A party of forgotten alcohol brands.

A party of “mostly” forgotten alcohol brands.

I f we had a dime for every time we´ve come across some local tour enterprise offering foreigners the chance to sample the infamous rotten shark and to kill the taste with a drink of the even more infamous Black Death spirit, we´d be right up there in Silicon Valley doing some Jeff Bezos shit.

Instead, we´re stuck in Iceland compelled to telling you the truth. There is no such thing as Black Death spirit and there has not been for years and years.

The endless success of the Black Death brand really should be a lesson in 101 marketing. Especially since Black Death was never marketed at all. Just the name was enough for it to catch fire and live as long as it has. The brand that is, not the company.

The story, in the internet-short-attention-span-style-of-things, goes like this: Icelander abroad had the great idea to make Icelandic aquavit and sell abroad. How to sell something old and worn in brand new packaging in a market dominated by seriously big players? How about labeling it with a scary grinning scull and naming it Black Death? Sounds like a plan.

For awhile things went beautifully. Black Death sounds cool although there is nothing cool about the approximately 200 MILLION peoples that actually died in Europe from the black death plague in the twelfth century.

But hey, who cares. New fancy product with a fancy name and skulls is a recipe for success. It helped to advertise that Black Death was the drink of choice in faraway Iceland where every man and woman was beautiful and lived forever.

A few years after having tried to market Black Death in various places in Europe the Icelander in question came home. At first, all fire and steam about the success of Black Death and this in the non-internet age where no one could verify anything. But the steam soon evaporated faster than a raindrop in hell. After having limited success selling Black Death in Iceland itself, the company went belly up. Turned out, Black death, wasn´t a lively concept. Which explains why you cannot buy Black Death anywhere except from collectors today.

But why would you want to own a bottle of what is 99.9% Brennivín or basic Nordic aquavit with different markings? Because that is what Black Death was and also what the old Iceland spirit Brennivín, that potato-mashed disgusting spirit you now get instead of Black Death, is when it all boils down. Hell, aquavit is so easy to make you can do it blindfolded in your garage. For the label, just design something bloody and awful, press print, throw a party and brag about that “hard-to-get” Black Death from the land of ice and fire. How it cost you 900$ a bottle on eBay.

Or don´t. Better to be a real person and tell no lies. If you need to brag to your friends, you don´t really have any friends.