Spirited Trade

Tales and Treasures from the rich legacy of the Hudson’s Bay Company.

Written by Beverley Tallon

Posted March 5, 2013

The Hudson’s Bay Company has been selling alcoholic spirits since its inception.

Giving alcohol to Indigenous people was frowned upon. In 1713, head office stated, “Trade as little brandy as possible … it has destroyed several of them.” Despite this, alcohol was always an important part of the fur exchange ceremony.

By the 1730s, the company started producing its own “English” brandy –– a gin coloured with iodine or tobacco. By the mid-nineteenth century, the spirits had improved in quality and were a popular sales item.

A wholesale division was established in 1907, and an HBC private brand of premium scotch, “Best Procurable,” was produced.

In 1987, Hudson’s Bay Distillers was sold to Seagrams.

This article originally appeared in the February-March 2013 issue of Canada’s History magazine.

This article is also offered in French

Related to Fur Trade