The gang behind It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia —Rob McElhenney, Glenn Howerton and Charlie Day — are best known for the FX sitcom that made them famous, but they've also had their hand at a surprising number of other ventures. Unless you've been living under a rock the last few months, you've probably seen an ad for Welcome to Wrexham, the documentary series chronicling the purchase of a Welsh soccer team by McElhenney and some Canadian guy. Howerton has carved out acclaimed roles for himself in TV shows such as AP Bio, The Mindy Project and Fargo. Day has become a staple of film, fighting off Ice Cube, kaiju and Jennifer Aniston's advances alike in the last decade.
But the latest creation from the trio of creative minds is one that connects back to their roots in IASIP, a show focused on a group of bar-owning degenerates who drink like fish: Four Walls Whiskey.
It is, as you'd expect from the clever crew of TV's longest-running live-action sitcom, a layered name; not only does Four Walls refer to the confines of a bar like the one their characters run, but it's also a tongue-in-cheek reference to the TV-and-movie trop of breaking the fourth wall — i.e. characters speaking directly to the audience.
The brand launched in June 2022 with two different expressions: the Cask Strength Single Barrel Collector's Edition, a 15-year single malt Irish whiskey that's been matured in former bourbon barrels; and the Bartender's Blend Limited Edition, a blend of Irish and Pennsylvania rye whiskies which have each been aged five years. (The latter retails for $90, and the former for $1,000; before you cast any aspersions on its celebrity creators for such high prices, however, know that all the money raised by the run of the first batch is being donated to non-profit organizations in support of the bartending community and independent music venues, which were hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath.)
To learn a little more about what brought Four Walls to life, we spoke via email with Howerton, who plays sociopathic narcissist Dennis Reynolds on Sunny and who is, according to the brand, the biggest whiskey enthusiast of the trio of founders.
Note: Selected portions of this interview have been condensed for clarity and length.
Glenn Howerton talks Four Walls:
GP: What made you decide to start a whiskey brand — and in particular, to do so now?
GH: As an artist, all I ever wanted was to make things that have a positive impact on people's’ lives. Any of us is fortunate if we’re able to do that in a big way once, but we’re attempting it a second time with Four Walls.
I’ve always been into whiskey. When I was younger it was more bourbon, because I grew up in Alabama, but in my early twenties, I was introduced to scotch and was officially hooked. Whiskey was my jam. More recently I’ve been exploring ryes, but I’ve always had a soft spot for Irish whiskeys.
When we were shooting our last season, bars were shutting down across America in the pandemic, and we decided this was a great way to pay tribute to bars and give back to the community while also creating a whiskey brand we could be proud of. And, lastly, to celebrate our record-breaking 15th season. [It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is the longest-running live-action sitcom in U.S. history. —Ed.]
Can you talk a bit about what it was like to make your own whiskey? What was it like to source the ingredients, taste samples, and so forth?
Tasting whiskey was no chore, of that I can assure you. But, I knew it was going to be difficult to land on a final product because I tend to be very picky and I had no interest in settling for anything less than a whiskey that would be my go-to regardless of who made it. This was about putting something truly special into the world. Something whiskey lovers would salivate over, but that casual drinkers would love as well. It was a process, but it was a fun one, and I’m very proud of where we landed.
As of this story's publication, the Bartender’s Blend (the blend of Irish whiskey and American rye) is sold out. Will it come back?
The Bartender’s Blend is sold out in the U.S., but we are talking about different versions of it, so our fans outside of the U.S. can get it. This was a limited release because we wanted to make something that was a tribute to the bar, and that we could put out quickly to raise money for bartenders. But the dream is to have a bottle of Four Walls available everywhere, and priced so that everyone can get their hands on it, which just takes a little bit more planning.
Will there be more whiskey releases to come from Four Walls? Plans to branch out into other spirits, or even, say, beer?
Nothing goes better than an Irish whiskey and a beer, so I’d love to have a beer too someday. For now, we’re just focused on Four Walls as a whiskey (and the thousand other things we have going on together and individually), but never say never.
What was the most unexpected part of creating your own whiskey? The most exciting part? The most annoying part?
The most unexpected part, honestly, was that we were able to source whiskey that was fully up to our standards. That may sound crazy, but I really was worried that we’d be pressured to settle in some way.
The most exciting part was getting our hands on the first bottles from each cask of the 15-year whiskey. The guys and I kept three, and the last one raised $100,000 for NIVA (the National Independent Venue Association). So, we were not only able to donate to our Pennsylvania charity partner (the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association's Hospitality Assistance Response of Pennsylvania), but also to give back to the bar and music community — which was an unexpected bonus.
The most annoying part was that little thing called the global shipping crisis. We were happy everything ended up happening when it did but we did face some delays with different pieces of our packaging, etc. It all worked out, though!
What's Four Walls Cask Strength Single Barrel like to drink?
It's an experience before you even pour a drop, thanks to the packaging. Each of the 755 bottles comes in a sturdy wooden box emblazoned with brass plaques on both sides of the door, one of which features a note from Howerton, McElhenney and Day. (The Collector's Edition also comes with a trio of commemorative autographed cards of the trio, each of which features a poem written by IASIP writer/producer and The Always Sunny Podcast producer Megan Ganz.) The bottle itself boasts its own quartet of plaques, which not only detail the proof, barrel number and bottle number, but also contain a fair number of in-jokes and references scattered amongst the usual liquor bottle info.
On the nose, the Cask Strength Single Barrel has a touch of sweetness, but it's not cloying — it's more of subtle notes of cherry and vanilla. There's a subdued dash of wood to the scent, as well.
Dive in for the sip, and the first thing that hits is the sheer power of the liquid; it's not overbearing, but there's a sting to it, a friendly reminder that, yes, this is a cask strength whiskey that rings up at 115.6 proof. Taste past that, though, and you'll find a tartness below.
More flavor arrives on the finish, when those fruity notes that showed up on the first sniff reappear, along with a hint of spice. There's a sweet aftertaste — cherry again — that lingers on the tongue, along with the high-octane tingle that hangs around for a moment or two.
It's hard to judge the Cask Strength Single Barrel completely objectively, given not just its price point, but the fact that all that money is going to charity. It's certainly the best Irish whiskey I've ever sampled — an opinion shared by a close friend whose spirits collection makes him to whiskey what Jay Leno is to cars — but even though it's going to good causes, that $1,000 price may place it out of reach for some.
Still, like I said, it's an exceedingly good Irish whiskey, by any standards. And if you you're a fan of both IASIP and whiskey, though — which, full disclosure, applies to your author — it's a truly delightful experience.