For more than 40 years, the butler did it.

Since 1935, the pantalooned figure on the label of Virginia Gentleman bourbon served two glasses presumably filled with the 90-proof whiskey to two red-coated aristocrats standing on the lawn of an impressive plantation.

But the 18th-century butler, a symbol dear to the hearts of many Virginians, has fallen victim to one of the harsh realities of the 20th century: the need for a new image.

"We want to attract the younger crowd, the 35-year-old junior executive who works in a bank and makes just enough money to put that bottle of whiskey on his bar," said Robert E. Lee IV, vice president of A. Smith Bowman Distellery of Reston, which makes Virginia Gentleman.

Lee, who speaks with the accent of his native New York and is the great-grandson of the Confederate general, said that on new labels, the loyal butler has been replaced by a third aristocrat.

The time-honored slogan, "The Aristocrat Of Them All," which appeared on the old labels, also has been dropped. "I like the phrase, but we thought it was a little old-fashioned," explained Lee. "Plus we didn't want to change the label to the degree that people in Virginia wouldn't recognize it."

The distillery, which produces the only legal whiskey manufactured in the state, sells about half of its 150,000 cases per year in Virginia.

The butler's undoing began three years ago. Lee said, when the privately-owned Bowman distellery sought to expand the market for Virginia Gentleman and decided to test the liquor's popularity and the new label in Texas and Florida, two states with traditionally large bourbon-drinking populations.

Bowman paid a Manhattan firm $20,000 to redesign the label and hired a liquor-importing firm to help test-market the product in those states. "It was a terrible flop in Texas," but did well in Florida, Lee said.

In Virginia, sales of Virginia Gentleman -- the third most popular brand of bourbon in the state -- are up 8 percent this year.

"We've gotten a few letters from old-time drinkers saying, 'God, it's terrible you've changed the label,' but probably most people don't even notice it," Lee said.