Does Slash make you want to reach for a drink? That’s what Black Death USA was hoping when it signed on the Guns N’ Roses guitarist, an admitted former drug user, to advertise its Black Death vodka. The company apparently considers Slash (a.k.a. Saul Hudson) an appropriate huckster, even though he has said that alcohol fueled his wild reputation.
But Black Death won’t be the drink you’re pouring if the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms has its way. ”What’s in the bottle is fine — it’s what’s on the bottle that’s questionable,” says bureau spokesman Tom Hill. The label, which features a top-hatted skull, is the same one the department approved in 1989. Yet Hill says it is ”somehow mocking the [recently added federal] health warning,” which warns drivers and pregnant women against consuming it. The bureau also dislikes the vodka’s coffin-shaped promotional packaging and the Slash-for-Black-Death print ads planned for magazines like Rolling Stone and Spin. Even if the label is changed, says Hill, ”Black Death means bubonic plague. I don’t think we’re going to allow it, period.”
Slash, who had signed a multimillion-dollar endorsement deal, isn’t talking. But Black Death’s chief executive, Tom Lines, says, ”This is a witch hunt. But these witches don’t have broomsticks. They have great legislative capacity.”