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Return of the Chicken Cock

March 27, 2013

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Chicken Cock Whiskey, a brand that gained infamy during Prohibition is back. Well, sort of. The new Chicken Cock bears little resemblance to the original, but the name is so striking it was only a matter of waiting for someone to re-use it.

We all know that the male of the peafowl species is called a peacock. Male cats are tom cats and male goats, billy goats. And in some places down south a rooster is not a rooster, but a chicken cock. It’s a word guaranteed to catch the eye of young drinkers looking for a good time.

Approachable root beer, cinnamon and sweet tea flavours make Chicken Cock a cinch for freshman shooters. However, while its makers have been inspired by a 157-year-old legacy, the Chicken Cock of yore was bourbon or rye. And though the label says whiskey, this Chicken Cock clearly strays into flavoured vodka territory.

Originally established in 1856 in Paris, Kentucky, if the press release has it right, Chicken Cock quickly became a significant 19th century bourbon brand. The oldest version I could find (pictured above) was straight Canadian rye from the 1920s.

That’s because once Prohibition shut down production in the U.S., Distillers Corporation Limited, of Montréal, bought the brand name and gave it to one of its long-aged ryes. For ease of transport, they packaged it in tin cans.

Chicken Cock was smuggled across the border into the northern states in these cans with no fear of breakage. There it rose to fame as a popular pour at some of the era’s most famous speakeasies.

At the Cotton Club, in Harlem, when patrons ordered a “Chicken Cock,” a waiter would arrive tableside to open the $15 can ceremoniously with a metal key. Everyone knew that the whisky inside was something special.

Duke Ellington, we are told, writes of Chicken Cock in his memoirs, referring to it as the “brand that was served in a tin can.” Of course there were at least half a dozen other whiskies packaged in the same manner, and for the very same reason, so we can’t be certain he was actually referring to Chicken Cock, but we get the picture.

Post-Prohibition newspaper ads show that several attempts were made to revive Chicken Cock as an American whisky, but its time had passed and it quickly faded into obscurity.  The whisky, it seems, is gone forever, but now, nearly a century after Prohibition began the name is back. This time the drink with its popular soda-pop flavours and graphics seems aimed at those who enjoy high-octane alco-pop, rather than the clandestine indulgers of the Roaring Twenties.

“When I discovered Chicken Cock in 2010 I knew it was a brand that needed to be brought back,” said Matti Anttila, Chicken Cock Distilling founder. “To be able to do so at a time when American whiskey is making such a resurgence and the interest in heritage brands is so high is a truly special opportunity.”

Returning to its southern roots, Chicken Cock is bottled in Charleston, South Carolina in three different varieties – Chicken Cock Southern Spiced Whiskey, Chicken Cock Cinnamon Whiskey, and Chicken Cock Root Beer Whiskey.

With a suggested retail price of $19.99, Chicken Cock is available in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

Chicken Cock Pure Rye Whiskey


Comments

4 Responses to “Return of the Chicken Cock”

  1. CBrown:

    Wow, what gorgeous old packaging that was! Too bad that the current product isn’t particularly interesting.

    Looks like this is shaping up to be a much quieter year for releases than last -although not altogether a bad thing as I continue to play catch-up with last season- let’s face it 2012 was an epic year!

    I’m still looking forward to at least a few interesting items for 2013 though…

    • Davin:

      I guess we have to wait to see what come out this fall. Yes, last year was just amazing.

  2. Any idea of what the juice is that they’re using or where it comes from? It says “hand crafted in Charleston SC” but that doesn’t really mean anything.

    • Davin:

      Sorry, no idea at all.


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