Left. the classic shape that proves the Bru‘sthe real thing.
Inset right. Adam Brown at Shotts. star athlete ot his day. adorned the first ‘Brew‘ in 1901.
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Mr Barr sympathises: ‘The best quality Irn Bru comes in bottles without a doubt.‘There is nothing mystical about this however. ‘it is simply that glass is the best container for soft drinks and does not impart any taste to the contents.‘ so that what comes out is pure unadulterated Bru.
I put it to him that some other kinds of Bru were tainted by being made in England and were easily identified by the true connoisseur. This. apparently. is nonsense. ‘All the basic compound is mixed by myself or my cousin. all that is done elsewhere is adding water.‘
I persisted ‘But doesn‘t the water make a difference'." ‘That makes no difference at all. Anyone who claims to be able to tell English Irn Bru either has a palate in a million. or is having you on.‘ I did not like to say that I fancied I had this ability. sol changed the subject.
Barr‘s have been fortunate in their marketing of Irn Bru in that they have not one. but two wildly successful catchphrascs: 'made in Scotland — from girders‘ and ‘your other national drink.’ These. Mr Barr is ashamed to admit. were invented by ad-agencies South of the Border. ‘It‘s a case ofthem being able to see better from a distance. Perhaps we are too close to it. and can’t see the wood for the trees. as it were.‘
The posters advertising Irn Bru as being ‘made from girders' have won several advertising awards. but such is the advertising world. that by the time the awards were made. the man responsible for the ads had moved to another agency. Barr‘s will be starting a new advertising campaign this year. but will be sticking to the slogans we know and love. because. ‘we don’t think any other ones could be any better.“
Those amongst us who can remember the days ofsuch things as Jimmy Logan’s ‘lovely. lovely biscuits‘ may remember Ba Bru. the small coloured boy who used to advertise Irn Bru alongside his pal. Sandy. It has always been my understanding that he was phased out due to increasing criticisms of media racism which led to the demise of Robertson‘s Golliwog.
"There was never any question of any kind of race thing. He was supposed to represent the countries from which Barr’s got the fruits to ﬂavour their drinks. Ba Bru. in fact. was taken from Kipling's Sabu. the elephant boy. We started to phase him out in the sixties. when. with the advent of television advertising. we thought he was getting a bit limited. We never intended any disrespect to coloured people - he was just a friendly little Character. With hindsight though. we are glad that we took him away before the fuss about Robertson‘s Golly.‘ Ba Bru has not been used since 1970. apart from the sign above Glasgow Central Station which. more‘s the pity. was replaced in 1983 because of its dilapidated condition.
All this history does not mean that Barr‘s have failed to move with the times. Last summer they introduced a low calorie version of Irn Bru.
While this may have offended the purists. Mr Barr says that the public are ‘responding very well'. I wondered if this was a deliberate attempt to cash in on the recent health boom. but I was told that Barr‘s did. in fact. first introduce a low calorie Irn Bru. along with four other lines. in the mid-sixties before they were withdrawn due to the i artificial sweetener used. Apparently Barr‘s have nothing against healthier soft drinks. it is l simply that until recently there has not been a suitable ‘artificial‘ sweetener.
Not quite knowing how to broach the subject. but aware that I could not possibly avoid it. I asked Mr Barr what his feelings are about Irn Bru being regarded as a hangover cure. but Barr‘s do not see their creation as such. ‘There are three reasons why it could be seen as a hangover cure. Firstly it helps dehydration. which is the main cause of hangovers.
Secondly the carbonation “revives the faded stomach process“ which tea or coffee won‘t do. Third and most importantly. it has a clean. sharp taste which leaves on the palate. hopefully. an improvement
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on whatever was there before.’ It‘s fair to say that all this does not occur to anyone looking for instant relief the morning after a particularly heavy night. all they are concerned about is its efficacy — which is legend. From being the most seen bottle about town. whether accompanying a carry-out or a summer picnic. Irn Bru has branched out in recent years. Draught Bru has appeared in pubs and clubs. being particularly popular in student unions. It has been marketed as a mixer and is widely drunk with vodka. although most people disdain from asking for it by the ad-men’s invention. ‘vodka and girders‘. Late last year Barr‘s opened new production lines which enable Irn Bru to be produced at the staggering rate of2-l.()()() bottles per hour. They have also reached agreement for selling Irn Bruin the most likely ofplaces. such as Iraq. British Columbia. Kuwait and even California. Could Irn Bru eventually become as much a part of Californian lifestyle as surfboards. sun and film stars? Could it even replace Coke in American national affection? It‘s an intriguing prospect. (Graham Caldwell)
The List 10 — 23 January 5