Bottle #32: Seagram’s Amandine

Oct 25, 2023

In the post for Bottle #25, Seagram’s Cherry Cola Schnapps, I told you that it wouldn’t be long before we had another bottle of Seagram’s product. And here it is! Bottle #32 is Seagram’s Amandine: their take on an Amaretto liqueur.

Read the rest of the story

Like the cherry cola schnapps, there’s almost no information about this bottle on the internet. A picture of it from 1983 is in the same Box 37 of the Seagram company archive, located at the Hagley Museum in Delaware, that the Schnapps photo is in.

1983 makes perfect sense for an Amaretto liquor. In my episode about Bottle #10 – Disarrono, I talk about how Amaretto was introduced as a follow-on to Galliano in the 1970s, and how it became a darling of what passed for mixology in the 1980s. Part of the reason Disarrono no longer uses the word Amaretto on their label is because of all these other brands like Seagram’s trying to break into their market.

The other thing I found online about this bottle was a listing for it in a package donated by the Seagram’s company to a radio-thon fundraiser for the Montreal Symphony Orchestra in 1985. It was part of a 3-bottle package with a coffee liqueur and a tamarind liqueur. The tamarind liqueur was the most interesting thing about that – feels way ahead of its time!

Based on these two things, I’m putting the date range on this tiny bottle in the mid-1980s. And since that’s about all there is to say, this seems like a good opportunity to tell more of the Seagram’s story. When last we left the Bronfman family in Bottle #25, they’d made a boatload of money creatively taking advantage of tax loopholes during Prohibition and doing things that a court never said were actually bootlegging – but had not yet become Seagram’s.

When they’d opened up their first distillery in La Salle, Quebec, they registered their company names as Distillers Corporation Ltd. And if you remember Bottle #31 about VAT 69 Scotch, you’ll know this was actually quite a baller move, because at that time Distillers Corporation Limited was an enormous force in Scotland and controlled most of the world’s Scotch whisky supply. Clearly the Bronfman brothers had big dreams.

Or, at least one Bronfman brother did. Sam Bronfman, known throughout the company as “Mr. Sam,” would position himself as the power broker in the family. He directed the company’s operations as it grew and cutting other family members out when it suited him.

The Canadian Distillers Corporation Ltd was a customer of the Scottish one, purchasing whiskies to blend and sell. And in 1927, the two become partners, with Mr. Sam negotiating a deal where the Scottish DCL would gain a 50% share of his company. In exchange the Canadian DCL got the exclusive distribution rights in Canada for the Scottish DCL’s stable of brands that included prominent Scotch names like Dewer’s, Haig, and Black & White. Importantly, the deal also came with technical support and expertise about distillery operations and whisky making and blending, and Mr. Sam devoted himself to learning all he could.

In 1928 this joint operation purchased the Seagram distillery in Waterloo, Ontario, and at that point – twelve years after the Bronfman’s first started selling alcohol – they start to become Seagram’s by renaming themselves to Distillers Corporation Seagram’s Limited (DCSL). By the end of the 1920s, DCSL had two distilleries, over a million gallons of aging whisky from the Seagram distillery purchase, as well as several of their popular brands AND purchase and distribution rights for with the one of the largest whisky suppliers in the world. Seeing the end of US Prohibition on the horizon, they began stockpiling whisky and were ready to hit go on their American strategy when FDR signed Repeal into law.

The 1930 and 40s were hectic times. Scottish DCL had other plans for their US strategy, so DCSL bought out their share of the joint interest. A short-lived partnership with important US competitor Schenley Industries fell apart. DCSL purchased 18 American distilleries between 1934 and 1945. They created their Five Crown and Seven Crown blends in Maryland by blending their imported Canadian whisky with these new American whisky stocks.

Blending and aging whisky became the company’s hallmark, as Mr. Sam applied what he’d learned from the partnership with Scottish DCL and sought to make whisky as respectable in the US and Canada as it was in Scotland. One key to this was bottling whisky instead of selling it in barrels as was typical at the time, which resulted in better consistency and thus customer loyalty. All this meant that by the end of the 1940s, Seagram’s was the biggest of the Big Four that I talked about with Bottle #29. Which feels like a good place to end this part of the story, but there are more Seagram’s products lurking right around the corner, where you might least expect them.

Listen Now

Watch Now

Bottle #32: Seagram’s Amandine

Oct 25, 2023 |

In the post for Bottle #25, Seagram’s Cherry Cola Schnapps, I told you that it wouldn’t be long before we had another bottle of Seagram’s product. And here it is! Bottle #32 is Seagram’s Amandine: their take on an Amaretto liqueur.

Like the cherry cola schnapps, there’s almost no information about this bottle on the internet. A picture of it from 1983 is in the same Box 37 of the Seagram company archive, located at the Hagley Museum in Delaware, that the Schnapps photo is in.

1983 makes perfect sense for an Amaretto liquor. In my episode about Bottle #10 – Disarrono, I talk about how Amaretto was introduced as a follow-on to Galliano in the 1970s, and how it became a darling of what passed for mixology in the 1980s. Part of the reason Disarrono no longer uses the word Amaretto on their label is because of all these other brands like Seagram’s trying to break into their market.

The other thing I found online about this bottle was a listing for it in a package donated by the Seagram’s company to a radio-thon fundraiser for the Montreal Symphony Orchestra in 1985. It was part of a 3-bottle package with a coffee liqueur and a tamarind liqueur. The tamarind liqueur was the most interesting thing about that – feels way ahead of its time!

Based on these two things, I’m putting the date range on this tiny bottle in the mid-1980s. And since that’s about all there is to say, this seems like a good opportunity to tell more of the Seagram’s story. When last we left the Bronfman family in Bottle #25, they’d made a boatload of money creatively taking advantage of tax loopholes during Prohibition and doing things that a court never said were actually bootlegging – but had not yet become Seagram’s.

When they’d opened up their first distillery in La Salle, Quebec, they registered their company names as Distillers Corporation Ltd. And if you remember Bottle #31 about VAT 69 Scotch, you’ll know this was actually quite a baller move, because at that time Distillers Corporation Limited was an enormous force in Scotland and controlled most of the world’s Scotch whisky supply. Clearly the Bronfman brothers had big dreams.

Or, at least one Bronfman brother did. Sam Bronfman, known throughout the company as “Mr. Sam,” would position himself as the power broker in the family. He directed the company’s operations as it grew and cutting other family members out when it suited him.

The Canadian Distillers Corporation Ltd was a customer of the Scottish one, purchasing whiskies to blend and sell. And in 1927, the two become partners, with Mr. Sam negotiating a deal where the Scottish DCL would gain a 50% share of his company. In exchange the Canadian DCL got the exclusive distribution rights in Canada for the Scottish DCL’s stable of brands that included prominent Scotch names like Dewer’s, Haig, and Black & White. Importantly, the deal also came with technical support and expertise about distillery operations and whisky making and blending, and Mr. Sam devoted himself to learning all he could.

In 1928 this joint operation purchased the Seagram distillery in Waterloo, Ontario, and at that point – twelve years after the Bronfman’s first started selling alcohol – they start to become Seagram’s by renaming themselves to Distillers Corporation Seagram’s Limited (DCSL). By the end of the 1920s, DCSL had two distilleries, over a million gallons of aging whisky from the Seagram distillery purchase, as well as several of their popular brands AND purchase and distribution rights for with the one of the largest whisky suppliers in the world. Seeing the end of US Prohibition on the horizon, they began stockpiling whisky and were ready to hit go on their American strategy when FDR signed Repeal into law.

The 1930 and 40s were hectic times. Scottish DCL had other plans for their US strategy, so DCSL bought out their share of the joint interest. A short-lived partnership with important US competitor Schenley Industries fell apart. DCSL purchased 18 American distilleries between 1934 and 1945. They created their Five Crown and Seven Crown blends in Maryland by blending their imported Canadian whisky with these new American whisky stocks.

Blending and aging whisky became the company’s hallmark, as Mr. Sam applied what he’d learned from the partnership with Scottish DCL and sought to make whisky as respectable in the US and Canada as it was in Scotland. One key to this was bottling whisky instead of selling it in barrels as was typical at the time, which resulted in better consistency and thus customer loyalty. All this meant that by the end of the 1940s, Seagram’s was the biggest of the Big Four that I talked about with Bottle #29. Which feels like a good place to end this part of the story, but there are more Seagram’s products lurking right around the corner, where you might least expect them.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *