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6 Fascinating Things You Didn’t Know About Liquor Brands

The bottles you love contain more than just booze. They also feature secrets and fun facts.

a collage of liquor bottles, including Smirnoff and Bacardi, on a slatted background / Laura Sant

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. In many cases, the stories brands tell about themselves are aggrandized myths that somehow obscure the facts. But the truth is out there—actually, it’s right here. Check out these amazing facts about six big-name brands.

1. Bacardí

Bacardi bottles / Laura Sant

Ever wonder why the legendary rum maker would choose a bat as its brand logo? As the story goes, company founder Don Facundo Bacardí Massó’s wife, Doña Amalia, 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 Bacardí rose to be one of the largest spirit manufacturers in the world with legions of fans, including Ernest Hemingway, who referenced the brand in three of his novels.

2. Dewar’s

Dewar's bottles / Laura Sant

Think of how much you enjoy a fine scotch. Now imagine the excitement of divers who discovered the shipwrecked Regina in Lake Huron in 1987 that carried 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.

3. Hennessy

Hennessy bottles / Laura Sant

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 celebrities, musicians, professional athletes—even dictators. The late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il reportedly spent upwards of $800,000 a year on Hennessy.

4. Jack Daniel’s

Jack Daniel's bottles / Laura Sant

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 252 750-mL bottles of 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.

5. Smirnoff

Smirnoff bottles / Laura Sant

Smirnoff is one of the world’s oldest vodkas, with origins dating to 1860s Russia. The spirit transferred hands to an American company in 1939, but there was a problem: Americans preferred whiskey and knew very little about vodka. In what can only be called a brilliant act of marketing, Smirnoff was branded a “white whiskey” that had “no taste, no smell.” This new marketing campaign was a hit, especially with the boozy lunch crowd who wanted to avoid smelling like a bar. So began America’s love affair with vodka.

6. Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey bottles / Laura Sant

Like so many great ideas, Wild Turkey was the result of one man’s trip with 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 to hunt wild turkey in South Carolina. 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 hit the market.