Category Archives: Whisky

Scotched earth: Hiram Walker & Sons of Scotland

Hiram Walker was the largest whisky distillery in Canada. This article traces the history of its British subsidiary, which became the second-largest Scotch whisky producer.

Harry Hatch
Harry Clifford Hatch (1884 – 1946) sold whisky by mail-order in Montreal. He made a small fortune before the business was ruled illegal in 1921.

Hatch then acquired the Gooderham & Worts distillery of Toronto for $1 million in 1923. He then went on to purchase Hiram Walker & Sons of Ontario, the largest whisky distillery in Canada, for $14 million in 1926.

Harry Clifford Hatch (1884 – 1946)

Hatch merged Hiram Walker & Sons with Gooderham & Worts of Toronto to form Hiram Walker Gooderham & Worts, one of the largest whisky distillers in the world, in 1927. Its best known brand was Canadian Club whisky.

At the time Distillers held a virtual monopoly on the production of Scotch whisky. Hatch attempted to merge his business with Distillers. When this fell through, he decided to enter into the Scotch whisky industry for himself.

Hiram Walker acquired a 60 percent stake in James & George Stodart of Glasgow in 1930. The purchase included the Stirling Bonding Company (with the Old Smuggler brand) and George Ballantine & Son.

The Glenburgie and Miltonduff-Glenlivet malt whisky distilleries were acquired in 1936.

Hiram Walker & Sons (Scotland) was registered with a capital of £1 million in 1937. It was a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hiram Walker Gooderham & Worts. Capital was increased to £1.5 million the following year.

Due to a growing export trade, particularly to the United States, Hiram Walker struggled to procure sufficient grain whisky for blending purposes. As a result, the company opened the largest distillery in Europe at Dumbarton in 1938. The £450,000 investment produced three million imperial gallons of whisky each year, mostly grain whisky, from a nine-acre site.

90 percent of Hiram Walker Gooderham & Worts sales were to the United States by 1939. Hiram Walker Gooderham & Worts was the fourth largest distiller in the world by 1946.

Thomas Scott expands the business
Thomas Scott was general manager and a director of Hiram Walker & Sons (Scotland) by 1949. He introduced a resident flock of geese to act as security guards at the Dumbarton distillery from 1950.

Workers at the Dumbarton distillery in the 1950s

Bloch Brothers (Distillers) of Glasgow was acquired in 1954. The acquisition included two distilleries (Scapa, Orkney and Glen Scotia, Campbeltown) and very large reserves of whisky, including some of the oldest in Britain. At that point it was the second largest acquisition in the Scotch whisky industry since the end of the Second World War. Bloch sales were strongest in North and South America.

Hiram Walker & Sons was the second largest producer of Scotch whisky by 1957.

Ballantine’s was a favourite Scotch whisky of John F Kennedy, and during his presidency it was the highest selling Scotch whisky in the United States.

1,100 people were employed at the Dumbarton plant in 1969.

Thomas Scott retired in 1969.

Continued growth
A new complex for Scotch whisky production was opened at Kilmalid, outside Dumbarton, in 1977. It was the most advanced whisky blending plant in Europe.

A new bottling plant was opened at Kilmalid in 1982. It processed more than 100 million bottles a year.

Hiram Walker was the third largest Scotch whisky producer in the world by 1984, with nine malt distilleries and one large grain distillery. Ballantine’s was its large international brand, and although sales had slipped in the United States, it was the market leader in Continental Europe, with particularly strong sales in Italy.

During the 1980s Hiram Walker received criticism for selling bulk malt whisky to Japanese distillers, who used it as the basis for their own blends.

Allied Lyons and Pernod Ricard
Hiram Walker was acquired by Allied Lyons, a British food and beverages company, in 1987.

Allied produced twelve million bottles of Ballantine’s a year from its Kilmalid and Dumbarton plants by 1992. 70 percent of production was destined for mainland Europe.

The Dumbarton distillery was closed in 2002, and demolished in 2008.

Pernod Ricard, a French distiller, acquired Allied Lyons, now known as Allied Domecq, in 2005. Some brands were divested to Fortune Brands and Diageo.

The geese were removed from Dumbarton in 2012.

Ballantine’s was the second highest-selling Scotch whisky in the world after Johnnie Walker as of 2014.

Notes
The British records of Hiram Walker up to 1940 are all believed to have been lost during the London Blitz.

A Rare pleasure: a history of J&B Scotch whisky

J&B Rare is one of the highest-selling Scotch whiskies in the world. Its key markets are in Southern Europe, South Africa and the United States.

J&B Rare is introduced to the United States
Long-established London wine merchants Justerini & Brooks introduced J&B Rare, a blended Scotch whisky, from 1936.

An export-only brand, J&B Rare was designed to appeal to the American taste for rye whiskey, with a straw-gold body, and a light, smooth, delicate character.

J&B Scotch whisky

Charles Guttman (1893 – 1969) of the Paddington Corporation was appointed as the United States distributor, and he initially established the brand in the New York City area.

Justerini & Brooks merged with Twiss, Brownings & Hallowes to form United Wine Traders in 1952.

Abe Rosenberg (1908 – 1985) became a partner in the Paddington Corporation from the mid-1950s, and he began to expand J&B Rare distribution outside of its New York City heartland into the wider United States. 70,000 cases of J&B Rare were sold in 1954.

J&B Rare would compete fiercely with Cutty Sark, another Scotch whisky tailored for the American market which had been introduced by Berry Brothers, wine merchants of London, in 1923.

Justerini & Brooks refused to bolster sales by price cutting, and J&B Rare was the most expensive non-aged Scotch whisky on the market.

Sales grew quickly as J&B Rare benefited from a shift in American tastes away from heavier Scotch whiskies such as Black & White and Ballantine’s, towards lighter ones. 700,000 cases of J&B Rare were sold in the United States in 1961, and it was the leading Scotch whisky in the New York City area.

International Vintners & Distillers
United Wine Traders merged with Gilbeys to become International Vintners & Distillers (IDV) from 1962. Gilbeys’ strong international distribution network helped to establish J&B Rare in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and Ireland.

Blended and bottled at Strathleven, near Glasgow, J&B Rare commanded a slightly higher than average price.

J&B became the highest-selling Scotch whisky in the United States, with one million cases exported in 1962. The New York City area remained the heartland of the product.

Two million cases of J&B Rare were exported to America in 1967. J&B Rare was exported to 84 countries.

2.7 million cases of J&B Rare were sold in 1971, accounting for a substantial 55 percent of IDV profits.

J&B Rare was the seventh highest-selling spirit in the United States by 1974, and the bestselling Scotch. Rising sales of J&B Rare helped to render Grand Metropolitan the second largest distiller of branded Scotch whisky in the world by 1977. J&B Rare held ten percent of the global Scotch whisky market. Justerini & Brooks were awarded with a Queen’s Award for Export Achievement in 1978.

J&B Rare contained up to 50 percent malt whisky in 1983, a similar proportion to Johnnie Walker Black Label.

J&B Rare was the second highest-selling Scotch whisky in the world by 1988.

J&B Rare was the highest-selling Scotch whisky in Spain by 1990.

The heart malts in the blend are Knockando, Auchroisk, Strathmill and Glen Spey.

The rise of Jack Daniel’s

JackDanielsLogo

Jack Daniel’s was a small American regional brand through the 1950s and much of the 1960s. But it landed on the radar of Hollywood stars, including Humphrey Bogart’s Rat Pack. The famous, simple monochrome adverts were first introduced in 1954.

By 1980, 3 million cases were shipped. “Jack” has always been marketed as a premium product. Marketers remind us that the product is not bourbon, but “Tennessee whisky” that is filtered through maple charcoal.

Originally, there were two main Jack Daniel labels: black (the famous one) and green. Although both whiskies were aged for at least four years, Black Label had a higher ABV content of 45% versus Green Label’s 40%. Black Label was reduced to 43% in 1988. Green Label was later delisted, and Black Label was further reduced to 40% ABV. So Black Label essentially became Green Label, but with no corresponding price reduction!