formed with other people in the bourbon industry, and how distillers often help each other when needed.

Keywords: Bill Samuels; Bonds; Bourbon industry; Camaraderie; Chris Morris; Commemorative bottles; Craig Beam; Fred Noe (Frederick Booker Noe III); Friends; Helping; Jimmy Russell; Longevity; Mike Veach; Parker Beam; Parker's Heritage Collection bourbon whiskey; People; Problems; Rob Samuels

Subjects: Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

00:44:26 - Future of the bourbon industry

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Partial Transcript: Well, um, I'm also interested in, in, um, kind of this, some people have said this is a golden age of bourbon.

Segment Synopsis: Young talks about the current success of the bourbon industry and what he thinks may happen in the industry in the future. He talks about how craft distilleries, mixologists, and younger generations are affecting the growth of the industry. He talks about the difficulty of planning in the bourbon industry due to the years-long aging process.

Keywords: "Bourbon Renaissance"; Aging; Bourbon industry; Bourbon market; Bourbon tastings; Craft distilleries; Cycles; Demand; Education; Future; Golden age of bourbon; Long-term planning; Mixologists; Questions; Rye whiskey; Trends; Younger generations

Subjects: Consumers.; Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Economic conditions.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

00:48:34 - Career path in the bourbon industry

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Partial Transcript: How did you first get into the bourbon industry?

Segment Synopsis: Young talks about why he began to work for the Seagram Company, and some of the positions he has held over the years. He discusses how he was trained to taste whiskey to determine its quality.

Keywords: Blind tastings; Bottling; Bourbon industry; Career paths; Chemistry; Children; Control laboratory; Differences; Finished goods; Four Roses Distillery; Jobs; Kentucky; Money; Nose; Production; Public relations; Quality laboratory; Raising a family; Routine processes; Samples; Sampling; Shift supervisors; Tasks; Training; Warehouses; Water sources

Subjects: Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Families.; Quality control.; Quality of products.; Seagram Company; Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Whiskey.

GPS: Four Roses Distillery (Lawrenceburg, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.973056, -84.897778
00:56:17 - Continuing to make Four Roses bourbon a quality product / importance of bourbon to Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: I just have one more.

Segment Synopsis: Young talks about the quality control implemented by the Four Roses Distillery to ensure its products continue to be of high quality. He discusses how bourbon has become an integral part of Kentucky's identity.

Keywords: American industries; Brand education; Craft distilleries; Dedication; Europe; Four Roses brand; Future; Heritage; Horses; Image; Kentucky bourbon; Kirin Brewery Company; Premium products; Quality education; Standards

Subjects: Branding (Marketing); Distilleries--Kentucky; Kirin Biru Kabushiki Kaisha; Quality of products.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Whiskey.; Word-of-mouth advertising.

GPS: Four Roses Distillery (Lawrenceburg, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.973056, -84.897778
01:01:02 - Dedication of the people at the Four Roses Distillery

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Partial Transcript: What else you got?

Segment Synopsis: Young talks about the importance of people in the bourbon industry, and discusses how dedicated people are to their work. He specifically talks about Charlie Beam and others working in the distillery. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: Advice; Bardstown (Ky.); Charlie Beam; Cynthiana (Ky.); Dedication; Employees; Hayden brothers; Heritage; Knowledge; Lawrenceburg (Ky.); People; Places; Tailgunners; Veterans; WWII; World War II

Subjects: Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

GPS: Four Roses Distillery (Lawrenceburg, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.973056, -84.897778