Remembering Wince Worthman — the man who brought Lamb's to Newfoundland

You know the taste and the smell, but do you know the history? Wince Worthman was a distillery rep credited with sparking the province's love of Lamb's.

Lamb's has become the most popular rum in the province, by a long shot

Wince Worthman died last month at the age of 74. He was well-known in the liquor industry for the success of Lamb's rum. (Submitted/CBC)

Newfoundland and Labrador may be the only place on Earth where you'll hear more about lambs in your local watering hole than in a nursery rhyme about a woman named Mary.

For decades, Lamb's Rum has been the drink of choice for people in the province — currently holding 51 per cent of all rum sales by the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation.

And while some folks may have raised a glass for Wince Worthman's passing last month, many patrons and purchasers with a taste for Palm Breeze might not know how he was responsible for bringing the rum to Newfoundland more than 30 years ago.

John (Bull) Cook remembers him well.

"It was when we opened the Sundance in 1986, I think it was," recalls Cook, a longtime fixture in the St. John's bar scene. "He came in and he represented Lamb's … It didn't mean much to us at the time."

Wince Worthman is credited by some for starting the success of Lamb's rum in Newfoundland and Labrador. (Submitted)

But the meaning would become clear in the months after the visit from Worthman, who worked for Corby Spirit and Wine through the 1980s and '90s.

Soon, Cook's bars — which included Big Ben's, Sundance, the Cock and Bull, and more — couldn't keep up with the demand.

"And of course, Lamb's took off," he said. "Everybody was just amazed, in a sense, and still today. It's an amazing product that's done really well."

Last year, the NLC sold about 100,000 cases of Lamb's in its stores around the province. That number represents 23 per cent of all spirits sales, and a whopping 11 per cent of all total sales.

Consider that for a moment — when you combine every brand of beer, rum, vodka and wine that is sold, Lamb's still accounts for 11 per cent of total sales.

And with that demand for sales comes a propensity for five-fingered discounts.

Bottles of Lamb's were stolen from NLC stores twice as much as its nearest competitor in 2016. In total, 61 bottles of Lamb's snuck out the doors, while Iceberg was second-most with 31 bottles looted.

Caring for the customers

Cook said Worthman built up the brand, spreading it around by "taking care of the common man."

"He took care of the fishermen, is what someone said one day. He was out around the bay and all that kind of stuff, and he had his little flask or whatever. He'd drop them off to the people and it just snowballed, there's no doubt about it.

"It's phenomenal, and it's the only province in Canada really that [sells] that volume in Lamb's that they do here. You go in the liquor store and the first thing that hits you is this massive display of Lamb's."

Worthman died Feb. 11, leaving to mourn his wife and two children.

With files from St. John's Morning Show