New York, New Orleans, Aspen … and Madoc

Madoc ad for Seagram's V.O.In a little over two years of doing this blog, I have learned that you just never know what’s going to turn up. I have been delighted by so many surprises from readers: bits of information, first-person stories, photos, and so on. Now here comes another one: thanks to reader Steve, we have a vintage advertisement for one brand of the longtime beverage of choice of this part of the world. And what group of people was used as an example of the very sophisticated drinker of this beverage, Seagram’s V.O. Canadian Whisky? Why, the people of Madoc, of course.

In case you can’t read the small print, here’s what the ad – which Steve found on Page 4 of the Ottawa Journal of March 6, 1964, so almost exactly a half-century ago – says below the headline “As goes Madoc, so goes the world”:

In Madoc, Ontario, Seagram’s V.O. is extremely popular. Not just because V.O. is produced in Canada, but because the mellow flavour of V.O. combines brilliance of taste with lightness of tone. This Madocian preference reflects a world opinion. In 130 countries around the globe, people of discerning taste buy Seagram’s V.O. Not merely because V.O. is imported from Canada but because they, too, like their whisky to be light, yet brilliant. This balance of good taste – which never varies – is the reason why Seagram’s V.O. is the largest-selling Canadian Whisky in the world.

To which I can only say: “Madocian”? Who knew that was a word?

Actually I do have something else to say about this very interesting find that Steve made. It is the answer to the question you are probably asking yourself – which is, “Why Madoc?” – and it comes thanks to yet another reader.

Grant (who I am becoming convinced knows almost everything there is to know about the history of Madoc and Madoc Township) shares the information that several decades ago a chap called Jack Baker, who was from Madoc, worked for Seagram’s and rose quite high in the company: He “sold a fine Canadian whiskey called Jack Baker’s Special. The lounge at the [Madoc] Kiwanis Centre was called the Jack Baker Lounge.”

rye at the Madoc LCBO

The rye-whisky selection at the little Madoc LCBO outlet is pretty darn substantial.

Aha! It’s all coming together. It’s the Jack Baker connection – plus, did I mention that Canadian – or rye – whisky has long been very popular in Madoc and area? When Raymond and I first started coming to this area from Montreal, after we’d bought the Manse in early 2012, we were quite startled to see the hugeness off the rye-whisky section in local L.C.B.O. outlets. There seemed to be more space devoted to rye than to practically all other spirits put together. That is not something you see at liquor stores in Quebec, or in other places I have been.

Anyway, I am quite tickled by the idea that Madoc was used as an example of good taste in drinks back in 1964 – the Mad Men years, and let’s not forget that Don Draper is partial to another Seagram’s rye whisky, Canadian Club.

And so I went looking for some other V.O. advertising from the era, and found a little gallery’s worth of gorgeously illustrated ads that strive (successfully, if you ask me) to convey worldliness and elegance in sophisticated places. Click on any image to make it larger and see a slide show. They really are quite gorgeous:

So there you have it: the French Quarter in New Orleans, Carnaval in Quebec City, the Winter Olympics, the slopes of Aspen, and Broadway and an art-show opening in New York City. Why, Madoc fits right in!

6 thoughts on “New York, New Orleans, Aspen … and Madoc

  1. Wait! What? Canadian Club is not a Seagram’s brand! The label, launched by Hiram Walker and long owned by Hiram Walker Gooderham and Worts, is now part of the Jim Beam empire.

    And I always thought C.C., not V.O., was the world’s best-selling Canadian whiskey. I’ve certainly been doing my share to help their sales these many years … it’s made in Windsor, Ont. my home town, and used to bill itself as “the best in the house in 87 lands”.

    On the rocks, with water on the side (the way I take it), C.C. is still beloved by many of us urbane sophisticates:

    • Brian, you are absolutely right, and I heartily apologize for my misstep on the Canadian whisky front! And thank you so much for sending along that previously-unknown-to-me George Jones and Merle Haggard classic. Because, as I know you know, it doesn’t actually get any better than George Jones and Merle Haggard.

  2. My father was marketing manager for Distiller’s Corporation (the Seagram company) for many years. Jack Baker was a good friend of his, and for a short while, his boss. Jack later left Seagram’s and joined Bacardi; and later still was one of the founders of Garda Security – a well-known security provider in the GTA.

      • Yup! BTW – my dad began his career in the ‘Mad Men’ era; worked for an agency and then went to Seagrams. His job as marketing manger was to approve corporate advertising; he did it during the period that the adds that accompany the blog were out there. He probably chose them!

      • All right, now I am seriously in awe of your dad, Glenn. I mean, seriously. I wrote that post quite some time ago, and I will confess that when your comment came in I needed to go back and look at that little gallery I did of the Seagram’s ads, to remind myself of them. And they are just so gorgeous! And so of their time, and of (frankly) any time. Way better than most of the advertising we see today. I find myself wondering what he told you of his work – did he talk about the fun and creativity of it? (I bet he did.) (Unlike Don Draper with his kids.) So great that you found this chain of posts!

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