On the penultimate episode of Mad Men this season, I was gifted with something special: a whiskey other than Canadian Club. It wasn’t completely historically accurate, but I can live with it.
When Don is at the apartment of heroin-addict Midge, her pathetic husband comes home from the store with whiskey. Not just any whiskey, either. I spent a long time paused, trying to verify that indeed, the bottle in his hands is Four Roses Kentucky Straight Bourbon.
Before I talk about the history of Four Roses, I want to tell you the legend. Or rather, I’ll let the Four Roses legend sort of speak for itself:
It began when Paul Jones, Jr., the founder of Four Roses Bourbon, became smitten by the beauty of a Southern belle. It is said that he sent a proposal to her, and she replied that if her answer were “Yes,” she would wear a corsage of roses on her gown to the upcoming grand ball. Paul Jones waited for her answer excitedly on that night of the grand ball…when she arrived in her beautiful gown, she wore a corsage of four red roses. He later named his Bourbon “Four Roses” as a symbol of his devout passion for the lovely belle, a passion he thereafter transferred to making his beloved Four Roses Bourbon.
Now, I have no idea how much of that is marketing and how much of that is real. I don’t really care. From the moment I heard that little fairy tale a few years back, I’ve been rather enamored of this whiskey. We have several bottles of it on our home bar, from the Single Barrel to two different years of Marriage and some special yeast strains from The Party Source. It’s a favorite.
Four Roses was trademarked in 1884, although they were apparently making whiskey back in the 1860s. It survived Prohibition because it was granted a special dispensation to make whiskey for medicinal purposes. (Yeah, right.) In 1943, it was purchased by Seagrams, primarily for the Four Roses Brand although the company (at this point the Frankfort Distilling Company) had other labels as well. Then this happened:
Even though Four Roses was the top selling Bourbon in the U.S. in the 30s, 40s and 50s, Seagram made the decision to discontinue the sale of Kentucky Straight Bourbon here, and Four Roses was moved to the rapidly growing European and Asian markets where it quickly became the top selling Bourbon.
Technically, no one in Greenwich Village in the late 60s was going to walk to the corner market and pick up a bottle of Four Roses.
I don’t care. I love the bourbon and I was thrilled to see something other than Canadian Club.
As for the episode, well, I liked Don’s idea, even if I credit it to Peggy (why don’t we change our name?). He didn’t change their name, but he changed how they appear. Interestingly, none of the partners really get it, proving once again that those who are great at marketing are often poor at marketing themselves. This is a switch though – Don is building a brand for his company, yet at the beginning of the season, he was shying away from that sort of thing.
My big question? How does Don have $150,000 just sitting around (his share plus Pete’s share)? That’s a lot of money now; it was even more money back then. Pete’s dilemma, trying to come up with $50K, was much more realistic than Don simply having it in triplicate.
What did you think of the penultimate episode?
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