This is a review of a celebrity-owned whiskey brand.
I already know what you’re thinking because I thought the same thing when I first heard about it. “Here we go again with another celebrity brand getting in on the popularity of whiskey.”
Four Walls is the brainchild of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia stars Rob McElhenney, Glenn Howerton, and Charlie Day. When I first learned about this new expression, a theoretical Always Sunny episode entitled “The Gang Invents a Whiskey Brand” immediately popped into my head. As it turns out, I wasn’t that far off. As described on the Four Walls website:
Four Walls Whiskey is an Irish American whiskey brand from Glenn Howerton, Rob McElhenney and Charlie Day that is a tribute to the Four Walls the gang calls home – the bar.
From a business perspective, I think this is a really interesting product and marketing strategy. Lots of new celebrity-backed spirits brands jump immediately into the luxury end of the market. In the case of Four Walls, they took the opposite approach and created an easily accessible, easy sipping product that they hope will fit right in at every bar in America. Despite playing characters on their hit TV show, one can’t help but associate the gang with dive bars and the “everyman” consumer.
Four Walls is a blend of Irish whiskey and American rye. This seems like a relatively new concept, but Irish and American whiskey blends date back to the early twentieth century. William Jameson Irish American Whiskey was popular in the 1930s and 1940s and was a combination of pot still Irish whiskey and National Distillers Kentucky straight whiskey (note the use of the term “straight” despite being aged less than two years).
In principle, the combination of Irish and rye whiskies sounds like it would clash, but just a little bit of rye should theoretically add some punchier spice and depth to the otherwise clean profile of Irish whiskey. A bit of digging through their FAQ reveals that Four Walls is comprised of Irish grain and malt whiskies made at Great Northern Distillery—essentially the MPG of Ireland—blended with rye whiskey made at Cedar Ridge in Iowa (a distillery that I like a lot). Right off the bat, my assumption was that this blend would skew heavily toward the Irish whiskey components and after I tried it, my suspicions were all but confirmed. I’d be surprised if there was more than 10% rye in the final product. It’s technically a blend, but for all intents and purposes, I’m treating Four Walls like an Irish whiskey. Based on the price point and target consumer, I presume that the component whiskies that go into Four Walls are on the younger side.
Bottled at 40% ABV and designed for a mass market audience tempered my initial expectations but with a $29.99 MSRP, I wondered how this would stack up against other whiskies in the $20-$40 range so I tried this alongside a few other Irish whiskies that were under $40: Jameson’s flagship expression, Power’s Gold Label, Tullamore Dew, and Teeling Small Batch. How did Four Walls stack up against the competition?
|Nose||Classic Irish whiskey notes first. Barley sugars, grassy, green melon, hints of vanilla, light baking spice, hints of citrus oils.|
|Taste||Fresh orchard fruits, pot still barley character, some anise, toasty, hint of fresh mint, cinnamon, banana bread, vanilla icing.|
|Finish||The grain whiskey takes over on a short and sweet finish. Some candied sweetness, lemon, a hint of ginger and some earthiness.|
|Overall Thoughts||I took a very pragmatic approach to this review. An 80 proof Irish/Rye blend made “for the bar” doesn’t particularly excite the whiskey enthusiast in me, but I was curious to see how it compared to other sub-$40 Irish whiskies I had lying around. First off, Four Walls is leaps and bounds better than Jameson. Period. Power’s Gold is grainier and a bit fuller in flavor than Four Walls while Tullamore Dew is lighter and more citrus-forward. I felt that all three were generally in the same flavor class. I liked Teeling Small Batch better but it's bottled at 46% ABV and I love their use of rum casks. The finish leaves something to be desired but I think that's part of the plan with this whiskey. MSRP for Four Walls is $30 but it probably fits better at $25. Expanding the scope of this expression to a broader audience, if a whiskey can beat Jameson and hang with Power’s Gold and Tullamore Dew, it certainly deserves its place at the bar.|