In Blue Spirits:
A Brief History
• 1890: Around this time, the violet-tinted and
-flavoured liqueur Crème Yvette debuts in the U.S.
• 1916: The Aviation cocktail, tinted sky-blue by two
dashes of crème de violette, is invented by bartender
Hugo Ensslin at the Hotel Wallick in New York.
Cocktails like the Blue Moon follow.
• 1920s: The first written references appear to blue
versions of Curaçao, an orange-flavoured cocktail
liqueur enhanced with artificial blue colouring.
Cocktails such as the Blue Lady and Darlington (1937),
Blue Hawaii (1957) and Blue Lagoon (1960s) follow.
• 1987: Bombay Sapphire Gin debuts; the bottle is blue,
but the gin is not.
• 2008: Pale blue-coloured the London No. 1 gin (which
does not have colour-changing properties) debuts.
• 2013: Husk Distillers begins experimenting with
butterfly pea flower and trademarks the brand name
and logo of Ink Gin in Australia (and later, in “most
OECD Organisation for Economic Co-operation
and Development countries,” said CEO and founder
• 2015: In April, Portugese Sharish Blue Magic Gin
debuts, according to founder Antonio Cuco, who
points to its Facebook page timeline as proof. “Indeed
we where sic the first company using butterfly pea
flower in the world as coloring agent in gin,” he said
§ In July, Australian Ink Gin debuts.
§ Also in July, the b’Lure cocktail tincture, a
concentrate of butterfly pea flower, debuts at
the Tales of the Cocktail conference in New
Orleans, La., in a mojito chilled with a blue b’Lure
ice cube, which changed the drink to a violet
colour as it melted. Australian makers The Wild
Hibiscus Flower Company calls it the world’s first
commercial butterfly pea flower extract.
• 2017: In June, Empress 1908 Gin from Victoria Distillers
debuts. In the same month, Six Dogs in South Africa
debuts its Blue Gin.
“Next, will someone say I can’t make clear vodka or brown
whisky?” said Tyler Dyck, CEO of Vernon, B.C.-based Okanagan
Spirits and president of the Craft Distillers Guild of British
Columbia. “I just don’t know where it ends.”
Michael Pizzitelli, owner and head distiller at Arbutus
Distillery said, “Empress Gin has traditionally been really purple
coloured. I don’t even see that Victoria Distillers have been
typically using the term ‘blue gin.’ It’s been called ‘original indigo,’
then ‘jewel tone,’ now it’s ‘blue-coloured’ ... I mean, what colour is
it?” and points out that Canada’s blue gins look and taste “radically
different” from each other.
Some speculate that the Victoria Distillers letter could
amount to little more than a scare tactic for small distillers, many
of whom ferment and distill their spirits on site in labour-intensive,
expensive processes and don’t have budgets for legal counsel.
“Something like that could crush them very easily,” said
Pizzatelli. “If Victoria Distillers can get some of the smaller
distillers to stop making it and gain, say two per cent of market
share, that’s a win.”
As Francis Bluteau, co-founder of Montreal’s BluePearl
Distillery that makes BleuRoyal gin, said via email about receiving
Hunt’s letter: “I don’t have any specific comment to say about this
current situation ... I am sure you can understand, we have just
a small micro-distillery looking to make craft spirits and enjoy
“The real shame when companies engage in this unnecessarily
over-protectionist behaviour and try to isolate themselves from
any competition is that ultimately it is the consumer that gets hurt
most.” said Dyck. “This behaviour decreases consumer choice in
the marketplace and stifles creativity and diversity.”
Not just intellectual property lawyers, but fans and producers
of blue gin – as well as producers of other beverage alcohol with
distinctive colours – may watch closely to see if the precedent on
trademarking colour is changing as rapidly as the hue of butterfly
pea flower gin transforms in the glass.
As this is a new area of
trademark law, there is
no precedent yet, and
many applications for
trademarks are pending
in a process that can take
18 months to two years.
F E AT U R E
FALL 2020 § POURED CANADA § 27