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Bush Pilot’s Whiskey

Bush Pilot’s was the best whiskey I ever tasted. It then suddenly and completely disappeared from stores in America around 1998.

I found a bottle in 2000 at Skates on the Bay and I begged them, no pleaded, to sell it to me. They of course refused but I don’t think they realised at the time they may have been one of the last known places to have it on the menu. Fortunately I don’t think anyone else realised either because I often went back and always found a bottle of Bush Pilot’s waiting for me. The day it finally was emptied I held a little farewell on the pier. Unfortunately they refused to sell me their empty bottle. Laws, they said, prevented it.

Bush Pilot's Bottle

So then I was left to wonder how such an amazingly smooth 13-year-old corn whisky with hints of oak and vanilla could disappear. I called in friends and family in the search. Distributors, distillers, caterers, all came up empty-handed. One caterer swore he could find anything. But no Bush Pilot’s was found and I gave up hope.

Finally I have answers for Bush Pilot’s demise from CanadianWhiskey.org.

Someone at the St. Louis-based beer giant, Anheuser-Busch, took exception to the name “Bush Pilot’s,” claiming it was too easy to confuse with Busch beer. At first the charges seemed so ludicrous that Smith and Denton just forged ahead. But eventually, realizing that Anheuser-Busch was dead serious about forcing Bush Pilot’s off the market and had the money to do it, they acquiesced. With that decision, Bush Pilot’s soon disappeared from the shelves and a whisky that was a legend in its own time became the Canadian whisky aficionado’s Holy Grail.

What they mean is a big-box corporation was ready to spend a huge amount of money to prove that Americans are unable to distinguish a plant from an airplane. The big-box probably would not have won the case (pun not intended) on merits but that didn’t matter since they could just threaten the small whiskey brand into financial oblivion from legal fees alone. Such a sad story, it begs the question whether Bushmills, a distillery traced to the 1600s, should force Anheuser-Busch to change its name?

Alas, now the world is without one of the best whiskies ever made. Another sad example of American regulation of food gone awry (pun not intended).

Posted in Food, History, Security.


7 Responses

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  1. Milan says

    It’s a shame they didn’t just rename it.

  2. b garrett says

    i have three /yes 3/ unopened bottles. i plan to ration them over my remaining lifespan. an interesting side story….the last remaining bottle i purchased made its way to within 5 milesof being delivered by ups…..and they broke it in transit!

  3. Dave says

    Davi, great post. I am not a whiskey connoisseur, but, I have recently begun drinking scotch whiskey a little more frequently. Never had Bush Pilot’s but I have compared a few. I was told McCallum’s 18 yr old is really smooth. Finally got to try some, and it was good. But, I also recently was given some Deanston Virgin Oak to try, and I am now a believer. Royal Crowne, not bad. Jameson, not bad. Deanston, in my opinion, the best. Not easy to find, but, the price, out of this world – where I live, $30 a bottle. Compared to the McCallum’s: better.

  4. badger says

    I just bought a house from a very wealthy man in Texas and found a case of Bush Pilot Private Reserve in a storage area . Never heard of it before today, Should we drink or sell. Offers?

  5. Davi Ottenheimer says

    @badger, drink it, then write about how great it was.

  6. Craig Falkner says

    About half an hour ago, on my way home from work, I stopped at a family owned liquor store to pick up a 6-pack of beer. On my way to the counter, I was stunned to see a bottle of Bush Pilot sitting on the top shelf of the Canadian Whisky section. Behind it were two more. I carried one of them to the counter and the counter guy says, “You’re probably the first person to pick up one of those in 20 years”. He said he had been working there for 23 years, and those bottle had been there from before he started. I asked him to scan the bottle and the price came up $49. I asked him what it would be for all three and he gave me $5 off each bottle. As I type this, I’m sipping Bush Pilot on ice for the first time in 13 years. Its a good and rare day.

  7. Davi Ottenheimer says

    Hi Craig, well done. Sounds good but I’ll believe it when I taste it. Hint hint…



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