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Join the Club: the Story of Hiram Walker's Famous Whisky

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I've been a Scotch Whisky aficionado for a few years now, and if someone offers me a nice bourbon, well, don't mind if I do. But until recently, I didn't know much of anything about Canadian whisky -- until I was able to get my hands on a fancypants limited edition bottle of Canadian Club 30-year-old. Turns out 2008 was the company's 150th anniversary, so in commemoration they made 3,000 bottles of this smooth-drinkin' stuff (I got hand-numbered bottle number 93). I can't speak for the lower-shelf versions except to say that it seems to be the drink of choice for most of the characters in Mad Men, James Bond when he wasn't sipping martinis (it's featured in Dr. No and The Spy Who Loved Me), and Nick Nolte and James Coburn in Affliction (check out this hard-to-watch clip, in which Nolte uses a mouthful of the Club as a folk anesthetic before performing a little oral surgery on himself, then sits down to share a glass with his father -- very touching).

180px-Hwalkerpic.jpgWhat's more, CC has a fascinating history. Hiram Walker was a grocer and distiller who founded the distillery in 1858 under his own name, selling it as Hiram Walker's Club Whiskey. He owned land on either side of the Detroit River, but decided to build his distillery on the Canadian side, in what would come to be called Walkerville, the town that grew up around -- and was dependent upon -- his business. Walker planned out his town and exercised profound control over it, to the extent that when the local minister began preaching against "the evils of alcohol," Walker had him replaced. (Walkerville would later be incorporated into the city of Windsor, but for a time, Hiram Walker was essentially the king of his own town.)

Walker's competitors tried to use the fact that his company was located in Canada against him; when Walker's Club became popular, they forced the passage of a law requiring foreign whiskeys to state their country of origin on the label -- which is how Walker's Club became Canadian Club. But this change didn't hurt Walker's sales at all -- in fact, it boosted them -- and when another law was passed a few years later mandating that whisky labels include maturation time, it helped his sales even more.

(Most bourbons and American rye whiskeys at that time were matured for a year or less, whereas Walker's was aged in oak barrels for at least five.)

AlCaponemugshotCPD.jpgCanadian Club's popularity attracted some famous fans -- among them Queen Victoria -- and some infamous ones as well, like Al Capone. When Prohibition became the law of the land in the U.S. in 1920, Capone reputedly became one of the distilleries most important clients, bootlegging massive amounts of the stuff across the American border. It was rumored to have been among his favorite tipples.

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25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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How Urban Legends Like 'The Licked Hand' Are Born
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If you compare the scary stories you heard as a kid with those of your friends—even those who grew up across the country from you—you’ll probably hear some familiar tales. Maybe you tried to summon Bloody Mary by chanting her name in front of the mirror three times in a dark bathroom. Maybe you learned never to wonder what’s under a woman’s neck ribbon. Maybe you heard the one about the girl who feels her dog lick her hand in the middle of the night, only to wake up to find him hanging dead from the shower nozzle, the words “humans can lick too” written on the wall in the dog’s blood.

These ubiquitous, spooky folk tales exist everywhere, and a lot of them take surprisingly similar forms. How does a single story like the one often called “Humans Can Lick Too” or "The Licked Hand" make its way into every slumber party in America? Thrillist recently investigated the question with a few experts, finding that most of these stories have very deep roots.

In the case of The Licked Hand, its origins go back more than a century. In the 1990s, Snopes found that a similar motif dates back to an Englishman’s diary entry from 1871. In it, the diary keeper, Dearman Birchall, retold a story he heard at a party of a man whose wife woke him up in the middle of the night, urging him to go investigate what sounded like burglars in their home. He told his wife that it was only the dog, reaching out his hand. He felt the dog lick his hand … but in the morning, all his valuables were gone: He had clearly been robbed.

A similar theme shows up in the short story “The Diary of Mr. Poynter,” published in 1919 by M.R. James. In it, a character dozes off in an armchair, and thinks that he is petting his dog. It turns out, it’s some kind of hairy human figure that he flees from. The story seems to have evolved from there into its presently popular form, picking up steam in the 1960s. As with any folk tale, its exact form changes depending on the teller: sometimes the main character is an old lady, other times it’s a young girl.

You’ll probably hear these stories in the context of happening to a “friend of a friend,” making you more likely to believe the tale. It practically happened to someone you know! Kind of! The setting, too, is probably somewhere nearby. It might be in your neighborhood, or down by the local railroad tracks.

Thrillist spoke to Dr. Joseph Stubbersfield, a researcher in the UK who studies urban legends, who says the kind of stories that spread widely contain both social information and emotional resonance. Meaning they contain a message—you never know who’s lurking in your house—and are evocative.

If something is super scary or gross, you want to share it. Stories tend to warn against something: A study of English-language urban legends circulating online found that most warned listeners about the hazards of life (poisonous plants, dangerous animals, dangerous humans) rather than any kind of opportunities. We like to warn each other of the dangers that could be lurking around every corner, which makes sense considering our proven propensity to focus on and learn from negative information. And yes, that means telling each other to watch out for who’s licking our hands in the middle of the night.

Just something to keep in mind as you eagerly await Jezebel’s annual scary story contest.

[h/t Thrillist]

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