Stratford’s very own bard of butter tart vodka

So, there’s this Canadian guy. Perhaps you’ve heard of him? Last name Reynolds. Has his own line of booze for which he’s the pitchman, writing and starring in his own charmingly homespun ads.

He’s amassed a large following across social media platforms, which delights in his steady stream of oddball videos celebrating defunct Canadian retail outlets like Consumers Distributing (“If they’ve got it in the back, I can get anything”) and Zellers, while applauding his more earnest attempts at pressing addressing social issues like vaccine hesitancy (including this crafty little piece).

That’s right, it’s Stewart Reynolds, AKA “Brittlestar.” Who were you thinking of?

Actually, it’s funny you should mention that. Since at some point during the past remarkable year, Stewart Reynolds, a bespectacled everyman who’s dubbed himself “The internet’s favourite dad,” found himself thrust into the orbit of that other, more famous Reynolds.

“That’s one of the weird things that’s happened over the past year-and-a-half is that I got to know Ryan Reynolds,” says the Stratford, Ont. man, a prolific content creator who counts marketers, agency executives, and various authors, journalists and celebs from across Canada and the U.S.—including fellow Stratfordian Justin Bieber—among his followers.

The unexpected back-and-forth between the two started last year, when, out of the blue, Hollywood Reynolds started following Stratford Reynolds. “Hey, that’s kind of cool,” thought the latter, who promptly gave the Deadpool star turned booze baron turned agency executive a follow back.

As a creator himself, Brittlestar admired the Hollywood A-lister’s willingness to use his personal brand as a springboard to other ventures, while at the same time putting his own imprimatur on every project.

“I’m like a microscopic version of what he does, but… if you can create your brand and control what you’re doing, you can move into other things,” says Reynolds. “It’s saying ‘I like this stuff, so maybe you’ll like it too.'”

That has already led to the creation of a popular merchandise line called “Peace. Love. Canada.” And now there’s a new venture, indirectly inspired by Reynolds the celebrity, who sent him a case of his popular Aviation Gin brand last year. Not surprisingly, it became fodder for another Brittlestar video, earning a response from the actor himself: “Stewart Reynolds Presenting: “Reynoldses Gotta Reynolds.”

But that case of gin also provided the impetus for Stratford’s Reynolds to start thinking about creating a booze brand of his own. “I was like ‘That bastard, does he need to do everything?,'” he says, tongue planted firmly in cheek. “And then I thought, I want to have my own booze too.’ Because I have a huge ego.”

His quest took him to the Stratford, Ont.-based Junction 56 Distillery, where he enquired about creating a spirit brand based on a beloved Canadian snack item, the butter tart. A whisky enthusiast, Reynolds’ original idea was for a butter tart-flavoured brown liquor.

However, those plans were quickly abandoned when he discovered it would take three years to bring a whisky product to market. “I said ‘What can you make in a day?’ and they said ‘Vodka.’ And I said ‘Perfect.'”

The resulting product, S&G Pure Canadian Butter Tart Flavoured Vodka, was introduced last week. The “S&G” is short for “sex and gold,” a callback to a 2017 content marketing piece Brittlestar created for KFC called “Explaining Canada Day to Americans.”

At one point during the video, which lauded quintessentially Canadian things like universal healthcare, bagged milk and poutine, Reynolds described the butter tart as being what would come out if you were to put sex and gold into a blender.

And like Reynolds the actor, Reynolds the internet goofball insisted on creating his own advertising for S&G, using an approach to branding and marketing honed through 475 (and counting) internet videos and prior content work for brands like Nextdoor Canada, CBC Television, WestJet and Clorox.

The result is a self-produced video based on the idea that the only misstep in creating a product this good was letting Reynolds choose its marketing slogan—resulting in suggestions like “It’s really f**king delicious,” “Holy sh*t this is good,” and the more than slightly uncomfortable “It’s like a glittery unicorn did something unexpected in your mouth… and you were more than cool with it.”

The ad won’t win any awards, but like the ads developed by the world-famous Reynolds, it’s genuine, charming and fun, adeptly straddling the line between entertainment and marketing.

“There’s a little bit of a cheekiness [with the brand] and I’m trying to lean into that a little bit,” says Reynolds. “Doing content on social media, I’ve always wanted to make sure people knew that I wasn’t entirely saccharine and a little more authentic.

“And I swear an awful lot.”

The ad is all but guaranteed to go over well with Brittlestar’s more than 350,000 followers, some of whom have already responded to its debut with messages like “Do you realize everything this Canadian has accomplished with just a camera, a brain, and a heart?”

Reynolds has been creating branded content since 2013, and is savvy enough to realize there’s a value exchange necessary for taking up people’s time.

“There’s so much noise in everyone’s life that getting someone’s attention is really difficult, so you’d better make it worthwhile,” he says. “Even if it’s just six seconds, that’s a lot of time in scroll time. If you scroll through Twitter and stop for six seconds, that’s a lot. If you’re buying that time for people, you have to give them something worthwhile.

“And that idea of pretending something’s not an ad just doesn’t work anymore, because people are jaded, they’re smarter, and they also feel like they’re being ripped off if they’re just being sold to, as opposed to entertained. You can totally do an ad, but I’ve been saying for a while that you entertain first and you sell second.

“People know it’s an ad, and you’re trying to sell something, so you can have fun with that.”

Meanwhile, the first 500 bottles of S&G, all of them personally signed by Reynolds, were snapped up within in six hours. A second batch of 700 bottles went on sale on Tuesday, with 100 bottles sold within 13 minutes and 500 more overnight. His mom’s a big fan, too.

“I think it’s going to become a little bit of a going concern, which is just fine with me,” said Reynolds of his potential journey towards joining the ranks of fellow Canadian booze barons like Seagram, Molson and Labatt.

Meanwhile, Reynolds is also currently working with the Montreal production studio Pixcom on a TV development of his short story “Nineteen Fifty Now.” It’s interesting, but a lot more laborious than creating internet videos, he says. “As a guy who makes videos with his phone, television is incredibly slow.”

Ongoing calls/DMs with a major Hollywood star. A successful first entry in the highly competitive beverage alcohol industry. A TV show based on his writing in development. It must feel to Reynolds like he’s on something of a rocketship ride right now?

Turns out, not so much. “If it’s a rocketship, it’s the slowest fucking rocketship ever,” he says. But hey, at least he’s found a place among the stars.


Chris Powell