Lesson #15: Screech

Newfoundland screech, not the Saved by the Bell character. Just so we’re clear. And lest you think from my previous post about the towns of Fogo, Twillingate, Moreton’s Harbour and Bonavista and my undying love for Great Big Sea that I’m secretly a Newfie, you are mistaken.

Also, no apologies for the lack of post yesterday. It was a family affair…cousins in from Vancouver and Montreal, aunt and uncle in from Kingston, grandparents in from Toronto, my brother and sister-in-law in from Boston…there was a lot going on. Whatever I learned has since slipped my mind.

Back to the screech…you know, because family gatherings almost certainly require booze.

Newfoundland screech was — before it fell subject to the liquor control board regulations — a version of overproofed rum that was made from reusing the rum/molasses casks brought back from the West Indies back in the days when the triangle trade was in full swing and salt cod was a major export for the province*. The casks built up a sweet residue which was dissolved into with water and then either fermented or mixed with grain alcohol. “Screech” as it exists under the control of the liquor control people can be bought throughout Canada (and according to Wikipedia in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont), but it is likely that most anyone who has ever had real screech (of not-so-legal variety) would find calling that which can be bought in liquor stores by the same name preposterous.**

The story behind why this not-so-much-legal rum was called screech is urban myth at its finest involving Americans (which figures) trying to knock back some booze like their Newfie hosts and failing (unsurprisingly) at sucking back overproofed, less-than-legal rum like they’d been drinking it all their lives, but the why falls outside of my interest, to be honest, so you can read about the tender guts of American sailors — if you want to believe that — here if you’d like.

*At the time, Newfoundland was a colony, not a province.

**More information here and here.

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