Brent Elliott, a 1992 graduate of Daviess County High School, was named Master Distiller/Blender of the Year on Tuesday at Whisky Magazine’s Icons of Whisky awards show in New York City’s Flatiron Room.
“It’s pretty exciting,” he said Thursday.
It’s especially exciting since he’s a few months short of his fifth anniversary as Four Roses Bourbon’s master distiller.
Last year, Elliott created Four Roses Small Batch Select Bourbon, which Whisky Advocate selected it as the third-best whiskey of 2019.
The distillery’s website says, “Master Distiller Brent Elliott selected and mingled six of Four Roses’ 10 bourbon recipes, each aged a minimum of six years, to handcraft Small Batch Select.”
The bourbon is currently available in Kentucky, New York, California, Texas and Georgia.
But Four Roses says it will move into other states later.
Elliott said his award comes at a good time for the promotion of the new bourbon.
“Our sales people will probably mention it,” he said.
Last year, the company marked the completion of
a $55 million expansion that doubled its production capacity to 8 million proof gallons — roughly 130,000 barrels — a year.
“That was just to meet demand in the United States,” Elliott said.
Four Roses has been sold in Europe and Japan since the 1950s, he said.
It didn’t re-enter the American market as a Kentucky straight bourbon until 2002.
Growth has been rapid in recent years.
Today, the company is owned by the Kirin Brewery Company of Japan.
Elliott came to the bourbon industry almost by accident.
He was working for a tobacco company in Nashville in 2005.
Elliott took a tour of the Four Roses distillery in Lawrenceburg that year.
He had just married and bought a house and wasn’t looking for a job.
“But we took a tour of the distillery that year and I fell in love with it,” Elliott said in an interview in 2015, when he had just been named master distiller for Four Roses.
“When I got back home, I looked online to see if Four Roses had any openings,” he said. “They did. I applied, got an interview and got the job — assistant manager of quality.”
It helped that he had a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Kentucky.
But when he left Nashville for his job interview, Elliott realized that he had never tasted Four Roses bourbon.
So, he stopped in Bowling Green to find a bottle, so he would know what he was talking about during the interview.
“It was the best bourbon I’d ever tasted,” Elliott said.
In 2005, he said, “Four Roses was relatively unknown here. Ninety-nine percent of our business was in Europe and Japan. Today, the United States is our single largest market.”
As master distiller, Elliott said he is “very much focused on the quality of the liquid. I want every bottle to have the same quality taste.”
He said, “When you do it day after day, you really develop a sense of taste. It’s pretty amazing how in-depth you can be with aroma and taste. This is my job, but my passion for Four Roses will always be there.”
Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301, email@example.com