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Podcast Summary:

“Anyway, I’ll Drink to That” is a Boozn Sam’s production, exploring the fun, quirky, and fascinating tales of drinks (Fireball in this episode) that define culture, history and the world. Every drink has a story to tell, and I’m going to tell it…as true as I can. Hosted by Sam, from Boozn Sam’s. Saddle up with a good cocktail and give me a few minutes of your time for a mystery surrounding a drink that changed the world.

Episode 10 Details:

It all started in Nashville, TN when a very clever marketer employed some grass roots marketing to take a no name brand and brought it into the spotlight across the country. That rise to fame also brought with it lawsuits, workarounds, and worldwide appeal to this famous medicinal.

Transcript of Podcast:

*This is the entire podcast episode in written form. Do not read if you want the audio version to be spoiled.

Josiah flexed his hand open and close several times and sighed. His fingers were stiff, much stiffer than he expected them to be. He didn’t think this would be so hard. But, these were the doctor’s orders, and it’s always best to do what the doctor tells you. 

Especially a doctor as prominent as this one, who had gotten his start out West and achieved renown around the world as a famous physician. So, Josiah had no choice but to believe him. With a resigned sigh, he went back to the exercises at hand, exercises that the doctor assured him would reinvigorate his life.

You see, Josiah was feeling…off. He’d taken on a project much larger than expected at work and, with a hard riding boss determined to see results at any cost, a shrewd, successful man that had a right to demand such results there wasn’t Josiah could do besides suffer through and drink the figurative and literal medicine that the doctor ordered.

So, he did, day after day. And, although it took longer than expected, he began seeing results. With a renewed vigor, and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, Josiah buckled down for a final push before the big day, the day of his project’s unveiling. 

The night before he slept horrible. This was a big deal. A career sort of project that, if executed the way he hoped, could jettison him to great success and job security. When the day finally arrived Josiah was all nerves.

But, he had no reason to be. The project went off without a hitch and his boss was highly impressed with his work and dedication to the project. The Greenhouse, where the project was unveiled, appreciated the effort too, for they would go down in history tied to this project, a project that had a world shattering impact.

From there Josiah went on to other things, bigger things, the whole time spouting the value of the medicine that helped save his project from oblivion. 

Fast forward a few years and Nashville, the epicenter of his hard work and the work of many others, due to having the perfect demographic for such a project, jettisoned the company behind the project forward too. 

They made more ambitious plans and targeted Austin as their next city of choice for expansion. They were determined to strike while the iron was on fire. Their approach was similar to Nashville and they laid out and executed on several well done projects that instantly captured the hearts, and stomachs, of the Austin crowd, as well. 

From there the rest of the country fell like dominoes and the business that once made $1.9 million in revenue in 2011, exploded in epic proportions a mere three years later to around $131 million a year. Today, the company has continued its rocket launch climb and makes around $700 million a year. 

All achieved with very targeted and well planned projects, that clung to the hearts, minds, and tastebuds of their target market. But, when money floods in hand over fist, so too do the opponents, seeing an easy win to expand their own business or make a quick buck.

This company had to fight back many of their main competitors, striking at them with the long arm of the law, until a single person, the face of a lawsuit, decided to turn that arm back against them.

Anna, distraught and furious with being misled, for she was sure she was misled, hired Spencer to stand in her corner and box it out with the company that had now become a powerhouse. 

For Spencer, it was a noble pursuit, a way to keep the powers that be in check and remember that if you stretched the truth even a little, and even in the name of marketing, you were going to pay. 

For Anna, she hoped they’d pay to the tune of $5 million dollars, which represents a return of over 5 million percent on her initial investment in the project. She and Spencer felt that was a small amount compared to the damages and mental injuries inflicted upon her for wrong doings. 

Of course the company had amassed a war chest at this point, and getting attacked from all sides by those looking to capitalize on their success was inevitable. So, the company fought back and is still fighting back to this day. 

The matter itself is one of marketing and pushing the boundaries between a consumer’s responsibility as a purchaser and a companies responsibility as a good business steward. With no clear lines, that’s why matters such as these go to the courts, the Illinois Court System to be more specific, in order to allow well trained individuals, empowered with the long arm of the law to, well, flex that arm from time to time, for very important serious matters such as this one. 

After all, we’re talking years later after the original project had been long done, but not forgotten. In fact, it isn’t even the project itself which is the core issue in the lawsuit. It’s the medicine that Josiah used, which is the issue, and a new twist on that product which allowed for greater accessibility across the country. 

But, this accessibility resulted in a modification of the medicine’s formula, just a small modification that meant a great deal to regulators, as it allowed the bypassing of certain laws that then allowed an expanded reach of this medicine. 

These modifications were spelled out on the packaging, but the labeling was similar to the original product. After all it was another medicine in the companies product line and it makes sense to brand them the same so a consumer could recognize the world renowned medicine, made by the world famous doctor and instantly feel a sense of confidence and trust in the product they were receiving.

But, what if that trust was misled? Or, at least caused a certain amount of consumers to be misled. Was it the brand’s fault, even though they clearly worded one medicine different than the other? Or was it the consumer’s fault for not taking more care to question the orders delivered to them and instead follow blindly because someone more educated, more trained, the expert in the room, told them to use this product?

That’s ultimately a big question that’s up for debate still today with Anna and the medicine she purchased when she accidentally thought it was something else. 

A different medicine.

A medicine shared by 4,750 other people on St. Patrick’s Day back in 2012

And setting a world record

A hefty undertaking that caused Josiah to devote an entire week to dolling this medicine out carefully in remeasured containers, 

So that, in one fell swoop, all 4750 people could tilt their heads back in unison and down the tasty medicine,

Which had a bit of a kick,

Some would call it a burn,

Just what the doctor ordered

The doctor that never existed, but was the marketing genius of a liquor company

Dr. Mcgullicuddy

And Fireball Whiskey,

Which got itself Into a hot fire and sued by Spencer, at Anna’s behest,

For another version of the same drink that used malt beverages and wine,

Instead of whiskey so that the drink could be sold at an additional 170,000 stores throughout the US that had a beer and wine license, but didn’t carry a liquor license.

Which caused Anna to, allegedly, mistakenly grab and purchase a 50 ml shooter of Fireball for .99 cents and then, to her horror, discovering that Fireball Cinnamon, although made by the same company and branded in a similar manner, wasn’t the same as Fireball Whiskey, 

Which actually doesn’t even contain enough whiskey in it (40%) to be considered a whiskey, due to the addition of sweeteners that have brought the ABV down to 33%.

And since we can’t call it a whiskey, we’ll imbue it with the nickname that many have called it

A medicinal.

But, medicinal, whiskey, liqueur, or malt beverage aside, 

The blurred lines, which Anna alleges caused her to make her purchasing mistake, is a clever bit of marketing, just like the fictitious doctor himself whose name is ascribed on a whole line of beverages, 

Or the sly grass roots marketing they used a little over a decade ago to create a drinking culture throughout all of Nashville, and then Austin, before trickling to the rest of the United States through such things as world record breaking attempts.

Which they still hold today, in case you were curious.

Anyway… I’ll drink to that.