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Four Roses in the Summer of 1940

blog | 6/12/2019

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Kentucky summers can be scorchers, but Four Roses knows how to chill out when the thermometer creeps past 90. On a hot day, there’s nothing quite like that first sip of Bourbon over ice. This month, we’re looking back at a few summer ads from 1940 that promised a frosty experience even in the middle of the dog days.

Just take a look at one of our most iconic ads, “The Cake of Ice,” which ran for several years in major magazines in the United States. The creator of this ad, William R. Wright of Young & Rubicam Advertising, said that this concept was born “on the Merritt Parkway somewhere east of Exit 40 on a late autumn night in 1939.” In a letter he sent to Mr. Bradley Houghton of Four Roses dated May 17, 1957 he goes on to explain his creative process and how he’d spent more time than he liked on conceptualizing a way “to remind readers that a Four Roses highball was something rather special in the way of a cool warm-weather drink.” He was driving along, mulling over the problem, “Ice . . . Four Roses . . . Four Roses Ice,” when he nudged his sleeping wife next to him and asked, “What would you think of freezing four roses in a cake of ice?” She replied, “Sounds sort of crazy to me.”

It was mid-January when Anton Bruehl started to work on the photograph. Several days and several tons of ice were used trying to keep the roses fresh and not smashed under the pressure of the frozen water. One day someone came up with the idea to stop the freezing before the block was totally solid and, voila, the roses looked fresh in the cake of ice. The ad ran for many years and ice companies all over the United States were told how to freeze four roses in ice. One year, there were more than 12,000 retail outlets with these Four Roses cakes of ice on display at the time the ad appeared in the magazines.

When you look at the ad, you can almost feel the chill and we think Mr. Wright certainly succeeded in his vision of reminding consumers how special Four Roses is as a cool warm-weather drink. The last two ads, in black and white, do not focus on the refreshing nature of Four Roses but they create two recognizable summer scenes: fishing and poolside glamour, both of which are ways we still enjoy Four Roses today. 79 years later, Four Roses Bourbon is still a mellow and rewarding Bourbon any time of the year.

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