View Full Version : S.S. Pierce of Boston, MA

06-28-2010, 10:59
Just recently I was reading a memoir, posthumously published only last year, by Edith Parker, dealing principally with her relationship with the writer Jack Kerouac. They were married during the war when rationing was tight and luxuries few. They made a visit to a high-end grocer in Boston, therefore a notable occasion in such a time. It happened when the newlyweds were visiting Boston (from New York), which Kerouac had known earlier due to his service in the Merchant Marine. The grocer was called S.S. Pierce. (The Kerouacs split up not long after the war and he went on to write some well-known and influential books, including On The Road, in the course of a troubled and peripatetic life). When I saw that name, S.S. Pierce, it told me something I had long wondered, which is the origin of the bourbons and other liquors with that prefix. There are a number of references on the board to S.S. Pierce Bourbon, either in old ads or bottles that people found. I thought the name might be that of a luxury cruise liner (just as some bourbons were named for a railroad line), but it was not, it was the name of a noted provisioner of Boston which serviced the society and other high-end customers in that city and beyond. Wikipedia has a short piece on the founder, whence the name of the store. Wikipedia notes that it was sold in the early 1970's and I am not sure if a grocer still exists in Boston under that name. For those who know New York, it appears S.S. Pierce was the Zabar, or Dean and Delucca, of its day and in addition supplied quality wines and liquors.

We still do not know the ultimate origin of the Pierce bourbon and other liquors, probably they were sourced from multiple distilleries over time.


06-28-2010, 13:42
Interesting. It's easy when researching to get off on the wrong track by jumping to a conclusion, even if the inference seems good at the time. I'm sure most people assumed the "S. S." was some abbreviation in which the second word would be "ship." Also shows the benefits of general erudition. As usual, Gary sets a good example.

06-28-2010, 14:00
Thanks Chuck.

Wikipedia link:


The Edith Parker book:


06-28-2010, 14:12
Gary: I was surprised to learn from your post that S.S. Pierce was once a high-end grocer -- the brand lives on today as a bottommost-shelf label in the Boston area for all kinds of spirits.

A little more Googling discloses that "S.S. Pierce" as applied to liquor is a label owned by M.S. Walker, who is a major New England distributor.

If you've got $8.99 to spare, I think I can set you up with a liter(!) for a tasting!

06-28-2010, 15:01
New Hampshire lists the bourbon on its website. 8.99 per liter!


06-28-2010, 15:15
Thanks gents, I had no idea the brand still existed as a bourbon. . Yet S.S. Pierce in Boston was definitely a carriage trade operation. Perhaps as time went on, and as we have seen in other situations, the brands became converted to price brands.


06-28-2010, 23:13
Gee, 8.99 per liter sounds kind of expensive. Would this whisky be as good as the Crab Orchard mentioned in this advert? It's less . . .
:yum:I'm so tempted . . .