What’s In A Name: Stories Of The Men Behind 5 Famous Booze Brands

A peek into any respectable bar cabinet will reveal several labels bearing the name of famous men.

But how well do we really know these Friday night friends of ours?
Are they people who really lived? Who were they anyway? And how did they end up on our bottles?

You’ll find the answers below.

1. Johnnie Walker

The person who gave the world’s most popular brand of Scotch whisky his name surprisingly started off as a humble grocer.

Born in 1805 in Ayrshire, Scotland, Johnnie inherited a trust of a little over 400 pounds when his father died in 1819. He invested the money in a store and became quite successful in the town of Kilmarnock, even selling a whisky he called Walker’s Kilmarnock Whisky.

But it was really his son Alexander who turned the family name into a famous whisky brand.

Having spent time in Glasgow learning how to blend teas, he eventually returned to Kilmarnock and turned his blending expertise to whisky.

When he took over the store from his father, Alexander created an “Old Highland Whisky,” which went on to become Johnnie Walker Black Label.

2. Captain Morgan

Before he was called upon to elevate everything from caramel custard to chocolate truffles, the Captain was a Welsh Pirate who ran risky missions for the governor of Jamaica.

In his notorious career, he sacked the Port-au-Prince in Haiti, plundered the Cuban coast, and also looted and burned Panama City.

His days of pillaging only came to an end when Spain and England signed a peace treaty in 1671.

Surprisingly, instead of getting into trouble for the troubles he caused on the seas, Morgan received a knighthood and was appointed the lieutenant governor of Jamaica.

Oh, and he also married his own cousin and had zero f**ks to give.

3. Jack Daniel

Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel is almost synonymous with Tennessee whiskey.

The descendant of Welsh settlers, he was born in the States in the mid-19th century and was one of 13 children. By 1866, he was busy distilling whiskey and making a fortune.

Unfortunately for the whiskey mogul, he had a bit of a temper that cut short his time on earth.

One morning in 1911, he couldn’t get his safe to open. In his anger, he kicked the strongbox, injuring his toe in the process. The infection from the injury soon spread, and eventually poisoned his blood and killed him.

With no time to find a wife or sire an heir, he bequeathed his distillery to his beloved nephew Lem Motlow.

4. Jim Beam

The distillery that produces the world’s best-selling bourbon whiskey was started not by its namesake, but by his great-grandfather Jacob Beam in 1788.

He began selling his first barrels of whiskey in 1795, under the moniker of “Old Tub.”

Jacob eventually handed down the distillery to his son David, who in turn passed it along to his son, who in 1894 gave it to his son, Colonel James “Jim” Beauregard Beam.

Jim ran the distillery until Prohibition shut him down.

Following a repeal in 1933, he resurrected the Old Tub brand, but not without adding something to the company portfolio that was completely his own: a bourbon called Jim Beam.

5. Jose Cuervo

In 1758, King Fernand VI of Spain granted Jose Antonio de Cuervo the land to start an agave farm in Mexico. The produce was used to make tequila.

When King Carlos IV came to power, he granted the Cuervo family the first license to commercially make and distribute tequila, so they built a larger factory and started bottling their wares in 1880.

In 1900, the booze officially started going by the brand name Jose Cuervo and the company remains, to this day, under the leadership of the original Cuervo family.


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