Whats in a name ? Part deux

Not such a ‘lucky bastard’: Saskatoon distillery fights feds over ‘scandalous’ trademark

Alex MacPherson, Postmedia News | December 11, 2015 11:44 AM ET
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GORD WALDNER/Saskatoon StarPhoenixLB Distillers co-owner Cary Bowman holds two bottles of Lucky Bastard vodka. The federal trademark office deemed the name "obscene" and "scandalous."

A Saskatoon company’s attempt to trademark its flagship vodka has turned into a four-year battle with the federal government over the definition of “bastard.”

In 2011, LB Distillers applied to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) to register “Lucky Bastard vodka” as a trademark. About eight months later, the agency responsible for trademarks, patents and copyright replied.

“The examiner came back and said it was immoral, scandalous and obscene, and that the general population of Canada would agree that it was an immoral name,” LB Distillers co-owner Cary Bowman said.

The micro-distillery’s appeal was rejected in 2012, but the company persisted, filing a separate application to register “Lucky Bastard.”

On Oct. 8, CIPO sent a letter to LB Distillers stating that it “does not appear registrable” because it violates the Canadian Trade-marks Act, which prohibits trademarks that include “any scandalous, obscene or immoral word or device.”

The letter includes an extract from the Collins English Dictionary defining “bastard” as “informal” and “offensive.”


CIPO objected based on the traditional definition of the word — a child born out of wedlock — and refused to acknowledge either that it is now common for unmarried people to have children, or the widely-accepted meaning of “Lucky Bastard,” Bowman said.

The name alludes to LB Distillers founders Michael Goldney and Lacey Crocker, who won a $14.6 million Lotto 6/49 jackpot in 2006.

Bowman is also concerned that the law is not being applied consistently.

A search of the trademark database reveals several containing the word “bastard” — including Fat Bastard wine, he noted. The situation amounts to one examiner applying his or her views to the process, he said.

“When it’s one person who’s deciding the fate of something like that, and they’re basing it maybe on their own morals as opposed to anybody else’s, and yet calling it everybody else’s, that’s quite unfair.”

The federal agency declined an interview request but provided an emailed statement.

When it’s one person who’s deciding the fate of something like that, and they’re basing it maybe on their own morals as opposed to anybody else’s, and yet calling it everybody else’s, that’s quite unfair

“Trade-mark examiners analyse (sic) the application and research the meanings of words comprising the mark. An objection is raised if the examiner considers that the trade-mark is not registrable,” the statement said.

“The examiner relied on the definition of the word bastard as found in the The Collins English Dictionary. Following written submission from the applicant, a subsequent report was issued on December 9, 2015 wherein the initial objection was maintained.”

The dispute has cost LB Distillers about $5,000 in legal fees, but the company plans to pursue the matter, Bowman said.

“Bastard” was for centuries a legal term related to the division of property between male children, according to the head of the University of Saskatchewan’s department of linguistics and religious studies.

The English-speaking world’s emphasis on marriage transformed “bastard” into an offensive term, one used to “express extreme emotion,” but changing values have tempered its meaning significantly, Veronika Makarova said.

“It’s still emotive, but it is on the verge of a boundary,” Makarova said. “‘Bastard’ is just a slightly more expressive version of (the) slang expression ‘dude.’ ”

This is not the first time the micro-distillery’s name has been rejected. In 2010, the company was forced to register as LB Distillers instead of Lucky Bastard Distillers.



Whats in a name?


Whats in a name?

Lucky Bastard Distillers denied trademark over 'obscene' name

Saskatoon distiller's 4-year attempt held up by federal government

CBC News Posted: Dec 11, 2015 11:03 AM CT Last Updated: Dec 11, 2015 6:24 PM CT

Lucky Bastard Distillers has been denied of registering a trademark for its name. (Victoria Dinh/CBC)

The federal government is halting a Saskatoon distiller's attempt to trademark its name.

'We think that anybody who drinks our vodka is a lucky bastard, and rightfully so.'- Cary Bowman, co-owner of Lucky Bastard Distillers

Lucky Bastard Distillers has been trying to trademark the company's name with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office since its inception in 2011, according to co-owner Cary Bowman.

Bowman said the micro-distillery has been denied over the word bastard.

"To us, it's a battle that we want to have. We want to win, because we need to protect our company and our brand," he said.

Under the CIPO guide to trademarks, the kinds of marks that are unacceptable include:

  • Names and surnames.
  • Clearly descriptive marks.
  • Deceptively misdescriptive marks.
  • Words that represent a geographical location commonly known to be the place of origin of such goods or services.
  • Words in other languages.
  • Words or designs that could be confused with a registered trademark or pending trademark.
  • Words or designs that look very similar to a prohibited mark.

When contacted by CBC News and asked about the decision to deny the trademark, CIPO spokeswoman Sabrina Foran said "an initial report was issued on Oct. 8, 2015, wherein the examiner raised an objection pursuant to paragraph 9(1)(j) of the [Trade-marks] Act. The examiner relied on the definition of the word bastard as found in the The Collins English Dictionary."

That section of the act, according to Foran, "prohibits the registration of a trademark that is scandalous, obscene or immoral. Trade-mark examiners analyse the application and research the meanings of words comprising the mark."

Bowman said a letter he received from CIPO in October raised the issue behind the definition of "bastard." By using the Collins English Dictionary, CIPO reasoned that the word meant either "an obnoxious or despicable person" or "a person of unmarried parents" or "an illegitimate baby, child, or adult."

Cary Bowman is the co-owner of Lucky Bastard Distillers. (Victoria Dinh/CBC)

Bowman disputes how his company is using the word bastard. "That's not the connotation that someone would say Lucky Bastard is."

Bowman said the usage of the word doesn't need to have negative connotations. "We think that anybody who drinks our vodka is a lucky bastard, and rightfully so."

There are currently trademarked names that include the word "bastard." When Bowman raised the issue, he was told it all comes down to where the application is examined.

He said the distillery has already spent about $5,000 on legal fees and is working on its third appeal of the rejection. For now, they'll have to stick with their registered name LB Distillers.

With files from CBC's Victoria Dinh




Gluten Free Insanity

As a craft distiller, I get asked a lot of questions. I love questions I can answer. So generally it works out well for me. In a previous career I was a physician and I still love the occasional medical question. However, one of my least favorite questions has to be “Are your products gluten free?” It’s not that the question is difficult to answer. All of our products are gluten free. What bothers me is that we shouldn’t have to answer the question. The answer should be easy.

But it’s not easy and I don’t blame the poor people who suffer from Celiac Disease. It’s not their fault. I don’t even blame those pursuing a gluten free diet just because it’s trendy. Hey, if it makes you feel better not consuming gluten, please go ahead and enjoy your gluten free lifestyle. I blame the unscrupulous marketers who slap the “gluten free” label on everything. This is what leads to mass confusion.

For those that don’t know, gluten is a protein composite found in wheat and other cereal grains. Like most proteins it does not tolerate added heat without denaturing and changing shape. So even though we are making alcohol from grains, I can say with certainty that there is no gluten when the alcohol comes off the still, not even a little bit. I am not alone in this conviction. According to the Canadian Celiac Association website:

Rye whisky, scotch whisky, gin, and vodka are distilled from a mash of fermented grains. Rum is distilled from sugar cane. Brandy is distilled from wine and bourbon is distilled from a grain mash including corn. Since the distillation process does not allow proteins to enter the final product, distilled alcohols are gluten free.

Even though it is chemically impossible for any gluten to survive the distillation process I will still hear objections from people who say that they got terribly sick from a grain based vodka. These people tend to be skeptical of my assertions and think it has to be the gluten. Well, you know what? I believe you that you had a very bad experience. Furthermore, I appreciate your skepticism. Skepticism should be admired in my opinion. I just don’t believe that it was the gluten that necessarily made you very ill. There are other reasons you may have been rendered ill. Alcohol is after all toxic. It is quickly converted to acetylaldehyde by your liver. Acetlyaldehyde is even more toxic than ethanol. Fortunately, most of the time, acetylaldehyde is quickly converted to acetic acid with the help of an enzyme called acetaldehyde dehydrogenase (ADH). However genetics are complicated. We inherit different genes for this and other enzymes. Even if we have the right genetic code we humans have variable expression of the ADH gene. The production of ADH can also be impaired by certain medications or getting older. All of which means that some people are prone to getting violently ill from alcohol. These people should avoid all alcohol. I don’t mean to suggest that every case of alcohol intolerance is from problems with ADH enzyme expression. I just want to point out that not every case of alcohol intolerance can be blamed on the evil that is gluten. You won’t hurt my feelings if you cannot drink alcohol. It’s okay. You’re probably still a great person.

So, it’s not the people who are skeptical of my assertion that our spirits have no gluten that bother me. I will respect their experiences and we can move on. What bothers me greatly is how it has become a marketing trend to label everything gluten free. If something never had cereal grains in it and never had the potential to have gluten, we shouldn’t have to declare it gluten free. I don’t have to declare our products cyanide free, or arsenic free, or Ebola free. So when I see a corn or rice based product labelled gluten free I want to lose it. When I see a wine or rum proudly declaring that it is gluten free, I actually physically shudder. It gets worse. Now the gluten free madness has extended to non-food items. I recently was shopping for oak barrels and saw that a company is actually advertising their barrels as gluten free! You can imagine my relief that finally we can secure a source of gluten free oak barrels (he typed sarcastically)!

You might tell me I am over reacting. Maybe I am. But at best the tactic is a cheap marketing gimmick and at worst it is taking advantaging and exploiting a very serious medical condition. Make no mistake that people actually suffer physical pain from gluten sensitivity. You also have to give me that it does create confusion. How can we expect people to know what gluten is if we haphazardly declare things gluten free! People must get confused.

There. I’ve finished my rant. I certainly feel better now. I’m going to get off my soap box and back to making some delicious gluten free spirits.



Chai Fizz

  • 2 parts Chai Vodka
  • 1 part Agave Nectar
  • 1 tap of meringue powder
  • 1 tbsp of fresh squeezed lemon juice

Combine above ingredients in your favourite cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously for at least 20 seconds. Pour into glass then top with Tonic Water. A beautiful foam layer should form. You can sprinkle the top with nutmeg, cinnamon sugar, or garnish with a star anise.


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Prairie Dog Post

Check out this post in the Prairie Dog by Paul Dechene


In Gin I Trust

Our father who art in Martini, juniper be thy name

by Paul Dechene


“Beloved, we join hands here to pray for gin. An aridity defiles us. Our innards thirst for the juice of juniper. Something must be done. The drought threatens to destroy us.”

That’s Wallace Thurman writing in Infants of Spring. And while his prayer to gin is part of a larger satire of the Harlem Renaissance, I invoke these words most earnestly now, during Saskatchewan’s terrible gin drought.

I’ve written routinely about the criminal paucity of juniperian choices in our Prairie liquor stores. It is a central theme of everything I’ve produced for these annual Drink! issue rituals. And I’d have given myself over to despair if Prairie Dog scribe John Cameron hadn’t introduced me to Gambit Gin by Saskatoon liquor wizards, LB Distillers. It’s smooth and refined with lively fruit notes.

The distillery’s website describes it as a “New Western Dry style” gin, a thing I’ve never heard of so I asked Cary Bowman, President of Good Times (he claims that’s his official title) what it means.

“[Our gin is] still based under the appellation of the London Dry but what we do is we pull back that juniper berry so it’s not the most dominant botanical,” says Bowman. “And juniper is that punch-you-in-the-face-with-a-pine-tree taste. It’s still there. It has to be there or it wouldn’t be gin. But we bring forward some more floral, citrus notes. So in our gin you’re going to find lots of saskatoon berry.

As far as we know we’re the only gin in the world that has saskatoon berries in it. Lots of lemon peel. Lots of camomile. It’s very floral, very citrus. Perfect for mixing in with a gin and tonic or any sort of cocktail,” he says.

LB also produces their Lucky Bastard Vodka, Knock On Wood rum and their own line of bitters (see sidebar).

As for what they have coming up, Bowman says that in September they’ll be releasing a spiced rum.

“This spiced rum will be completely different than any spiced rum you’ve had before,” says Bowman. “I can’t really mention the ingredient yet. It’ll be on the label and people will be like, ‘Oh my God, how has nobody thought of this before?’ But it’s crazy awesome.”

Everything’s Better With Bitters

When I first started seriously exploring the world of cocktails, say seven or eight years ago, bitters were not an easy thing to find. These are little herbal tinctures, a few drops of which are essential ingredients in many cocktails. Some grocery stores would carry Angostura bitters and a few barkeeps in town would mix up their own, but finding the peach or orange bitters that figured in many classic cocktail recipes was only possible through the internet.

According to Cary Bowman of LB Distillers in Saskatoon, there’s now a homegrown option available to local mixologists.

“We love cocktails and bitters are what we call the salt and pepper of cocktails,” says Bowman. “We’d order our different type of bitters online then one day we decided, well, all a bitters is high proof alcohol — which we make — a bunch of botanicals — which we have, thousands of different botanicals we have here from coming up with our gin recipe — so why don’t we come up with our own line of bitters?”

Currently, LB offers an Angostura-style bitters, an absinthe bitters and a bacon-flavoured bitters. And Bowman says they have a fourth style coming very soon.

“It’s more of a cherry bitters, so we use a carmine jewel. I think it’s aging for another month and then we’ll bottle it and package it and away we go.” /Paul Dechene


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Eat North post captures our philosophy

Eat North post captures our philosophy


Thanks for the love Craig Silliphant at Eat North. You tested positive for awesome.


Lucky Bastard Distillers: Saskatoon's micro distillery crafts big flavours

How flexibility gives the small operation an advantage over major distillers

by Craig Silliphant

May 6, 2014

While locality remains one of the most celebrated attributes in food and cocktails, co-owner (and "President of Vice") Michael Goldney of Saskatoon’s wildly successful LB Distillers (Lucky Bastard Distillers) -- founded in 2012 along with his wife Lacey Crocker and Cary Bowman -- prefers to take emphasis away from that aspect of the business.

“[Being distinguished for being local] is great, and we are definitely very grateful for the support,” Goldney says. “However, we are also very cognizant of the fact that being local isn't good enough. We recognize that everyone is local somewhere and really don't want people to buy [our product] just because we are local; we want them to buy from us because we are awesome.”

It’s because of this ambition that LB Distillers has enjoyed a meteoric rise to prominence in Saskatchewan, with its products found in over 190 offsales, restaurants and bars, and surpassing a million dollars in annual sales -- all before its second birthday.

“We've managed to grow rapidly without sacrificing quality and the things that make us special,” says Goldney.

It is exactly the quality he speaks of that has set LB apart. Even with carefully controlled growth, its small size gives it several distinct advantages.

“The fact that we are limited in the amount of spirits we can sell means that we can focus on making every drop of the spirit about flavour,” explains Goldney. “What a large producer would consider a significant decrease in productivity, we actually think is an important part of our process.”

For example, Lucky Bastard can sacrifice the alcohol yield by choosing premium malt over distiller’s malt. It can also let its fermentations go for two weeks, versus the industry standard of less than 60 hours.

“We do this because we want to capture the fruity ester notes that come with long fermentations,” Goldney says.

Another advantage of being a micro-distillery is its agility and that it can take chances with products that would be difficult for bigger operations.

“If we want to introduce a traditional spiced Ukrainian horilka or "new western dry gin", we can,” says Goldney. “Similarly, if we want to make a batch of sea buckthorn liqueur or haskap liqueur, we can. It would be difficult for a large distillery to obtain enough of these specialty fruits, and I suspect that they wouldn't take a chance on the very unique flavours that come from these specialty plants.”

Lucky Bastard is more than a bottle or a store; it’s an experience for its customers. It offers complimentary tastings and tours of the production area, so you can see the process for yourself and meet the people making the booze.

“We always say that if you’re proud of what you’re doing, you have no secrets,” quips Goldney.

This glasnost in the craft beverage industry was extremely helpful to the team at LB Distillers when they were learning their techniques: they toured over 30 micro-distilleries in Canada and the U.S. Some offered courses and workshops, and even those that didn't were passionate enough about what they did to share tips and answer questions.

“We also spent a great deal of time with Frank Deiter, the original master distiller from Okanagan Spirits,” says Goldney. “Frank set up our equipment and helped us tweak our original recipes.”

Not only is Goldney proud of his existing lineup -- anyone who has taken a sip of a cold gin and tonic made with LB’s Gambit Gin (and Fentimen’s Tonic) knows that they’re tasting a cocktail that could easily retail for $15.00 in an upscale lounge -- but LB continually has new products that he is thrilled about, like its Horilka Medova z. Pertsinka, a honey-peppered vodka, which was originally intended as a seasonal limited edition, but may be kept in regular production.

“Additionally, we are working on a barrel-aged gin that should be ready to bottle in June and I think it will make an amazing gin martini," says Goldney. "We continue to come up with new ideas and always have to reign in our plans. Really, that is one of the reasons I am super excited about the craft distilling scene and really do want to see more micro-distilleries open up in the province. I've come to the sad realization that I won't live long enough to make all the spirits I want to make.”