Feature: Raise a glass this Christmas to 130 Years of Dufftown’s family distillery

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CHRISTMAS DAY WILL bring the 130th anniversary when the first spirit fell from the copper stills of William Grant & Sons in Dufftown.

Today they remain family owned by the fifth-generation stemming from William Grant and his nine children who first built the Glenfiddich Distillery stone-by-stone.

Through the years the company has remained independent – and become a central part of the local community and firmly embedded in the town’s history. WG&S UK has been very active in that community, remaining as a responsible, proud, sustainable and entrepreneurial company.

This has been achieved by supporting charities such as CrossReach and the Dufftown British Legion, or supporting the Speyside Community Car Share Scheme. It is also committed to supporting future generations through its donations to Mortlach Primary School, Moray School Bank and Generation Science workshops in Moray.

To this day, founder William Grant’s ambition to create ‘The Best Dram in the Valley’ inspires the company and his passion lives on as the business continues to pioneer and innovate, gaining industry-wide recognition for its practices. For example, Glenfiddich and its title of World’s Most Awarded single malt whisky.

Other brands within the premium spirits portfolio include The Balvenie single malt whisky, Hendrick’s gin, Monkey Shoulder, Sailor Jerry spiced rum, Drambuie, Reyka vodka, and Grant’s blended whisky.

Whilst remaining true to its heritage, its ambitious plans for the future and its dedication to its employees manifests itself within the company’s purpose:

Inspired by our independent spirit, we create our own legacy. Managing Director, Neil Barker says: “At WG&S UK we are proud of our history, which has, together with our collective ambition and excellent people, propelled us to take the title of No.1 premium spirits supplier in the UK.

“William Grant began our incredible journey by laying down roots in Dufftown. We now raise a dram, as we celebrate the first spirit to fall from our stills. Cheers to another 130 years!”

William Grant & Sons timeline of events:

  • 1839 – Our founder, William Grant, was born in 1839 in the Scottish Highland town of Dufftown. For 20 years, he nurtured the dream of building his own distillery so that he could create ‘the best dram in the valley’
  • 1886 – William and his family of nine had saved enough money to buy their own piece of land at Glenfiddich, and built their distillery brick by brick with their own hands within a year.
  • 1887 – On Christmas Day 1887, everyone celebrated as the first spirit ran from the stills at the Glenfiddich Distillery.
  • 1893 – William founded the Balvenie Distillery, built alongside the Glenfiddich site.
  • 1898 – William created the world-famous Grant’s blended whisky.
  • 1909 – William Grant appointed his son-in-law, Charles Gordon, as his first salesman. It was no easy job, but Charles was as passionate about success as his father-in-law. It took 181 calls to make his first sale, but he never looked back, and within two years, Charles would set out to conquer the world.
  • 1914 – By now William Grant & Sons was a thriving international business – with no fewer than 60 agencies established in 30 countries worldwide. With the onset of war, however, the industry began to suffer. Sales became erratic, and by 1917 the distillery was forced to shut down. Distilling re-started in 1919.
  • 1919 – Prohibition took effect in many markets, ensuring continued hard times for Scotch whisky. Ever optimistic William Grant increased production, looking to meet demand when the crisis was over.
  • 1923 – William Grant died aged 84. As well as his world-class whisky, he was remembered for his liveliness, his generosity and his legendary sense of humour.
  • 1963 – William Grant & Sons built the largest grain distillery in the world in Girvan, Ayrshire, which was to be the new home of Grant’s Scotch whisky. Also in 1963, Glenfiddich became the first single malt to be commercially exported outside the UK, effectively introducing the world to the single malt category. In addition, the legendary David Stewart joined the company as an apprentice blender, he became Master Blender just 7 years later, a position he still holds today, making him the longest serving Master Blender and Malt Master in the industry.
  • 1974 – William Grant & Sons won the Queen’s Award to Industry for Outstanding Export Achievement, becoming the first Scotch whisky company ever to receive the prize.
  • 1987 – Glenfiddich celebrated 100 years in production. This huge milestone was commemorated with over 3 months of events and activities around the world.
  • 1990 – The Kininvie Distillery became Scotland’s newest malt distillery. It was opened by Mrs Janet Roberts, granddaughter of our founder William Grant.
  • 1993 – Three years later, the company moved into its new bespoke offices at Strathclyde Business Park, housing a state-of-the-art bottling operation and customer service centre.
  • 2001 – The Glenfiddich 1937 was bottled, making it the oldest single malt Scotch whisky in the world. Only 61 bottles of this rare whisky were produced.
  • 2002-2005 – William Grant & Sons had a series of successful new product launches including Hendrick’s Gin (2002) – named ‘the best gin in the world’ by the Wall Street Journal; Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum (2002) – a blend of Caribbean rum, vanilla, lime and spices; Monkey Shoulder (2005) – which broke the malt whisky mould when it launched in the UK; and Reyka Vodka (2005) – a small- batch premium vodka distilled at Iceland’s first and only distillery.
  • 2007 – William Grant & Sons commissioned its new malt distillery, Ailsa Bay, in Girvan next to its existing grain whisky distillery.
  • 2008 – William Grant & Sons also signed a pan-European distribution deal with Rémy Cointreau and a multi-market distribution deal including the USA with Stolichnaya Vodka.
  • 2010 – William Grant & Sons acquired Irish Whisky brand, Tullamore D.E.W. and New York Hudson Whiskey.
  • 2014 – William Grant & Sons acquired Drambuie Liqueur Company Limited which owns the Drambuie whiskey liqueur brand.
  • 2016 – William Grant & Sons launched the Glenfiddich Experimental Series; a collection of ground-breaking single malts that push boundaries and challenge traditions, starting with IPA Experiment and Project XX.
  • 2017 – William Grant & Sons launched several new innovative expressions including Monkey Shoulder’s Smokey Monkey, Hendrick’s Orbium and Winter Storm, the third installation of Glenfiddich’s Experimental Series.