Before I moved up here Bootlegging always had this glorious nostalgia attached to it.  Bootlegger was another great part time apirational title like commodore, auctioneer or aviator.  I spent a summer with Russo driving Three Floyds kegs from Indiana too Michigan avoiding annoying taxes and distribution laws.  I spent a further 5 years sneaking kegs (wich are illegal in Utah) from Wyoming to pious Salt Lake City, where every out of state trip had the added bonus of becoming a major liquor run.  Summers in basque France always included forays across the spanish border to buy absinthe and cheep duty free liquor.  We snuck a keg of Breakfast Stout into Canada for the Ratebeer Summer Gathering in Montreal.  Bootlegging was a title we used to justify the hours spent behind the wheel trying to skirt absurd liquor laws and taxes.  

Spanish Treasure

Spanish Treasure

Then I move to Alaska, where bootlegging isn’t some fancy title for long drives but a common occupation involving small planes.  Bootlegging was something I knew nothing about.  I got a chain e-mail at work the other day titled “you might be an Alaska pilot if….”  which included goodies like 

– You carry R&R on every outbound leg.

– You’ve ever been upset that you’re out of R&R.

– You’ve ever hidden anything from fish and game in the wings of your airplane.

– You’ve flown a long cross country at less then treetop level.

– You wonder why Fort Yukon needs over 10,000lbs of alcohol.

Over the 4th of July Jeffé and I camped in Anchor Point with our friends from Barrow, who were alive with weird northern stories of drinking $50 bottles of R&R and frequently talked about all the booze they planned to sneak back in their luggage.  

Today it seems the New York Times ran a story about bootlegging in rural Alaska.  It was picked up in the Anchorage Daily News and elsewhere, where I read it while wasting time at work.  Amidst the dross of the recent Alaskan themed news in the national press this article stood out and was very entertaining.  The best (other then the cheesy “as those around her scatter like shards from a dropped bottle”) quote-

By the way, a fifth of R&R — which stands for Rich & Rare, a highbrow name for a bottom-shelf blend — sells for $10 or so in Anchorage. But that same bottle can sell for as much as $300 in a dry village in the tundra, making R&R the bootlegger’s current alcohol of choice and the trooper’s alcohol of interest.

“Ninety-five percent of all bootlegged alcohol in the Bethel area is R&R, and because of that we tend to focus on it,” Mr. Carson says. But the brand is not for discriminating tastes, he adds. “Even the bootleggers don’t like it.”

When I read that quote aloud at work Tonya, my co-worker started laughing and said that was all her father ever drank, and that she didn’t like it either.  Before moving here my only encounter with R&R was in the backseat of a Ford SHO while in high school, the memory of which made me laugh as it became a regular fixture in my life upon moving here.  My question though, which no one has yet been able to answer, is why does R&R have such universal appeal in Alaska?  I get the plastic bottle thing, but being a fan of the bird whiskeys I’ve never really come around to R&R.  If someone could explain the R&R Alaska connection in the comments it would be greatly appreciated.

UPDATE: I just asked roommate and long time Alaskan Mikey the R&R question.  His response: “Have you ever drank any? It gets you fucked up”  That helps, but hopefully someone can elaborate further.