Screech: It wasn't just for Newfoundlanders anymore

As of 1979, the Newfoundland liquor corporation exported the homegrown rum known as Screech to all ten provinces, and had their eyes on international markets.

Screech, the Newfoundland rum, becomes available across Canada

42 years ago
You don't have to visit Newfoundland to try the province's potent spirit. 1:43

Sure, it's made in Jamaica. But once it gets bottled, Screech is a product that Newfoundland proudly calls its own. 

The specialty rum is an essential part of the "screech-in," a ceremony in which visitors, or come from aways, are made honorary Newfoundlanders. 

It involves kissing a cod and drinking a shot of the province's own alcoholic spirit. 

And Screech wasn't available anywhere else until 1979.

"The holiday season is an excellent opportunity to try 6 new ways to serve Newfoundland's favourite rum," said a Screech advertising poster in 1980. (The National/CBC Archives)

"As of this fall, Screech became available in all 10 provinces," said CBC reporter John McQuaker on New Year's Day in 1980.

Air Canada was going to carry the specialty rum on its flights, too.

The Newfoundland Liquor Corporation projected cross-Canada sales of 10,000 cases in 1980, and double that the next year.

Both figures were paltry compared with how much of the booze was bought in its place of origin.

"That compares with the 50,000 it sells inside the province every year," said McQuaker.

Screech was rum that was imported from Jamaica, then bottled in Newfoundland. (The National/CBC Archives)

NLC President George Sorensen said 20,000 cases across Canada wasn't much.

"But as it relates to the production in our plant, it's significant," he said.

George Sorensen, President of the Newfoundland Liquor Corporation, said exporting Screech made the bottling plant more profitable. (The National/CBC Archives)

And the NLC wasn't satisfied to reach just the Canadian market.

"Screech will be test-marketed in the United Kingdom this summer," said McQuaker, adding that the Newfoundlander expatriate hotbed of Boston would be next.

At 40 per cent alcohol by volume, Screech wasn't as strong as it used to be, said the reporter.

"And it's still extremely popular," said McQuaker. "The Newfoundland Liquor Corporation sold 25,000 cases of miniatures in just six weeks this past summer."