Monday, March 10, 2014

A cloud no larger than a man's hand

It's coming.

I got the PR email. That means real whiskey bloggers also got the PR email. And that means, some time in the next several weeks, my blogroll and Twitter feed will be painted Cutty Sark yellow with comments on their new blend.

The "fact sheet" included with the PR email begins with a number of not-altogether- and near-facts:
Released 80 years after the end of the era which it celebrates, Cutty Sark Prohibition Edition has been crafted as a salute to the notorious Captain William McCoy, who smuggled Cutty Sark blended Scotch whisky into America during the Prohibition era (1920-­‐1933). Captain McCoy’s impeccable reputation for dealing only in the finest, genuine and unadulterated liquor gave rise to Cutty Sark being referred to as “The Real McCoy.”
It's been more than 90 years since the notorious Captain William McCoy was arrested, and he wasn't particularly associated with Cutty Sark while he was still bootlegging. He "mostly hauled Rye, Irish and Canadian whiskey," if you can believe Wikipedia (and if you can't, then we're all lost).

Even if we accept the false etymology about "The Real McCoy" deriving from the smuggler's reputation and grant that Cutty Sark was might just barely have been (see UPDATE) among the brands he smuggled, it wouldn't follow that this "gave rise to Cutty Sark being referred to as 'The Real McCoy'" -- except in the trivial sense that any unadulterated liquor could be called that, even today.

But the true history of the phrase makes its use in this ad campaign more entertaining. The Dictionary of the Scots Language reports that "the orig. of the ph. is obscure," but adds that the phrase "was adopted as an advertising slogan by Messrs. G. Mackay and Co., whisky distillers of Edinburgh, in 1870 and must have been already current by that date."

Cutty Sark, then, is using a corrupted form of an advertising slogan for a different Scotch whisky to advertise their own whisky -- a slogan that means "the real thing, the genuine article."

UPDATE: Something was nagging at me about this story, so I double-checked, and it turns out that Cutty Sark Whisky was only conceived of on March 23, 1923 (if you believe their website).So, okay, it's possible that, some time in the eight months to the day between the brand first being discussed and the bootlegger being arrested, some amount of Cutty Sark was smuggled by McCoy. But that's a pretty weak peg to hang your ad campaign on.

No comments:

Post a Comment