Never heard of this whiskey before today, and given the ad that sur­faced at Retro Press I think I can see why. Follow along with me as I reveal the night­mare to you, but only in pieces at a time, lest your mind be over­whelmed by too much ghast­li­ness at once and you be dri­ven into the nether­est regions of madness.

That it’s vin­tage 1947 is no excuse for any of this. Any of it at all. Well, except maybe this, which sort of makes sense:

After all, it’s a whiskey ad. Of course you want the prod­uct in the graph­ics. Particularly given the bottle’s design, which is nicely Streamline Moderne and wouldn’t have looked par­tic­u­larly dated yet in ‘47.

Where they begin to lose their way is in the copy.

I’ve heard whiskey being described as mel­low, even smooth. But never, ever sunny-​​smooth. What the hell does that mean?

We’re given a dis­turb­ing sense with another bit of copy.

The phrase sunny morn­ing fla­vor is not only fore­shad­ow­ing; it’s rather dis­tress­ing. Why did Schenley think it would be a good idea to asso­ciate hard liquor with sun­rises? Was it meant to be oblique? Was it meant to sim­ply sug­gest that the warm glow you get from whiskey (as it slowly cor­rodes your esoph­a­gus) is wel­come like a hope­ful sun­rise? Were they try­ing to be subtle?

Oh my, no.

This is not merely a direct ref­er­ence to sun­rise — and the sug­ges­tion that hav­ing whiskey with one’s morn­ing meal is desir­able, per­haps even laud­able — but it goes the extra step of asso­ci­at­ing alco­hol with the cir­cus. Always a good com­bi­na­tion. Ask any carney.

By now you must have noticed what appears to be a piece of mostac­ci­oli banded in gold in the cor­ner; that’s actu­ally part of a booted foot. And when we pull back a lit­tle you see that the phrase Schenley beats the band is also foreshadowing.

They’re a bit too hir­sute in appear­ance to be human, a bit too petite to be Sasquatch. What does that leave, a horse? A cat or dog? A goat, perhaps?

Oh, if only.

I’m not kidding.

This ad appeared on the inside back cover of Life mag­a­zine. Now I’m sure the US was exu­ber­ant in post-​​war times. I’m sure the eco­nomic bounce — as well as more than a few recent births — was ener­giz­ing. But Life mag­a­zine, even then, might have been a venue bet­ter suited to sug­gest­ing lux­ury, pos­si­bly even ele­gance, in whiskey choices. In brief, Schenley blew their demo­graph­ics utterly. Even in an age before mar­ket research was eas­ily done, there sim­ply isn’t any excuse for this amal­ga­ma­tion of horror.

Sunrise … sunny-​​smooth … march­ing band … cir­cus … rooster. Whiskey?

Whiskey, all right: whiskey tango uni­form. Question mark. I mean, just how drunk were these clowns when they were hav­ing their meet­ings anyway?

Remember all the trou­ble RJR got into a few years back for its Joe Camel char­ac­ter? The claim was that Reynolds was mar­ket­ing to chil­dren. What, I won­der, would have been made of this cheer­fully spring­ing cock1 pump­ing the Schenley’s? Is it pos­si­ble this was an early thrust at sub­lim­i­nal adver­tis­ing? Was it too flac­cid to be effec­tive? Will I con­tinue insert­ing innu­endo until a new graf?

What do you think?

Of course, Joe Camel had the dou­ble advan­tages of being some­what more appeal­ing than this

and of resem­bling a large, uncir­cum­cised penis with tes­ti­cles. What man doesn’t want to wrap his lips around a great big … umm … well, all right, who doesn’t want to put a camel in … uh … never mind.

Okay. New ques­tion. Why was Joe Camel suc­cess­ful while the Schenley’s Cock was such a horror?

[Good non-​​god, the brand still exists, but it’s appar­ently been neutered. Nary a cock to be seen.]


1. And what does this sug­gest about whiskey dick?


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