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Temporal Tonic Wine

[This was the winning entry from Freelance Traveller Contest 2008-01, which asked that entrants create a consumer good. It was reprinted in the September/October 2019 issue. -Ed.]

Temporal Tonic Wine is a “Tonic Wine” produced exclusively by the Vargr monks at the monastery of Ghoerrughz (Canine Time Worshippers on the island of Four Winds on Emerald in the Spinward Marches).

Temporal Tonic Wine is deep brown, almost black, in colour, it is sold in a very distinctive large 750ml dark green screwcap bottle. The label itself is a notoriously bright yellow in colour and features (alongside the large black lettering of the name itself and requisite alcohol content details) the profile of a large black Vargr head, it is grinning (possibly as if drunk) has large staring eyes and a slobbering tongue hanging out of its greying muzzle (hence the name “Old Dog”)

The high strength (30 proof (15% ABV)) of this drink is legendary.

The wine was originally sold in tiny quantities by the monastery itself, claiming many medicinal and health benefits with the slogan “Four small glasses a day, for great health and lively blood” (no one ever dared add “a glossy coat” to this motto!) Eventually, the recipe was changed in order for the wine to appeal to a wider customer base, resulting in increased sales.

Recently, “Old Dog” has attained a surprising level of popularity within bohemian and working class communities in certain parts of the Spinward Marches.

Amongst the student community on Regina a fanzine called Old Dog Supernova ran for nearly a decade in the years immediately following the Fourth Frontier War.

In several areas of the Marches it is known as “Startown Table Wine” (A reference to the ubiquity of the drink throughout the various slums of the Marches’ Startowns where the drink is so common that it can even be found “on tap” in some of the worst bars and gambling dens).

Its iconic stature within the rough, criminal underclass is impossible to over-emphasise and groups of lowlifes can frequently be seen drinking it out of the bottle at all times of the day and night in starports, parks and other public places.
“Old Dog” and its surrounding culture is so notorious that it is even referred to in popular culture and song (see “Got my dog” by Terran rock band “Deadhead”, and the jazz fusion bongo epic of “Dogtime” by experimental Aramisian quartet “Imperial Air”.)

Aside from “Old Dog”, other nicknames include “Hair of the Dog”, “Barker Ale”, “Clawvine” and “Rocket Fuel” (taken from the notorious incident when Captain Brett Klaag (RIP), a swashbuckling free trader and notorious drunk attempted to fuel his ship (the Beowulf-class Nelson’s Pride) with a salvaged crate of Temporal Tonic Wine resulting in the predictably disastrous deaths of himself, his crew and over a dozen starport workers as the ship crashed immediately following takeoff).

There have been many calls over the years for the drink to be restricted or withheld from general sale from both local law enforcement agencies, community welfare groups and even the local Imperial nobility. Many highlight Temporal Tonic Wine as being particularly responsible for disorderly behaviour, crime and general social deprivation.

Magnus Berkstrom, former chairman of local Regina Startown community group “Neighbourhood Action” even called for the drink to be banned outright; he faced an immediate and virulent demonstration by armed locals chanting “Save our Dog”. A violent confrontation was only avoided when the a local unit of the Imperial Army Reserve was diverted to the scene with full riot gear. As a direct result of this affair, Mr Berkstrom received correspondence from legal teams acting on behalf of the monks of Ghoerrughz; he was subsequently ruined and is rumoured to have fallen into alcoholism himself. A further consequence of Mr Berkstrom’s activities was that sales of “Old Dog” increased substantially as a direct result of his comments.

A further attack was made by Jonas Du’Pree, the Regina Medical School’s spokeperson. In a public announcement he described Temporal Tonic Wine as “… a completely irresponsible drink in its own right and a huge influence on anti-social and reprehensible behaviour.”. The monks of Ghoerrughz returned fire by accusing Du’Pree of exhibiting “despicable manners” and an “utter and complete lack of good judgement”.

Ultimately the Emperor Strephon himself entered the debate stating that “… while, clearly Temporal Tonic Wine, this ‘Old Dog’ as it is referred to amongst the lower orders, is particularly attractive to the worst elements of our fine society and has, in fact, become somewhat of a badge of pride amongst them, we cannot allow ourselves to deny the availability of this drink to those upstanding members of our Imperium who do desire to enjoy this drink responsibly and those who seek to generate income from its distribution and sale.”

Ultimately all efforts to ban or restrict Temporal Tonic Wine has been completely ineffectual as the revenue gained from the importation of the drink is such that the Imperium is loath to restrict its trade.

The Vargr of Ghoerrughz and their distribution partners continue to strenuously deny that their product is in any way harmful, stating that it is both legally and responsibly enjoyed by the vast majority of purchasers.

Additionally, they also hasten to point out that such areas identified with its acute misuse have been both socially and economically deprived for many, many years, and that Temporal Tonic Wine represents less than three percent of the total alcohol sales in these areas.