Four Roses: The Return of a Legend, by Al Young. Louisville, Ky.: Butler Books, 2010. Contents, Illustrated. pp.95
The year 2010 saw the centennial year of the distillery that is now Four Roses distillery near Lawrenceburg, Ky. The event was to marked with several events, including the release of a history of the distillery. The powers to be at Four Roses picked Al Young to write that history and in this case they made an excellent choice. Yes, this is a corperate history written by an employee, but the end result is much better that a pure marketing piece of literature. Young has gone to great lengths to research the facts and to try to shed some light on the rich history of the distillery and the Four Roses brand. In fact, the history is more about the brand than the distillery site itself. This reflects the marketing nature of the publication, but also reality - there is only so much trhat can be said aboput a bunch of buildings before the reader loses interest and puts the book down.
In this case Young has done a good job of weaving the two stories into one, making the history of the Four Roses brand and the Old Prentice Distillery a good read. Yes, there is marketing and the obligatory bow to marketing in the story of Paul Jones and the proposal to accepted by wearing four rose to the party is in the book. Young then offers some alternative stories as well which is appropriate since the weakness of the romance story is that Jones died a bachelor. Indeed, the book has many great pieces of history. There are many original advertisemnets and photographs. There is a copy of the prohibitionj law in Georgia. And finally there is discussion and photographs of the Four Roses neon lights in Times Square. There is real history in this book which is proof that the truth is much more interesting than the crap made up by the marketing department.
This book is a very attractive book with many color illustrations. Young shows his sense of humor in that at the opening of chapter six, where he discusses the decline of the brand in the 60s and 70s, he places on the opposite page an advertisement which has the tag line "Underwhelm Me... Again". Yes, that was a real advertisement of the time and it does capture the decline of the brand perfectly. The book also has data in the back that explains the ten different whiskeys made by Four Roses today with a description of their five yeast and two mash bills. It discusses the new single barrel programs offered and the "Mellow Moments Club" and its activities. The downside of the book is that there is not an index. This would make finding the facts a lot easier and it is hoped that the next edition will fix that flaw. As a whole this is an excellent book to add to your bourbon library. It is a good read with great history and beautiful advertisements and photographs.