The dark chapter of US history known as “Prohibition” famously gave birth to bootlegging and rum running, but it also was crucial in the establishment of a now-glorified craft: micro brewing and distilling.
The following poem, first published by the Cincinnati Enquirer illustrates this point quite humorously:
Each night, for more than 40 years,
He drank a couple of good beers.
He never would exceed that number,
He said that beer promoted slumber;
It was a tonic, so he said,
And to him it was liquid bread.
He said that whisky poisoned men,
He was against it, was Old Ben.
So he went out and voted dry,
To kill the bourbon and the rye.
He killed the whisky, but, oh, dear!
He also found he’d killed his beer.
He needed beer, and he was sad,
For there was no beer to be had.
* * * * *
Now in a cell we hear him groan –
For Old Ben tried to make his own.
In this issue of “Got Rum?” we honor the memory of Bill McCoy, a renowned rum runner during this challenging phase of America’s history. We honor him not because of his disregard for the law, but because of his passion for distilled spirits and his understanding and appreciation for quality. Ultimately it was this quality-driven attitude of his that fueled the meaning behind the now famous “The Real McCoy” expression.
As we travel around the world offering our consulting services and teaching our Rum University Courses, we often see splashes of this “Bill McCoy Spirit” among the people we talk to: bartenders who want to learn more so they can provide better service to their clients, craft distillers who want to produce better rums so consumers have a higher appreciation for rum and consumers who want to better understand the difference between low and high quality distillates.
While prohibition has certainly exhaled its last breath, its effects continue to this day, from speakeasies to micro distilleries, all happy to pursue their passions without fear of sharing Old Ben’s fate in a cell!
Luis Ayala, Editor and Publisher