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Origin Stories: The Inspiration for Spume Cola
By Jonathan Leigh
Among Spume fans, few things set fire to a room faster than the question, “What caused Spume Cola to be created in the first place?” When I first posed the question on a Spume ProBoards fan forum, the tense atmosphere reminded me of my childhood as an evangelical Christian. It was as if I’d asked whether Adam and Eve had actually happened, and in some ways, I’d done exactly that. While I hadn’t questioned the validity of Spume’s existence, I had questioned the mythos surrounding it, and for fans, that’s the same thing.
A disclaimer: My personal experience as a child does not reflect Christianity as a whole.
Spume as a brand consistently represents values that are difficult to come by in a post-Berlin-Wall-fall world, one where Y2K looms imminent over the horizon, sucking us dry. Over the decades it has repeatedly stood at the edge of what is possible. From the low-key, non-monetary “artistic sponsorship” of Stanley Kubrick during 2001: A Space Odyssey and Eyes Wide Shut to Spume’s infamous “Laser Festival” two years ago, it’s a company that prides intellectual stimulation and transparency over widespread popularity. In fact, those stick-to-your-guns moments are where Spume’s mass popularity comes from.
Yet the most daring move came at Spume’s beginning. Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated shortly after Henry Spumenson started the company, and in the face of a massive war, Spumenson still decided to use his metal (and his mettle) to manufacture soda cans and the drinks inside of them. By most historical accounts, he chose his vision over the war machine. That legacy remains to this day. But what legacy is it? Specifically, where did it start?
And so, the heated debates, the comment-section flame wars, begin.
In his later years, Henry Spume claimed to have taken heavy inspiration from wine, specifically the Vin Jaune from the Jura, France. “Enjoying its seawater-cider vinegar profile, I thought, ‘this unusual complexity of flavors, I need to bring this to the American public,” he remarked in the 1991 ABC News interview just before his death. “I consider Spume Cola a public service.”
Some fans argue that this contradicts his statements in the May 1966 New York Times article, that “Spume’s inception was, in part, the result of my childhood by the sea, drinking great mouthfuls of seawater and swallowing the grit. I believe it is what’s contributed most to my longevity.” But others, including myself, would argue that there’s nothing about these statements that is mutually exclusive. A man can enjoy a childhood seaside, gulping down brackish water, while also enjoying the taste of fine wine years later.
And, for the record, the wine analogy is more apt than it may seem. Many people have credited Spume’s unexpected success with it’s “unusual complexity of flavors.” Here I think of wine critic Matt Kramer’s words: “‘Good’ exists independently of one’s personal preference.” Indeed, Jamie Goode of The Science of Wine, a writer whose work I encountered through my friend, journalist Bianca Bosker, asserts that wine quality “is something ‘outside of ourselves.’ In wine appreciation, we are effectively tapping into an aesthetic system or culture that is outside our own biological preferences.” Whether Spume has ever been enjoyable isn’t relevant, because not only is there nothing else like it, but it is unequivocally “good” according to the standards of wine critics across the globe. While many accused famed expert Leonard Diglibson’s 9.6/10 rating in 1987 to be a Spume PR stunt, I, and many other fans alongside me, firmly believe that it stands as a testament to Spume Cola’s unshakable quality.
Spume Cola is unique, inimitable, and exceptional. And as a landlocked Kansas kid, nothing made me feel closer to the ocean.
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