Al Young has served in a variety of roles at Four Roses for the past 52 years. In 1990, he became Distillery Manager and in 2007 was named Four Roses Brand Ambassador, a role that has him crossing the United States to share the story of Four Roses and our Bourbon.
He is also the historian for our 131-year-old Kentucky Bourbon brand, having researched archives, distillery records, news accounts, photos and artifacts to write the book Four Roses: The Return of a Whiskey Legend, published in 2010. Al was inducted into the Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame in 2015 and is also a member of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame.
We sat down with Al, the legend himself, to talk about his travels around the country and his current role as Senior Brand Ambassador.
How often do you travel?
I’m out on the road a few times each month. In August, I was out in the marketplace for four full days to visit distributors and retailers. There were dinners with our accounts and local bourbon groups, and I was there to strengthen the relationship with that market.
So, you travel a lot for Four Roses! Can you tell us a bit more about your trips and your mission?
As a representative of the brand, Brent and I are two of the faces of Four Roses, so we do everything we can to socialize with the bartenders, managers, and servers of the bars and restaurants we visit. We build rapport for the brand with the people that are out in public selling our products. When we’re meeting with individuals at liquor stores or ABC stores, we’re still building that rapport and bridging the product to a face.
When I’m away from the office I like to make it worth my time to share my passion for Four Roses so even when I’m not working, I’m still “on” as an ambassador for the brand. My son is a triathlon competitor, so I’ll take personal time to travel to his races around the world. Even though they are personal trips it’s still an opportunity for brand association and recognition. Most of my conversations get started because individuals will recognize me or the logo.
In Philadelphia, a group of Canadians were wearing various branded Bourbon items that weren’t Four Roses. So, I asked them about Four Roses and they just happened to have their tasting glasses and merch handy! In Odense, Denmark, my wife and I visited this restaurant called Modern American Steak House that had every conceivable variation of Four Roses behind the bar. I asked them for a Four Roses Manhattan and the waiter asked if I knew about Four Roses which was just so exciting, and we chatted for a long time. On another trip I ran into a group of Australians on a tour bus going through Italy who also loved Four Roses. They became my unofficial “spotting team” finding Four Roses at all the bars for me.
What are three things we might find you doing during a typical trip?
You’ll find me drinking a Small Batch Manhattan. I always work it into the conversation at each city I travel to. They’ll ask how I want it and I’ll tell them that I want them to make it how they’ll drink it. This opens a portal for a new drink every time with the different kinds of vermouth and specialty cherries available now. It allows so many variations of the drink that I’m always able to try something new. Now, I’ll need to ask them to make it with Small Batch Select too!
I also always make sure to have dinner with our various accounts and to chat with strangers about Four Roses! Because I’m usually wearing a Four Roses shirt, there are a lot of chances to talk to new people about the brand. I’ll be walking through TSA and I’ll often hear someone say, “I really like your Bourbon,” which is always nice to hear. Coming back from Atlanta I even talked with a woman on the plane about starting a new distillery.
Can you tell us your favorite place to visit?
I would have to narrow it down to my favorite top two. First, Chicago is one of my favorites because there are a lot of BBQ restaurants with new people on staff and it’s a lot of fun to visit with Regional Sales Manager Brian Kreiger and the new folks to let them know that we care about them.
Second, Houston is also great because it’s a free for all out there. They love Four Roses Bourbon. Our on-premise Manager Nick Talamantes and his team have worked hard making a space for our name in that market. The folks out there are young and energetic about the brand. Each of these locations are unique in their special ways and all of them have great cocktail cultures.
What do you like most about traveling?
It really is a source of enjoyment for me because it’s fun to expose new people to Four Roses. I love being caught off guard at an airport when someone sees me in my Four Roses shirt, and I get to sit down and chat with them about why they love our brand.
It’s all about forming relationships with people. Four Roses, as a brand, is approachable and it should be welcoming to all despite the delicacies and intricacies of how it’s made. We want people to be open to us, and to tell us that they love our Bourbon. So, when people tell me about their experiences … I love it!
What trips are you looking forward to as 2019 comes to a close?
I have a long trip planned that I’m really looking forward to. I’ll be headed to Chicago in early October to work with Brian and Mike Buday as we work our way through Illinois to Michigan for stops in Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, then Detroit for the 2019 Cocktail Classic.
At the end of October, I am headed east to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia to do Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board events with Connie Breiger. These are always fun events with lots of friendly people.
Any tips for the Bourbon traveler?
While Four Roses Bourbon is not yet available on airlines, some major airports may carry the brand. Be sure to look for it. By the way, if you ever fly in or out of our home airport in Lexington, be sure to stop at the liquor store on the second floor, Cork and Barrel, after you go through security to get some to take with you.
Four Roses is committed to safe, responsible drinking.
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