Records of Highland Distilleries Co plc, whisky distillers, Glasgow, Scotland

Scope and Content

  • Records of central office of Highland Distillers Co plc 1881-1995
  • Records of the Bunnahabhain Distillery 1881-1975
  • Records of the Glenrothes-Glenlivit Distillery 1881-1892
  • Records of the Tamdhu-Glenlivit Distillery 1896-1972

Administrative / Biographical History

Highland Distilleries Co Ltd was formed in 1887 through the merger of the Islay Distillery Co Ltd, owners of the Bunnahabhain Distillery, Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland, and William Grant & Co, owners of the Glenrothes-Glenlivit Distillery, Rothes, Moray, Scotland. Capital was raised through sale to the public of 13,340 ordinary £5 shares and 230 £100 debentures. From the outset, the company shared offices at 48 West Nile St, Glasgow, Scotland, with Robertson & Baxter, whisky merchants. Relationships between the two firms were very close and they had many directors in common.

In 1892, Highland Distilleries Co Ltd acquired the Glenglassaugh Distillery at Portsoy, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. In order to fund the purchase the company issued a further £13,500 of debentures. In 1898, the chairman and founding director, W A Robertson, died. Following a fire at Glenrothes-Glenlivit Distillery the firm was short of stock and in 1898 acquired the Tamdhu-Glenlivit Distillery in exchange for 5,500 shares. In 1905, a further three of the founding directors died, William Grant, Robert Dick and James Ford.

Following the damaging Budget of 1909, the firm took emergency action using its £25,000 reserve fund to reduce the book value of plant and property to £87,000 while seeking amalgamation with Dailuaine-Talisker Distillers Ltd. However, the amalgamation scheme was abandoned in 1910. By 1927, Highland Distilleries Co Ltd was supplying malt whisky and whisky for blending to over one hundred and eighty customers. The depression of the 1930s saw temporary closures for most distilleries although the lifting of prohibition in the United States in 1933 helped the industry. In 1935, the company acted to protect its name by acquiring land in Campbeltown, Argyll & Bute, associated with an older 'Highland Distillery Co' and resold the land, excluding use of the company name from titles.

In 1937, James Grant & Co, damaged by the recession, sold the Highland Park Distillery, Orkney, Scotland, to Highland Distilleries Co Ltd. Highland Park continued to operate under the subsidiary company James Grant & Co (Highland Park) Ltd and Walter G Grant, a director of James Grant & Co, joined the board of Highland Distilleries Co Ltd. As a precaution against wartime isolation of the Orkneys, the firm reduced the capital value of James Grant & Co (Highland Park) Ltd from £220,000 to £170,000. The purchase may have been driven by the fact that Highland Park was an integral ingredient of the new Cutty Sark blend produced by Highland Distilleries for the export market.

Until the 1939-1945 World War, Highland Distilleries Co Ltd focussed on distilling rather than blending or marketing but in 1947 it acquired A C Robertson's shares in Robertson & Baxter Ltd. In 1955, there were rumours of take over attempts and much uncertainty in Highland's future independence.

In the late 1950s, the firm sold part of its holdings in Robertson & Baxter Ltd to that company's subsidiary Clyde Bonding Co Ltd, alcoholics drinks manufacturers, leaving a 35 percent stake to finance reconstruction at Glenglassaugh Distillery. In 1959, the firm doubled its ordinary issue share capital from £600,000 to £1.2 million by capitalising sum from reserves. In 1963 the firm took a 25 percent stake in Edward Fison Ltd, malters, to develop modern drum maltings in Yorkshire, England, but withdrew the investment in 1968. In 1964, a one-for-one scrip issue doubled issued capital to £2.5 million.

In 1970, Highland Distilleries Co Ltd broke with tradition and itself became a blender through the purchase of Matthew Gloag & Sons and their Famous Grouse brand. Marketing of Famous Grouse was stepped up in 1972 as was marketing of the single malts produced by Highland Distillers. Several of the distilleries were incorporated as private limited companies in their own right as subsidiaries of Highland. Highland raised a further £8.7 million additional capital in 1979 by a one for five right issue to pay for a new stillhouse at the Glenrothes-Glenlivit Distillary.

In 1982, the company became a public limited company as Highland Distilleries Co plc, changing its name again in 1998 to Highland Distillers Ltd. In 1999, the company was acquired by the Edrington Group Ltd, the successor company of Robertson & Baxter Ltd. Highland Distillers Ltd changed its name again in 2001 to Highland Distillers Group Ltd, remaining a production arm of the Edrington Group with Highland Distillers products, such as Famous Grouse and Cutty Sark blended whiskies brands, being sold as Edrington products. In 2003, the company continued to function.

The records of the Glengassaugh Distillery [UGD 219] were de-accessioned to the BenRiach Distillery Co Ltd, Midlothian in May 2014.


This material is arranged into four sections as described in the scope and content note. Within these sections, material is arranged into series of record related by type or function.

Access Information

Access to records within this collection is open, however an appointment may be required. Please email Archives and Special Collections for advice:

Acquisition Information

Deposit : via BACS Surveying Officer : Highland Distillers Co plc : May 1986 : ACCN 0069

Other Finding Aids

See also University of Glasgow Collections

Digital file level list available in searchroom

Manual file level list available at the National Registers of Archives in Edinburgh (NRA(S) 2119, 2750 which partly replaces 2119, 1013 & 1264) and London (NRA 23496)

Alternative Form Available

No known copies

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the University ArchivistReproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with normal procedures

Custodial History

Held by Highland Distilleries Co plc


Accruals possible

Related Material

GB 248 UGD 231 Records of Robertson & Baxter Ltd

Location of Originals

This material is original