Category Archives: Vintage ads

Ad of the Week: Heublein’s Milshire Dry Gin

Heublein is one of the forgotten success stories in the American spirits industry.

Based in Connecticut, Heublein started off as a restaurant and hotel business in 1862. The company began selling premixed cocktails in 1892. Three years later, it buys up A1 Steak Sauce, in a fortuitous move that eventually helps it survive Prohibition.

Then in 1939, Heublein makes a deal that at the time seemed crazy, but today looks very much like the large vat of gold coins that Scrooge McDuck likes to swim in; in 1939, Heublein buys the rights to Smirnoff Vodka. Heublein eventually has either full ownership of, or the distribution rights to, an impressive portfolio of spirits, wines, and beers: Don Q rum, Cuervo tequila, Black & White blended scotch, Harvey’s Bristol Cream sherry, Guinness stout, Bass ale, Hamm’s beer, and Inglenook wines. Further, Heublein diversified  into foods, owning KFC, Ortega Mexican foods, and Grey Poupon, among others.

Heublein may be the biggest name you’ve (probably) never heard of. So what happened to Heublein? Mergers and acquisitions. In 1982, RJ Reynolds purchased the company. After Reynolds merged with Nabisco in 1985, RJRNabisco started selling off its Heublein holdings. Finally, in 1987, RJRN sold Heublein’s booze portfolio to Grand Metropolitan … which may be another biggest name you’ve (probably) never heard of.

So, what then happened to Grand Met? A 1997 merger with Guinness happened, forming a company you probably have heard of: Diageo. (If you haven’t, you’ve heard of its brands:  Guinness, Johnnie Walker, Ketel One, Tanqueray, Captain Morgan, Crown Royal, Seagram’s, and Bushmills, among others.)

But Heublein marketed its own line of spirits. Here’s an ad from January 11, 1937, for one of its gin brands. Note that the ad even mentions the premixed cocktails that Heublein offers.

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Incidentally, I do have some ads that feature the Club Cocktail line, and I’ll get to them soon enough, but there’s already a great write-up of the line at 12 Bottle Bar.

Ads of the Week: Four Roses

Something a little different, as I resurrect this feature. Instead of grouping ads by theme or product, as I have in the past, I’m just going to start moving chronologically through LIFE magazine, starting with the first issue in 1936, and moving forward. Now, at this rate, I’ll have enough ad content to keep this feature going for the next 50 years, so I’m probably going to rethink this feature again at some point. But for now, I just want to get going again, and this is the easiest way. So, first up, some Four Roses ads.

The first ad up is from the November 23, 1936, issue, the first issue published of LIFE.

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Detail (click the image to view it in a legible size):

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And a Christmas ad, from the December 21 issue, from the same year:

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Detail (click the image to view it in a legible size):

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The sizes on these early ads will be inconsistent from ad to ad. I snipped all of these a couple of years ago, and I hadn’t yet set on a consistent procedure for snipping and sizing the ads. Apologies.

Ads of the Week: Johnnie Walker in the 1960s

Unless you’ve been asleep this week, you’ve probably noticed that AMC’s Mad Men is returning to TV after a nearly 2-year hiatus. What you might not know is that Newsweek magazine this week has turned retro, reverting to its 1960s-era design and featuring advertisements in a 1960s style. You can browse those ads here, and in general, I think the advertisers mostly did a good job. I especially like the ads for Dunkin’ Donuts, Hush Puppies, John Hancock, Allstate, Lincoln Continental, and BOAC.

But I love the Johnnie Walker ad, and that shouldn’t surprise anyone, since I’ve featured ol’ John’s ads here before. Here it is, in the largest resolution I could get:

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How accurate is it? Well, let’s find out. Here’s a real JWR ad from Ebony magazine, circa 1965 (click through to see it full size):

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I’d say that’s pretty impressive, right? The layout’s the same, much of the copy is the same (or similar), and even the mildly suggestive nature of the photography is the same. I’d perhaps wager the Newsweek version is a reproduction of an actual Walker ad, updated slightly to reflect minor detail changes, except that I can’t find it on Google Books. (At least one change merits mention: JW in 1965 was 86.8 proof; today, it’s 80. Apparently, the proof level changed around 2000.)

UPDATE: I was right. Ad Age confirms that this is an actual JW ad that originally ran in the 1960s.

As a bonus, here’s another 1960s JW ad, this one from Life (again, click through for larger image):

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Hm. Seems a little sexist, but I love the simple, clean design.

Ads of the Week: Paul Jones’s Busty Booze Ads

Don’t get too excited. We’re not talking about the Swedish Bikini Team here.

So, Paul Jones is proud of his giant bust:

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After many such ads throughout 1936 and 1937, the bust has reduction surgery:

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And then is almost easy to miss entirely:

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The bust disappears altogether at the end of 1937:

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To make a triumphant return in early 1938:

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Before disappearing again for the remainder of the year:

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