Records of Robertson and Baxter Ltd, scotch whisky blenders and merchants, Glasgow, Scotland

Scope and Content

  • Cash books 1956-1981
  • Journals 1956-1979
  • General ledgers 1923-1978
  • London and English ledgers 1923-1967
  • Leith and Glasgow ledgers 1923-1967
  • Private ledgers 1923-1978
  • Annual accounts 1938-1996
  • Annual reports and accounts of related and subsidiary companies including: Glenfyne Distillery Co, James McCreadie & Co Ltd, West Highland Distillers Ltd
  • Auditors' reports 1929-1937
  • Purchase day books 1957-1979
  • Stock records 1927-1970
  • Blended scroll books 1923-1972
  • Blended cost abstracts 1933-1967
  • Blended letterbooks 1937-1949
  • Blended costs 1939-1962
  • Spirit stock certificates 1952-1962
  • Vatted malt scroll 1962-1972
  • Vatted grain 1923-1957
  • Other stocks (samples only) 1923-1952
  • Export orders 1946-1972
  • Order books 1949-1971
  • Day books 1955-1966
  • General day books 1953-1957
  • Agency sales 1957-1966
  • Register of directors and shareholders 1903-1940
  • Circulars 1961-1986
  • Quotation book 1937-1942
  • Sherry orders 1957-1961
  • Agency orders 1955-1961
  • Stock purchases 1982
  • Minute books 1951-1965
  • Letterbooks 1925-1936
  • Annual accounts of Clyde Bonding Co Ltd
  • Printed in-house magazines 1996

Administrative / Biographical History

Robertson & Baxter, wine and spirit brokers, was founded in 1860 in Glasgow, Scotland, through a partnership between William Alexander Robertson and John W Baxter.

William Alexander Robertson was born in Fife, Scotland, in 1833. He moved to Glasgow in his late teens, taking up work with Daniel Lade & Co, wine and spirit merchants. Daniel Lade amalgamated with Bulloch & Co, owners of Camlachie Distillery in the east end of Glasgow, to form the partnership of Bulloch Lade & Con in 1856, at which time Robertson decided to go into business for himself. He set up a partnership with Robert Thomson as Robertson & Thomson, at 162 Hope Street, Glasgow, as a commission agent in 1857. As wine and spirit wholesalers they accepted the agency for the Greenock Distillery Co, Greenock, Inverclyde, Scotland, and in 1858 they moved from Hope Street to Virginia Street, Glasgow. Later that year they began importing wine from Bordeaux, France.

During 1859, Robertson & Thomson became agents for the Fettercairn Distillery in Angus, Scotland, and the Dutch Geneva distillers, J H Henkes of Delftshaven, Netherlands. In June 1860, Robert Thomson opened his own business in Howard Street, Glasgow, and William Robertson took John W Baxter, his clerk, into partnership, forming the firm of Robertson & Baxter. The business continued to expand with the addition of further agencies, and by 1864 their imports had reached a total of over 27,000 gallons, and included ports, sherries and wines. In 1866 the firm began expanding their trade in whisky, and it is suggested that they may have entered the whisky blending business, as evidenced in a change of description of the firm from 'merchants and commission agents' to 'wine and spirit brokers'. At the same time they became agents for J Bollinger & Co, champagne shippers.

A downturn in the economy in the late 1860s resulted in the falling away of trade, and for a time the firm considered diversification into tea. However, W A Robertson was not convinced that this was the way forward and instead became resolute in his pursuit of further wine agencies, acquiring the agency of the Bordeaux wine merchants, Cruse et Fils, in 1869. Two further agencies followed and by 1870 the firm's trade had reached 70,000 gallons.

J W Baxter retired in 1872, by which time the firm of Robertson & Baxter was one of the principal wine and spirit agents in Glasgow. W A Robertson took Thomas Wightman from Alnwick, Northumberland, England, as an assistant, and early in 1873 the firm moved to 48 West Nile Street, Glasgow. As trade began to fall over the next few years, Robertson sent Thomas Wightman to open a branch in Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1875, where he specialised in selling 'new make' and 'matured' whiskies on the broking market. In Glasgow, John Marshall, also from Northumberland, joined the firm to replace Wightman. The establishment of the Edinburgh branch helped to revive the business for a short time, but further problems arose during the recession of 1878, although Robertson managed to offset some of these difficulties by reducing his stocks. At the same time, the formation of the Distillers Co Ltd, Speyside, Scotland, led to a price war with the larger pot distillers, whilst the resulting availability of cheap stocks of malt whiskey led to the formation of the Whisky Ring by unscrupulous merchants. Robertson remained committed to the provision of quality products, and considered the possibility of setting up his own distillery on the isle of Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland. However, a greater disaster was to follow between 1878 and 1888 when the vineyards of France, Spain and Portugal were destroyed by the phylloxera aphis. Over the next few years Robertson & Baxter traded at a very low level while W A Robertson considered his position. In 1881, he began to give further thought to building his distillery, with the support of William Ford & Sons of Leith, Edinburgh. The Bunnahabhain Distillery, at Bunnahabhain, Islay, Argyll & Bute, took three years to build, and was to be operated by a new limited liability company, the Islay Distillery Co. However, in 1883 Robertson & Baxter's trade revived dramatically, largely due to a renewed demand for rum. In the wine trade W A Robertson transferred his trade towards Germany, where the Phylloxera aphis had been brought under control, securing agencies for four Hock and Moselle houses. From 1885, Robertson imported large quantities of American Rye whiskey, and also traded in German brandies and Tarragona dessert wines. In a reaction against the monopoly of Distillers Co Ltd in keeping whisky prices high during the recession, Robertson entered a partnership with the Edinburgh blender Andrew Usher, and in 1885 founded the North British Distilliery Co which was responsible for setting up a new grain distillery near Haymarket, Edinburgh. He was also approached by William Grant of the Glenrothes Distillery, Rothes, Moray, Scotland, with a view to amalgamating the Glenrothes business with the Islay Distillery Co Ltd, in a bid to combat the activities of the Whisky Ring. An agreement was reached and, in 1887 Highland Distilleries Co Ltd was incorporated sharing its registered offices with Robertson & Baxter at 48 West Nile Street, Glasgow. W A Robertson was elected chairman of the new company.

Robertson & Baxter continued to prosper and in December 1894 was converted to a limited liability company as Robertson & Baxter Ltd, with assets valued at £318,516. Shareholders in the new company included his sons, his two junior partners, and some clients and customers. Trade continued to flourish and Robertson joined a syndicate to build the Tamdhu-Glenlivet Distillery at Knockando, Moray, to keep apace of demand. This proved to be one of the last ventures undertaken before his sudden death on 30th August 1897, at the age of just 64. Robertson also created the Clyde Bonding Co, alcoholic drink manufacturers, Glasgow, incorporated as Clyde Bonding Co Ltd in 1937 as a subsidiary of Robertson & Baxter Ltd

Up until the 1940s, the granddaughters of W A Robertson still had a controlling interest in the company. They transferred control of the company into a holding company, Edrington Holdings Ltd, named after one of their farms. Edrington Holdings Ltd (Company No. SC)36374) was managed by a charitable trust, and had two main subsidiaries, Robertson & Baxter Ltd and Clyde Bonding Co Ltd. Edrington Holdings Ltd acquired Lang Brothers Ltd, alcoholic drink manufacturers, Glasgow, in 1965 and Clyde Cooperage Co Ltd, coopers, Glasgow, in 1967.

In 1996, Edrington Holding Ltd and its various subsidiary companies were restructured to form the Edrington Group with Edrington Group Ltd being the main holding company. Robertson & Baxter Ltd acquired Highland Distillers Ltd, the successor company to Highland Distillers Co Ltd, in 1999 and in 2001 this company became Highland Distillers Group Ltd and an independent section of the Edrington Group of companies. The Edrington Group of companies relocated their head offices to Great Western Road, Glasgow, sometime in 2001 and continued to trade in 2003 with whisky brands including Cutty Sark, Famous Grouse, and The Macallan.


This material has been organised into series as shown in the scope and content. Within these series the material has been arranged chronologically.

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

Indefinite loan : Robertson & Baxter : Glasgow : 1986-1997 : ACCNs 0230, 0262, 0265, 1563

Indefinite loan : Edrington Group : Glasgow : 1998-1999 : ACCNs 1686, 1779

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)3104 and 1045) and London (NRA 32314)

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Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the Archivist.Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents

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This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 248 procedures

Custodial History

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Related Material

GB 248 UGD 217/1/1 Records of Islay Distillery Co Ltd

GB 248 UGD 217/1/2 Records of William Grant & Co

GB 248 UGD 217 Records of Highland Distilleries Co plc

GB 248 UGD 218 Records of Bunnahabhain Distillery

GB 248 UGD 219 Records of Glenglassaugh Distillery

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This material is original