Employee Spotlight: Marcus Niemann
blog | 4/6/2020
We spent some time talking with Marcus Niemann, manager of quality at our Warehouse & Bottling Facility in Cox’s Creek, Kentucky, for an inside look at his role with Four Roses. Take a Mellow Moment to enjoy a pour of Four Roses and meet Marcus!
Marcus began his career in quality at Four Roses in 2015 and was promoted to manager soon thereafter. During his nearly five years with the company, Marcus has worked to ensure Four Roses produces only the highest-quality products that have come to define the brand.
Working side-by-side with Master Distiller Brent Elliott and several other members of the production, maintenance and quality teams, Marcus has the opportunity to have a hand in several aspects of Four Roses’ unique Bourbon-making process. Having a team that works so well together has been a big aspect of our continued, successful growth.
Let’s see what Marcus had to say.
Where did you find your passion to work in the bourbon industry?
My interest in the industry really came from a combination of things, and my experience began in college working alongside some folks from other well-known distilleries.
Growing up in Kentucky, I have always had an interest in the local people and products. Additionally, I like being involved in producing something that people enjoy. With my role specifically, my interest started in school with microbiology and biochemistry. It’s extremely interesting to me how the production process is ‘alive’ and how we can adjust the process to determine the products and the flavors produced. Four Roses’ 10 distinct Bourbon recipes are a good example.
What responsibilities does your job title hold?
My role doesn’t exactly fit in a job description. Basically, it consists of developing the quality system for our bottling facility that opened in 2017 and the newly expanded distillery. My focus is on making sure there are procedures in place for testing and inspection throughout the production process and continuously finding areas for improvement.
One of my responsibilities includes working with our suppliers and co-packers. I also work on the product development team on the development of materials and processes. Additionally, I am on the Kentucky Distillers’ Association technical committee as the representative for Four Roses.
What are a few things we might find you doing during a typical day on the job?
We are growing quickly but are still relatively small, so I am involved in several areas and every day is very different for me. A few examples of what I might work on throughout a day:
- Working on the development of a new glass bottle
- Verifying proof at barrel dumping
- Testing a new piece for the labeling machine
- Looking at the sensory aspects of new distillate
- Working with Master Distiller Brent Elliott and Quality Chemist Scott Caudill on which batches are approved for the Private Barrel program
Do you have a favorite story or anecdote from working alongside Brent?
Brent Elliott, Maintenance Manager Brent Brey and I went on a trip to Scotland to meet with our European bottling partner. While there, we went fly fishing in Pitlochry and enjoyed some Scotch on the train ride there.
I also had an amazing opportunity working with Brent on different aspects of the Small Batch Select product development. This included different tests to determine the best proof, tweaking the recipe, working on the non-chill filter process, etc.
We’ve also had a lot of fun working together on other things like collaborating on Four Roses cycling kits for the Bourbon Country Burn and running the annual Bourbon Chase.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your role?
I really enjoy meeting customers, bartenders, Private Barrel Selection participants, etc. And I like hearing what they think about the quality of our Bourbon.
Occasionally, I taste through a Private Barrel Selection and find it extremely interesting. I prefer the whole room goes through the samples blind (without knowing the recipe) and each one highlights the differences that the yeast and mashbill can make in a Bourbon, additionally the barrels are all selected beforehand for being exceptional and may not fit exactly into the standard profiles.
Other enjoyable aspects of my job have included working closely with Brent Brey to design all the piping for the tank room in the new bottling facility. We also developed a new lab test to check fermenter status that is regularly used now, led the switch of glass suppliers and the design of the new 1L Four Roses Bourbon bottle, which now matches our other bottles with the embossed rose cluster.
In what ways is Four Roses continuing to expand at the Warehouse & Bottling Facility to keep up with the increase in demand for bourbon?
We are constantly adding new pieces in the process. Over the last two years we have almost rebuilt an entire bottling line and added new equipment to improve efficiency and quality. Four Roses also added the first new barrel warehouse since the 1960s. This year, there are more warehouses being built, and we are working on improving processing efficiency for filtration along with adjusting the Bourbon to the correct proof.
What are you most looking forward to this year?
September should be a great month with the Kentucky Derby, the Kentucky Bourbon Festival and the Kentucky Bourbon Affair, topped off with the release of Four Roses 2020 Limited Edition Small Batch.
Do you have a favorite Four Roses memory?
I have had the chance to meet and even befriend a lot of great people from around the world through work or Four Roses events including Japan, Scotland, Czech Republic, Portugal, France, Mexico, and of course all over the United States.
How do you spend your time outside of work?
I homebrew beer and ferment some other things like vegetables at home. I enjoy going to shows at Louisville’s Headliners, The Palace, and Forecastle Festival. I enjoy keeping up with the news throughout the Bourbon industry and compile an email to share some noteworthy stuff every once in a while. I’m also in a cycling group that meets at Sidenfaden’s in Louisville and a running group that meets at Gravely.
How do you drink Four Roses?
Usually neat or with a few ice cubes. Occasionally, I do like a few cocktails like the Old Fashioned, Paper Plane or Hot Toddy. Handcrafting cocktails are also part of my long-term plan to get my wife to enjoy Bourbon more… it’s working so far.
Marcus’ dog Pablo enjoying some time outside at our Warehouse & Bottling Facility in Cox’s Creek