In 1889 the Bronfman family fled Czarist anti-Semitic pogroms in Bessarabia to make their home in Canada. A wealthy family, they were accompanied by their rabbi and two servants. In the century since, the Bronfmans (whose name, ironically, means “liquor man” in Yiddish) experienced a brief period of poverty but then went on to build one of the world’s largest distilling businesses. Soon after the family’s arrival in Canada, patriarch Yechiel Bronfman learned that tobacco farming, which had made him a wealthy man in his homeland, was incompatible with the cold Canadian climate. The Bronfmans found themselves without a livelihood, and Yechiel was forced to leave his family to work as a laborer clearing the right-of-way for a line of the Canadian Northern Railway. He bought a shed for $12 for his family and after a short time moved to a better job in a sawmill. Yechiel Bronfman and his sons then started selling firewood, making a fairly good living, and began a trade in frozen whitefish to earn a winter income. Eventually they turned to trading horses, a venture through which they became involved in the hotel and bar business. On reaching adulthood, two of Yechiel Bronfman’s sons, Harry and Sam, took charge of the family’s business interests. Harry Bronfman owned his first hotel in 1903 when he was 17 years old. When Prohibition came to Canada in 1916, the Bronfmans decided to leave the hotel business and enter the whiskey trade. Canada had implemented Prohibition only to appease foes of drinking; in reality, alcohol consumption remained high in Canada. The Bronfmans took advantage of the imprecise Canadian Prohibition laws to maximize their bootlegging profits. Sam Bronfman bought the Bonaventure Liquor Store Company, conveniently located near the downtown railway in Montreal, in 1916. People traveling to the “dry” west could stock up on liquor before boarding the train. Business was brisk until March 1918, when a law was passed that prohibited the manufacture or importation of alcohol containing more than 2.5 percent spirits. The prohibition excluded alcohol intended for medicinal purposes, so Harry Bronfman promptly went into the drug business. He bought a Dewar’s whiskey sales contract from the Hudson’s Bay Company and began selling straight liquor through drugstores and to processors who made “medicinal” mixtures. Hence Seagram was born ….
A blend made of Canadian whiskies at least six years old. A bouquet like light caramel corn, with a hint of biscuit dryness and a smidgen of cinnamon sugar. Light on the palate, sweet and a bit spicy, with some cinnamon heat toward the end. There is a bit of a roar right in the middle, where the grainy sweetness catches fire briefly, but mostly this is made for mixing.