Saturday, June 1, 2019


I had a flashback this morning. I suddenly thought of Liqueur Cream Scotch whisky.

I hadn't thought of this brand for many years but this was a Proustian 'madeleine' memory that took me back years.

In the 1970s, while at university, I worked in a Wellington wine and spirit wholesaler. It was named Murray Robert's & Company and was owned by Levin and Company - subsequently to become Wrightsons. This was an old school type of establishment  where customers would line up at the counter for shop assistants to fetch their beers and spirits for them from the tall shelves behind the counter. Wines were on wine racks at each end of the shop and customers could browse and make their selections but there were no supermarket trolleys to fill and generally, helping yourself was frowned upon.

"What's he doing down there?"

The business was located in Adelaide Road and was in a three storey building. On the bottom level was the retail store and warehouse. The first floor held offices and shop stock. The top level was a bond store. In the warehouse area was a barrel store where we used to to fill customer's wicker covered ceramic 5 gallon jars with whisky, bourbon, rum or brandy from big, duty paid barrels.
One of the whiskies was Saccone & Speed Liqueur Cream which was an agency brand of Levin and Co. The Bourbon was Early Times, the brandy Gilsons and the rum Lemon Hart. Every wholesaler had their own agency brands and believed that their won ones were best so customers coming in to our store were poo poohed if they asked for Johnny Walker, Captain Morgan, Chatelle or Jim Beam. In fact, we only had token amounts of major competing brands on our shelves and often were kept under the counter.

Liqueur Cream seemed to have a bit of a mystique to it. For a start the name suggested a scotch that was fuller, sweeter and richer than others and the label had a wonderful 'by appointment to' crest.
Saccone and Speed was a supplier to Britain's armed forces had a great tradition:

The Saccone & Speed (Gibraltar) Group of Companies can trace its roots to 1839, when James Speed started trading in Gibraltar as a wine merchant. Nearly a decade later, by 1850 Jerome Saccone had also established his own wines and spirits business. They competed with each other for the remainder of the century, and by 1908 the two rivals merged and incorporated in England as Jerome Saccone & James Speed & Co. Limited. In 1912 they changed the company name to Saccone & Speed Limited and when the Gibraltar Companies Ordinance permitted, they also incorporated Saccone & Speed Limited in Gibraltar in 1949.
From the very earliest days, the company's main commercial activities were the supply of beer, wines, spirits and tobacco principally to the Royal Navy and the large contingent of military personnel based on the Rock. The relationship with the Royal Navy led the company to open branches at naval ports and major Royal Naval bases in the Mediterranean as well as branches in Africa & the Far East. Saccone & Speed became a major supplier to the Diplomatic Corps in various countries, a role it played until the 1970's.

In the 1980s I was brand manager for Allied Liquor Merchants whisky brands (among others) and Saccone & Speed Liqueur Cream was one of them. We imported in bulk from Scotland and bottled at or bottling facility in Christchurch. It wasn't a big brand but had a loyal following by select consumers and a history of stocking by some good traditional retailers. This was at a time when wine and sprit merchants were still in ascendancy, supermarkets didn't sell wine or beer, wine shops scarcely existed and there certainly wasn't the plethora of small local (and crappy) liquor stores in every suburb. Successive changes to the Sale of Liquor laws would soon make a change to that. I oversaw bulk ordering and production and managed the brand with a small advertising budget.

There was a small sub-distributor of Liqueur Cream based in Dunedin. It was Meenan's Wines and Spirits owned at the time by Herman Eckhoff. Although small this business dominated the Dunedin and Otago market as a result of the power that independent wholesalers had during the 50s, 60s and 70s. Saccone & Speed (S&S) had allowed Meenan's to import their own bulk Liqueur Cream whisky and to bottle it themselves but Allied Liquor Merchants (ALM) received a commission from S & S. In 1985 this was to change as S & S wanted to consolidate the business with one importer only - ALM. S & S's export director came to visit and he and I travelled to Dunedin to give Herman Eckhoff the news. I remember the director being nervous as Eckhoff had a fierce reputation. As expected the meeting went poorly and Eckhoff ordered us out - not only from his store but from Dunedin itself. It was funny and  like being run out of town by the town sheriff in an old Western.

Well, we left and subsequently took over all of the distribution but I think that S & S did a patch up deal with Meenans.

The brand ticked along for a while but then we acquired bigger brands like Teachers and Johnny Walker so Liqueur Cream was eventually phased out.

Tempora mutantur.