“Screech Rum”? Sounds like a joke or a spoof, right? But there really is such a thing as Screech Rum. Honest!. I first ran across Screech rum on a trip to Nova Scotia back around 1975 or so.
Rum has always been my drink of choice for as long as I can remember, I've tried many kinds of alcohol over the years. I've given honest tries of weeks at a time to sour mash whiskey, scotch whiskey, blended whiskey, and Canadian whiskey. I even got on a gin kick for a while when living in south Florida in the 'seventies - gin and tonic, supposedly a good hot weather drink you know. I've only had tequila and vodka a few times and did not enjoy those at all. Hell, if I wanted to drink something tasting exactly like medicine, why not just do myself some good and drink real medicine? At the price of some tequilas, the medicine might even be cheaper!
Don't get me wrong though - these days I limit my alcohol intake to about two ounces a week - one good stiff rum drink on Friday nights, so a bottle of rum can last me a good long while. Sometimes I do cheat a little though, by putting a couple tablespoons of dark rum over a dish of ice cream. Try that, you'll love it!
Anyway, no matter what I have tried over the years, sooner or later I always returned to rum. So when I stopped in a liquor store in Nova Scotia I went directly to the rum shelf. There I noticed a bottle with the Screech label. In fact, there were quite a few bottles of Screech rum there. And of course I bought a bottle, just for the notoriety of the name if nothing else. I found Screech to be an OK rum, but on the rough side and not up to the standards I really enjoy, like Mount Gay or Pussers. Those can be a little pricey though, so I usually just go for Bacardi or something similar so long as it is a good, dark rum, the blacker the better for me. These days I'm partial to 'Flora de Cana' from Nicaragua, which is a moderately priced, but a good dark and flavorful rum.
Screech is a quite a bit rougher or 'greener' tasting rum than most (see below!), so once I emptied that first bottle, I began pouring other kinds of rum into the empty bottle just to have fun with guests to my house. I was probably responsible for boosting the sales of Screech rum for a while there, but I no longer have that bottle these days. Next time I'm in Nova Scotia or Newfoundland I plan to rectify that! I have two nieces living in St. Johns, NS, so that's reason enough for a visit right there.
Here's the explanation of how the Screech name came to be from the folks who sell it, the Newfoundland Liquor Corporation itself:
"Before liquor boards were created, Jamaican rum was a popular part of a Newfoundlander's diet, when salt fish was traded in exchange for rum. When the Government took control of the liquor business, it began selling the rum in unlabelled bottles. The product remained nameless until American servicemen came to the Island during World War II.
The commanding officer of the original detachment was having his first taste. The Newfoundlander downed his drink in one gulp, so the American did the same. The American’s blood-curdling scream attracted a lot of attention. An American sergeant who heard the sound from outside pounded his fist on the door and demanded to know, “What the cripes was that ungodly screech?”
The Newfoundlander replied in true Newfie form, “Da Screech? ’Tis the rum, me son.” As all embarrassing moments do, the incident spread, and the soldiers were determined to try this mysterious “Screech” to see what the fuss was all about. The drink was soon their favorite.
The Newfoundland Liquor Board soon adopted the name and began labeling the dark rum Newfoundland Screech."
Which leads me to a story by a friend of mine who was famous for his stories, an unreconstructed Mainer and lobsterman from Matinicus Island, Maine. He's gone on now to those greater lobster grounds in the sky, but his story lives on in his very own words, as I remember them here:
“Now Screech Rum is some more mighty powahful stuff. I 'membah one time when I got me a bottle of Screech Rum from Newfoundland - 'smattah of fact, I weah IN Newfoundland at the time.”
“Wal', I downed 'bout three quahtahs of that theah bottle - which was one a them dammed Impeahrial quaahts ya know, and went out a-prowlin' on the town - St. Johns ya know. An' I stumbled inta this wataahfront baah. I threw me money down an' ordahed drinks on da house. 'Tweahn't long afoah this good lookin' babe comes up and gets really friendly wit’ me - and' I do mean FRIENDLY. An', I'm heah ta tell ya she weaah some whole lotta, big lotta woman that one. An’ she weaah the prettiest woman I evaah sawr. She weaah prettiaah than any wondahfuliest movie staah I thought."
“Whoo Boy! Didn't we paahty down though son, an' BIG TIME! We painted that theah St. Johns bright red wit yellah polka dots. Whoo-ee! Got almighty that woman weaah a hootah though! She matched me drink foah drink and we even hadda go get some moah Screech afoaah long! An' Hell, I don't know how, but aftah that she seemed to get just prettiaah an' even prettiaah!”
“We paahtied heahty all night long until we hadda fall down inta da bed. Next moanin' I woke up wit’ one big godawful headache an' a-smellin' some unholy an' godawful badly - but, I looked up, an' theah weaah me beauty a-sittin' on da windah sill, a-smilin,' a-sippin' on Screech an' a-smokin a big ol' dog tuuhd cigaah! GOT ALMIGHTY DAMN!”
“I seen bettah lookin'’ wimmen at th’ undahrtakah's aftah an eighteen-wheeler wreck!”