Niagara Gazette

February 16, 2013

LETTERS FROM THE ISLAND: Watering down the truth serum

By Doug and Polly Smith
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Dear Mainland Sippers — Keep this quiet, but Doug has a little drink every night before lights out. His doctor recommends it. Practically urges it. Doug wishes he could claim it as a medical expense but Dr. Feelgood won’t write a prescription.

Doug prefers Old Saddlesoap, in a big-bottomed bottle with a long neck and a waxy red seal. Polly likes the aroma but wouldn’t touch a drop even if it fell on one of her romance novels. It packs a bit more lather than most of its peers, 90 proof, which in the weird science of hard liquor means it’s 45 percent alcohol by volume. It doesn’t take much to propel Doug into the land of dreams, most of which involve missing a Gazette deadline.

The year we drove Route 62 (2,163 miles, Niagara Falls to El Paso), we stumbled upon the distillery in Kentucky. We didn’t stumble out, but we did get to inhale and Doug wax-dipped a bottle of his own. Old Saddlesoap officially lists him as an “Ambassador.”

Last Saturday night, “Ambassador Doug” received a communique from Saddlesoap headquarters informing him that because supplies were running low, they planned to add water, reducing the volume of alcohol in the formula “by 3 percent.”

Doug was outraged. This is enough to make him switch back to Tennessee Tar. The change in the formula was bad enough (can you say “New Coke?”), but the real insult was to the intelligence of anyone who hadn’t just consumed a quart.

The rationale surely took its inspiration from James Carville, notorious Saddlesoap consumer and creator of Original Spin (“Look what you get when you drag a $100 bill through a trailer park …”)

• That reduction “by 3 percent”? Guess again. Old Saddlesoap will temper its “kick” from 45 to 42. That’s not 3 percent, that’s nearly 7.

• Short supplies? Then why do Wedge Liquors and other outlets so frequently make markdowns (that’s a hint towards Old Saddlesoap’s real identity) so steep that it’s almost cheaper than premium gasoline …

• Won’t change the taste? As one Gotham bartender observed, “If I put a shot of water in every beer glass so that my kegs lasted longer, people would notice …”

• And one of the honchos declared “We were never wedded to 90 proof, and a higher proof smothers the taste.” So why did you introduce an even higher-proof, higher-priced Super Saddlesoap two years ago, and if you’ve got to water something down to stay in business, why not start with that?

The world will little note nor long remember the day Old Saddlesoap failed to come clean. But it’s the worst affront to our intelligence since the Thruway Authority said it would improve our service by closing down the Grand Island office.

Come visit. We’re buying while our supply lasts …

Polly and DougE-mail