We’ve all witnessed the heroic wit of the Most Interesting Man in the World. But have you ever wondered about the real-life tales associated with some of the world’s biggest alcohol makers? Behind every great liquor brand is a great story.
1. Jack Daniel’s
Everyone knows that Jack Daniel’s is one of the most widely available spirits in the world. What you might not know is that it’s possible to purchase an entire barrel of whiskey from the legendary Tennessee distiller. Each barrel yields approximately 252 bottles of 750 ml whiskey and will run you between $10,000 to $12,000, depending on barrel volume and taxes. According to Jack Daniel’s reps, the U.S. military is the largest buyer of the single barrel whiskey in the world.
Ever wonder why the legendary rum maker would choose a bat as its brand logo? As the story goes, company founder Don Facundo Bacardi Massó’s wife, Doña Amalia Bacardí, spotted fruit bats in the family’s distillery one day. Believing the winged visitors were a sign of good luck, she insisted they be the symbol of the family’s company. Her intuition was spot on, as Bacardi rose to be one of the largest spirit manufacturers in the world with legions of fans, including Ernest Hemingway, who referenced the company in three of his novels.
3. Wild Turkey Bourbon
Like so many great ideas, Wild Turkey was the result of one man’s boozy trip with some of his pals. According to the company, brand executive Thomas McCarthy grabbed a few sample bottles of undiluted 101-proof whiskey from the warehouse to take with him on a trip in South Carolina to hunt wild turkey. The spirit was such a hit with his friends they repeatedly asked him to send them more of that “wild turkey bourbon.” Soon after, Wild Turkey Bourbon hit the market.
Smirnoff is one of the world’s oldest vodkas with its origins dating to 1860s Russia. As part of that rich history, the spirit ended up in the hands of an American company in 1939. The only problem was Americans preferred whiskey and knew very little about vodka. In what can only be called a brilliant act of marketing, Smirnoff was branded as a “white whiskey” that had “no taste, no smell.” This new marketing campaign was a hit, especially with people who liked to indulge in a beverage early in the day without fear of smelling like a bar. So began America’s love affair with vodka.
Founded in 1765, Hennessy has grown into the world’s largest cognac producer. The French company turns out more than 50 million bottles each year and is a favorite of among celebrities, musicians, professional athletes—and even dictators. The late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il reportedly spent upwards of $800,000 a year on Hennessy.
It’s often said that few things are better than an aged Scotch. So you can imagine the excitement when divers discovered the shipwreck Regina in the Lake Huron in 1987, along with a shipment of Dewar’s. The steamer went down during a snowstorm in 1913, making this boozy find one for the record books. The 100-year-old bottles were entered into a silent auction in 2013 to raise money for the Great Lakes Maritime Institute.
Devin Pratt is a U.S.–based writer and editor who has held various editorial roles at National Geographic, Discovery Channel, Men’s Fitness, FHM and Runner’s World. He’s traveled extensively, including hiking and whitewater rafting in Bosnia and Croatia. When not on assignment, he can be found exploring the great outdoors.