Bottle #63: Jonkanoo

Bottle #63 is Jonkanoo, a coconut rum liqueur from Rieder Distilling in Grimsby, Ontario, Canada. I’ve already told the story of Rieder Distilling in a joint episode about two of their other products, bottles #22 and #23.

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Based on trademark filings, Rieder first started selling Jonkanoo in 1978. They abandoned the trademark for it by 1983, so it was a short-lived entry into the coconut liqueur category. I’m assuming the name was taken from Junkanoo, which is a traditional festival of music, dance, and masquerade held in parts of the Caribbean. It’s misspelled, but the blame for that may land on a Canadian newspaper article from 1975 using that spelling to describe an initiative from the Jamaican Tourist Board.

I unboxed this bottle in Reveal #12 along with another coconut rum liqueur, Bottle #62: Roncoco from Ron Matusalem. If you haven’t read/watched/listened to that one, you should go do that. Because it turned out there was a weird sort of connection between these two products!

I started looking for a connection because Canada had come up in the court cases I researched for the Roncoco bottle. The court cases are basically all about who had the right to use various trademarks. Different branches of the family controlling different companies all had various rights to various Matusalem trademarks in various places. When one of those family branches incorporated in Canada as Ron Matusalem Ltd in 1981 in order to make and sell a rum liqueur, other parts of the family went to court to stop them. And that liqueur was none other than Roncoco. In fact, in 1983, the Canadian company changed their name to Roncoco Canada Inc to help resolve the issue.

Now, my bottle of Roncoco is American and from 1989 to 1995. But since I also had this Canadian coconut rum liqueur from Rieder I wondered if there might be a connection between the two companies, and I was amazed when I did actually find one! In 1989, Rieder Distilling began blending, bottling, and selling Ron Matusalem rum under license, presumably from Roncoco Canada Inc. Now, by this point Jonkanoo had been gone since 1983. But 1983 was also the year that Roncoco Canada was renamed. I have absolutely no idea if those things had anything to do with each other, or if this is all just some giant coincidence and the relationship between Rieder and Ron Matusalem didn’t exist at all until 1989.

Leaving the court cases behind, I want to take a minute to talk about the fact that there were not one, but two bottles of coconut rum liqueur in Reveal 12, and that neither one of them was Malibu. While Malibu is the king of coconut rum liqueur today, both of these products actually predate its creation: Roncoco in 1975, Jonkanoo in 1978. Malibu wouldn’t be created until 1979.

So what is up with all these coconut rum liqueurs in the 1970s? Two words – Pina Colada! Depending who you believe, the Pina Colada was invented in Puerto Rico either in 1953 by Ramon Monchito Marrero at the Caribe Hilton OR in 1963 by Don Ramon Portas Mingo at La Barrachina. Regardless of who created it, by the middle of the 1970s the Pina Colada was a top ten drink, according to this great 1980 article in the Washington Post documenting the invention debate and the history of the drink.

And while both of the claimed original recipes called for using Coco Lopez cream of coconut, that was a sticky and perishable product that came in a can. Wouldn’t it just be easier to put the coconut right in the rum and mix it with some pineapple juice? That’s certainly what Rieder Distilling thought, as all the ads for Jonkanoo promised it would make a perfect Pina Colada.

My bottle of Jonkanoo is in glass, with a pretty good fill level, so maybe I’ll have enough left after tasting to give it a try!

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Bottle #63: Jonkanoo

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Bottle #63 is Jonkanoo, a coconut rum liqueur from Rieder Distilling in Grimsby, Ontario, Canada. I’ve already told the story of Rieder Distilling in a joint episode about two of their other products, bottles #22 and #23.

Based on trademark filings, Rieder first started selling Jonkanoo in 1978. They abandoned the trademark for it by 1983, so it was a short-lived entry into the coconut liqueur category. I’m assuming the name was taken from Junkanoo, which is a traditional festival of music, dance, and masquerade held in parts of the Caribbean. It’s misspelled, but the blame for that may land on a Canadian newspaper article from 1975 using that spelling to describe an initiative from the Jamaican Tourist Board.

I unboxed this bottle in Reveal #12 along with another coconut rum liqueur, Bottle #62: Roncoco from Ron Matusalem. If you haven’t read/watched/listened to that one, you should go do that. Because it turned out there was a weird sort of connection between these two products!

I started looking for a connection because Canada had come up in the court cases I researched for the Roncoco bottle. The court cases are basically all about who had the right to use various trademarks. Different branches of the family controlling different companies all had various rights to various Matusalem trademarks in various places. When one of those family branches incorporated in Canada as Ron Matusalem Ltd in 1981 in order to make and sell a rum liqueur, other parts of the family went to court to stop them. And that liqueur was none other than Roncoco. In fact, in 1983, the Canadian company changed their name to Roncoco Canada Inc to help resolve the issue.

Now, my bottle of Roncoco is American and from 1989 to 1995. But since I also had this Canadian coconut rum liqueur from Rieder I wondered if there might be a connection between the two companies, and I was amazed when I did actually find one! In 1989, Rieder Distilling began blending, bottling, and selling Ron Matusalem rum under license, presumably from Roncoco Canada Inc. Now, by this point Jonkanoo had been gone since 1983. But 1983 was also the year that Roncoco Canada was renamed. I have absolutely no idea if those things had anything to do with each other, or if this is all just some giant coincidence and the relationship between Rieder and Ron Matusalem didn’t exist at all until 1989.

Leaving the court cases behind, I want to take a minute to talk about the fact that there were not one, but two bottles of coconut rum liqueur in Reveal 12, and that neither one of them was Malibu. While Malibu is the king of coconut rum liqueur today, both of these products actually predate its creation: Roncoco in 1975, Jonkanoo in 1978. Malibu wouldn’t be created until 1979.

So what is up with all these coconut rum liqueurs in the 1970s? Two words – Pina Colada! Depending who you believe, the Pina Colada was invented in Puerto Rico either in 1953 by Ramon Monchito Marrero at the Caribe Hilton OR in 1963 by Don Ramon Portas Mingo at La Barrachina. Regardless of who created it, by the middle of the 1970s the Pina Colada was a top ten drink, according to this great 1980 article in the Washington Post documenting the invention debate and the history of the drink.

And while both of the claimed original recipes called for using Coco Lopez cream of coconut, that was a sticky and perishable product that came in a can. Wouldn’t it just be easier to put the coconut right in the rum and mix it with some pineapple juice? That’s certainly what Rieder Distilling thought, as all the ads for Jonkanoo promised it would make a perfect Pina Colada.

My bottle of Jonkanoo is in glass, with a pretty good fill level, so maybe I’ll have enough left after tasting to give it a try!

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