Bottle #29: DeKuyper Bluesberry Schnapps

Sep 13, 2023

I honestly don’t even know where to begin telling the story of Bottle #29, DeKuyper Bluesberry Schnapps. The short version is that DeKuyper followed up its 1984 smash hit, Peachtree Schnapps, by releasing a bunch more schnapps flavors in the following years, including Bluesberry Schnapps in 1988. It used the slogan “DeBirth of DeBlues,” which I wish I could say was a tie-in to the Blues Brothers movie, but that came out in 1980 so probably not.

I could tell you the really long story of DeKuyper, a company founded in 1769 in the city of Schiedam in the Netherlands. There they joined the already thriving Dutch genever industry, making the full bodied, malty precursor to our modern style of dry gin. But if I tried to tell you that story, it would take way too long. And besides, Difford’s Guide has already done it much better than I could.

So instead I’m going to write about National Distillers.

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One of the most interesting things I’ve discovered through My Tiny Bottles is how few corporations are behind the hundreds of brands that line liquor store shelves. The names now are different than they were before but, in the world of spirits, there really are shadowy figures lurking in the background. Researching their stories is at once fascinating and tedious, because I did not expect this project to see me spending quite so much time trying to untangle mergers, acquisitions and renamings!

National Distillers began in 1887 as the Distillers and Cattle Feeders Trust, aka the Whiskey Trust, and got broken apart by anti-trust lawsuits in 1895. They reemerged as Distillers Securities in the early 1900s, and changed their name to US Food Products in 1919 after Prohibition went into effect. They finally became National Distillers in 1924, specializing in medicinal whiskey. Anticipating the end of Prohibition, they bought up all the pre-prohibition whiskey and distilleries they could afford. By the time of Repeal in 1933, they owned 200 brand names and three of the seven legal distilleries in the country.

This put them into the ranks of the Big Four, those shadowy figures lurking in the background of the liquor trade. In the 1930s these included Seagram’s and Hiram Walker, two Canadian companies who’d made bank during US Prohibition. The last was Schenley Industries, who like National Distillers had played a patient waiting game in the US. National Distillers was the smallest of the Big Four in sales, but the largest in profit, earning seven million dollars in 1937.

And what do you do if you’re a liquor company with lots of money? You invest in other liquor companies, of course. Like DeKuyper, which entered in a partnership with National Distillers to run their American interests starting in 1936. They built a distillery in New Jersey and got to work. No one in American was particularly interested in genever anymore, but DeKuyper had launched a line of liqueurs in the 1920s, and those showed a lot more promise.

And less than 50 years later, that promise had come to full flower, with 1984’s Peachtree Schnapps becoming the 9th bestselling spirit in America, pretty much overnight. More flavors would follow, like this Bluesberry Schnapps from 1988, by which time the DeKuyper brand had passed from National Distillers to Jim Beam. My bottle probably comes from the late 80s or the 90s. DeKuyper still sells a blueberry schnapps, but they no longer call it Bluesberry, and their label changed to a more modern design by 2000.

As for DeKuyper, they still pretty much dominate the brightly colored fruit liqueur industry, giving everyone else DeBlues.

Watch me taste this bottle with Sother Teague.

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Bottle #29: DeKuyper Bluesberry Schnapps

Sep 13, 2023 |

I honestly don’t even know where to begin telling the story of Bottle #29, DeKuyper Bluesberry Schnapps. The short version is that DeKuyper followed up its 1984 smash hit, Peachtree Schnapps, by releasing a bunch more schnapps flavors in the following years, including Bluesberry Schnapps in 1988. It used the slogan “DeBirth of DeBlues,” which I wish I could say was a tie-in to the Blues Brothers movie, but that came out in 1980 so probably not.

I could tell you the really long story of DeKuyper, a company founded in 1769 in the city of Schiedam in the Netherlands. There they joined the already thriving Dutch genever industry, making the full bodied, malty precursor to our modern style of dry gin. But if I tried to tell you that story, it would take way too long. And besides, Difford’s Guide has already done it much better than I could.

So instead I’m going to write about National Distillers. One of the most interesting things I’ve discovered through My Tiny Bottles is how few corporations are behind the hundreds of brands that line liquor store shelves. The names now are different than they were before but, in the world of spirits, there really are shadowy figures lurking in the background. Researching their stories is at once fascinating and tedious, because I did not expect this project to see me spending quite so much time trying to untangle mergers, acquisitions and renamings!

National Distillers began in 1887 as the Distillers and Cattle Feeders Trust, aka the Whiskey Trust, and got broken apart by anti-trust lawsuits in 1895. They reemerged as Distillers Securities in the early 1900s, and changed their name to US Food Products in 1919 after Prohibition went into effect. They finally became National Distillers in 1924, specializing in medicinal whiskey. Anticipating the end of Prohibition, they bought up all the pre-prohibition whiskey and distilleries they could afford. By the time of Repeal in 1933, they owned 200 brand names and three of the seven legal distilleries in the country.

This put them into the ranks of the Big Four, those shadowy figures lurking in the background of the liquor trade. In the 1930s these included Seagram’s and Hiram Walker, two Canadian companies who’d made bank during US Prohibition. The last was Schenley Industries, who like National Distillers had played a patient waiting game in the US. National Distillers was the smallest of the Big Four in sales, but the largest in profit, earning seven million dollars in 1937.

And what do you do if you’re a liquor company with lots of money? You invest in other liquor companies, of course. Like DeKuyper, which entered in a partnership with National Distillers to run their American interests starting in 1936. They built a distillery in New Jersey and got to work. No one in American was particularly interested in genever anymore, but DeKuyper had launched a line of liqueurs in the 1920s, and those showed a lot more promise.

And less than 50 years later, that promise had come to full flower, with 1984’s Peachtree Schnapps becoming the 9th bestselling spirit in America, pretty much overnight. More flavors would follow, like this Bluesberry Schnapps from 1988, by which time the DeKuyper brand had passed from National Distillers to Jim Beam. My bottle probably comes from the late 80s or the 90s. DeKuyper still sells a blueberry schnapps, but they no longer call it Bluesberry, and their label changed to a more modern design by 2000.

As for DeKuyper, they still pretty much dominate the brightly colored fruit liqueur industry, giving everyone else DeBlues.

Watch me taste this bottle with Sother Teague.

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