[Drink] The Champagne of Whiskeys


"Don't waste your money on that stuff. Let me show you something good."
As we turned around, the liquor-store attendant approached us from behind the counter and reached to the bottom shelf to grab a bottle of whiskey. My friends and I were in Gulf Shores, Ala., for a weekend at the beach. Naturally, we needed some booze.

Attending college in New Orleans had spoiled us into thinking that every major supermarket had a fully stocked liquor aisle. Here in Alabama, the best we could do was a seedy-looking liquor store with a gravel parking lot. We never claimed to be connoisseurs of fine whiskey, usually settling for the cheaper brands, but we were at a loss in this fine establishment. With four bottles of cheap swill in hand, the store owner laughed and offered us some sage advice on stretching our liquor dollar.

He told us of a whiskey whose taste was indistinguishable from Crown Royal at a fraction of the price. We were in awe of his quiet, gruff demeanor. His face had the distinguished lines and wrinkles of a long life of fast times and hard livin'. This man could be trusted to know his whiskey.

The bottle he handed us was marked R&R Canadian Whiskey. According to the label, R&R signified that the whiskey was both "Rich and Rare." Such a simple name spoke volumes. It promised a refined flavor, brewed with the folksy politeness of our neighbors to the north. At this point, our whiskey choice had taken on the weight of destiny, so we bought four bottles and exited the store.

When we got home, we immediately noticed that R&R had a pleasant taste. Our expectations were admittedly easy-going, and our taste in whiskey admittedly unrefined. We mixed the R&R with splashes of Dr. Pepper and ice, resulting in a delicious cocktail without much of the bite commonly associated with whiskey. The resulting game of Truth or Dare was predictably scandalous. R&R had lived up to the hype. It also proved to be the gift that kept on giving: the next morning we awoke without hangovers. Manna from heaven, indeed.

Throughout the rest of the vacation, the R&R began to take on a mythic quality. The liquor-store prophet's story of a cheap alternative to Crown Royal had proved to be true. Would people from home believe that such a whiskey existed? In order to help explain the whiskey's name, my friends and I began concocting a story about Canadian adventuring gentlemen John Rich and George Rare. Rich and Rare were legendary adventurers sometime in the 1800s. Among their many other manly pursuits, such as prospecting for gold in the Canadian Rockies, cataloguing wildlife in the jungles of Borneo and trading pelts in Montreal, these men of distinction also brewed the finest of whiskeys.

John Rich and George Rare's legacy lives on every time a college student looking for a cheap bottle of hootch buys a bottle of Canadian R&R.


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