When I first met Al Young I was a new archivist for United Distillers and he was the Plant Manager at Four Roses under Master Distiller Ova Haney. He would come to hear me speak on Bourbon History whenever he could. This was most of the time but on at least one occasion I recall he missed it because he had a problem at the distillery that had to be addressed. Al, like so many other plant managers at distilleries, was on 24 hour call. When a problem arises at the distillery the plant manager is usually the first one to get the call, usually before the Master Distiller.
The plant manager at the distillery has to be very familiar with every step of the distillation process. They need to be able identify a problem within the process when it happens and how to correct it. Most of the times this is a mechanical fix such as replacing a pump or other system part, but not always. When the Master Distiller is in another town addressing a sales force or best customer, the plant manager is often the person the rest of the employees look to when a problem arises in fermentation or distillation.
Al young has upon many occasions demonstrated his skill and knowledge in making Bourbon. He has worked with such distillers as Ed Foote, Ova Haney and Jim Rutledge. He also has shown great interest in the heritage of Four Roses and Bourbon as a whole. For the past decade or so he has been a brand ambassador for Four Roses and author of his book “Four Roses: The Return of a Whiskey Legend”. Both of these tasks are made better because he had a long career in the industry that ended as the plant manager at Four Roses.
Al would be the first to tell you that he is not the only one who should be recognized in this manner. The plant managers have been the unsung heroes of the industry for decades, taking care of the distillery and making sure the deliveries were made on time and the barrels made it into the warehouse. Whether it is Al Young at Four Roses or Norman Hayden at Stitzel-Weller/Old Fitzgerald or Glenn Glaser at Brown Forman or David Scheurich at Woodford or countless other plant managers, they all deserve to be recognized as Bourbon’s Unsung Heroes.
Photos Courtesy of Four Roses