Saturday, May 30, 2009

Save a Polar Bear, Drink Booze

And now, join us once again for an adventure into the fantastic wilds of vintage advertising. As carefully observed and recorded from a 1942 issue of Liberty Magazine, let us see how the Madison Avenue species of that era managed to link the natural instincts of wildlife with alcohol consumption, yet avoiding the cliche of caribou or water buffalo stampeding to the watering hole.

Meet Clark and Mark, the generic, tie-wearing gents who evidently served as ambassadors for Calvert's Whiskey. The pair closely scrutinize two illustrations of polar bears floating above their heads. I find the baby polar bear treating a fish as if it was a favored blanket rather endearing. Thus we get a potted lesson on camouflage and the phrase "fleecy white cubs" into the bargain. But say, what does any of this have to do with intoxicating beverages, outside of the presence of ice in bulk?

Aha! Just as a mother polar bear protects her cubs, CALVERT'S PROTECTIVE BLENDING "protects the flavor and good taste of Calvert Whiskey." Wait a minute, wouldn't flavor and good taste by synonymous when applied to something one ingests? Or does this mysterious blending process serve as a kind of methylated Lady Bracknell, insuring that Calvert Whiskey never places its elbows on the table or begins consorting with tradesmen and bookmakers? And why are Clark and Mark seemingly drinking not from ordinary shot glasses but from something akin to beakers or oversized testubes? Are they not prosperous businessmen after all but, in fact, druggists who decided to have a liquid lunch before filling old Mrs. Rassmussen's liver pill order?

Anyway, move on to the second panel, which after giving one the option of "richer" or "lighter" whiskeys (once again, vintage liquor ads are at times nearly indistinguishable from tobacco ads, except perhaps for the fact that fewer doctors tended to recommend whiskey in public.) Note particularly the closing tagline: "Clear Head (clear-headed buyers) Call for CALVERT." Linking 90 proof whiskey with clear headedness is either audacious, unintentionally absurd, or an attempt to compliment the genteel, thinking rotgut purchaser on their wisdom and sagacity in buying Calvert. An approach oft used for many a substance.

I have a bit of a headache myself right now, but I don't think I shall seek out Calvert for the cure. Evidently they do still exist, but "Calvert Extra" is now a mere 80 proof whiskey. Still blended, though!

The overall impression I took from this ad, particularly in light of climate change issues, was that the best way to save polar bears would be to get them utterly sloshed on whiskey. They would then be more buoyant and able to swim further to a new climate, and if not, they'd at least drown with a smile! Eesh.


david said...

Interesting. A blended American whiskey means about the same thing as a blended Scotch: start with the base product (straight bourbon or corn whiskey in America, pure malt Scotch in Scotland), and take some of the edge off by diluting with other grain-based spirits. The difference is that while blended Scotch is still popular, American blends have fallen entirely out of fashion.

Another reason for blending a whiskey is that it's a lot cheaper. The whiskey part of it still needs to be aged for at least two years, but the "grain neutral spirits" portion is not. The "protective blending" makes the cheaper process sound like an asset.

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