July 26, 2015

6 Fun Facts About Liquor Giants!

1. Jack Daniel's
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 bottles of 750 ml 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.

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

3. Wild Turkey Bourbon
Like so many great ideas, Wild Turkey was the result of one man's boozy trip with some of 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 on a trip in South Carolina to hunt wild turkey. 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 Bourbon hit the market.

4. Smirnoff
Smirnoff is one of the world's oldest vodkas with its origins dating to 1860s Russia. As part of that rich history, the spirit ended up in the hands of an American company in 1939. The only problem was Americans preferred whiskey and knew very little about vodka. In what can only be called a brilliant act of marketing, Smirnoff was branded as a "white whiskey" that had "no taste, no smell." This new marketing campaign was a hit, especially with people who liked to indulge in a beverage early in the day without fear of smelling like a bar. So began America's love affair with vodka.

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

6. Dewar's
It's often said that few things are better than an aged Scotch. So you can imagine the excitement when divers discovered the shipwreck Regina in the Lake Huron in 1987, along with 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.
Here’s the story. Tell me if it doesn’t make it to you:

Well, I can now say I have shared the same space as Steve McQueen.
I spent the afternoon hanging out with Steve Kafka (http://stevekafka.com). I grew up seeing Kafka's work on countless custom cars, yet the guy was like a ghost until I was about 21. Then I found him at a car show at Timothy's Spirits (also recently mentioned elsewhere) one night, striping a car right there, at the show.
Anyway, he's more than ten years older than me, but we grew up in the same neighborhood in Framingham, went to the same school, and ran in similar circles, only years apart. It was awesome to talk about the old days back in Framingham.
After talking for close to an hour, we went out back to check out the Von Dutch bus. Kafka has taken it upon himself to restore the bus. He recently finished it. This is where Von Dutch (AKA Kenneth Howard, but you probably already know that) worked and lived for a good portion of his life. The bus was set up with the needed implements to create the artistic magic he did, such as metal engraving, pin striping, fabrication and other things (even gunsmithing). He even had the bus wired for 220, and had plug-ins on the outside of the bus to hook up welding cables. Pretty slick.
Steve McQueen spent tons of time on the bus with Von Dutch. Von Dutch worked on and customized/restored many bikes for McQueen. The bus and Von Dutch were present on most all of McQueen's movie sets, due to how close the two were, and the fact that Steve almost always had a need for the skills Von Dutch possessed.
Most people these days only know of Von Dutch due to the clothing line that was popular some time ago. This was after his death, and his kids sold the rights to his name to some designer, who I'm sure made shitloads off the deal. The flying eyeball was something I've seen and been aware of since I was a kid. Ed Roth (Rat Fink guy) and Von Dutch were guys who were a presence in my life, even though I'd never get the chance to meet them.
Anyway, enough with the talk. Here's the bus.

  Bullet holes from one night when Von Dutch was drunk. There were other bullet holes that have since been covered up.

His lathe, and a few other implements.

Yes, he slept on the bus. He also cooked on the bus. I didn't get a shot of the tiny cooking area.

Steve Kafka. The man responsible for the bus' restoration, and an amazing artist himself.

McQueen slapped this decal on the bus years ago. Solar Productions was his film company.
An original Von Dutch flying eyeball.

His fridge, that still works.
Von Dutch on the right in this picture.

Writing and photos sent to us from Howard Kelly

Vintage Drags at Eddieville Iowa