100 greatest whisky people

100 greatest whisky people

We highlight the people who have left a lasting legacy on the whisky world over the years

People | 02 Dec 2011 | Issue 100 | By Gavin Smith

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Delving back in to whisky’s glorious past, Gavin D. Smith and Ian Buxton bring you the people who have made a lasting mark and created a legacy still felt today. These are the movers and shakers, the visionaries, the engineers and the designers who all left their mark on the industry.


Samuel Bronfman

Samuel Bronfman was born in what is now Moldova in 1889. His family migrated to Canada and Samuel went on to found the Distillers Corporation, which acquired Joseph E. Seagram & Sons in 1928. He renamed the company Seagram Co Ltd, and built up a vast drinks empire across several countries.

Joseph Hobbs

A colourful character born in Hampshire, England. In 1891, Hobbs migrated with his parents to Canada in 1900. He made a fortune but lost it during the Great Depression, going on to develop distilling interests in Scotland, where, among other distilleries, he owned Fort William from 1944 until his death 20 years later.

Hiram Walker

Born in New England in 1816, Hiram Walker first made whiskey in 1854, subsequently migrating from Detroit to Canada, where he built a distillery and developed an associated community called Walkerville. Hiram Walker established Canadian Club as the first Canadian brand of whisky to be marketed on a global basis.


Samuel Boyd

Bushmills owes much of its long-term prosperity to Belfast wine and spirits merchant Samuel Boyd, who acquired the County Antrim distillery from the official receiver around 1923. A few years later, the business was on a sound financial footing, with a thriving export trade. Boyd died in 1932 but his family owned Bushmills until 1946.

Aeneas Coffey

French-born Inspector General of Excise for Ireland who also owned Dublin’s Dock distillery for a time and patented his eponymous continuous still design in 1831. The Irish whiskey industry rejected Coffey’s method of producing relatively cheap grain spirit, but it was embraced by Scottish distillers, paving the way for the large-scale development of blended whisky.

Paddy Flaherty

Gregarious Cork-born salesman for the Cork Distilleries Company, who started work in 1881 and was so successful at selling the firm’s Old Irish Whiskey that publicans were soon re-ordering ‘Paddy’s whiskey.’ In 1912 the Cork Distilleries Company officially re-named the brand Paddy Irish Whiskey. Today, Paddy is Ireland’s third-best-selling whiskey.

John Jameson

One of the most important figures in Irish distilling history was actually born in Alloa, Scotland, during 1740. In Dublin he acquired the Bow Street distillery in 1780, and capacity was increased over the next two decades to one million gallons per annum. By 1805, Jameson’s was the world’s best-selling whiskey.

John Locke

John Locke leased the 18th century Brusna distillery at Kilbeggan in County Westmeath in 1843, going on to transform the modest operation into a major player in the Irish whisky industry. The distillery closed down in 1953, but small-scale distilling has now been revived there under the auspices of Cooley Distillery.

Kevin McCourt

An Irish businessman who served as managing director of United Distilleries of Ireland (subsequently Irish Distillers Group) for a decade from 1968. During this period McCourt facilitated the integration of the three individual companies thatformed United Distilleries and rationalised whiskey making on one site at Midleton in County Cork, as well as acquiring Bushmills.

James Murphy

Along with his brothers Jeremiah and Daniel, James Murphy purchased the former woollen mill at Midleton, County Cork in 1825 and turned it into one of Ireland’s most important distilleries. Ultimately, the firm of James Murphy & Co merged with two distilleries in Cork city to form the Cork Distilleries Company in 1867.

John Power

Son of James Power, an inn-keeper who founded a distillery in Dublin during 1791, subsequently based in John’s Lane. John Power took over the business in 1817, establishing himself as a leading Dublin businessman. The company he expanded and developed challenged John Jameson & Son for Irish whiskey supremacy.

George Roe

A key member of the family which operated one of the ‘big four’ Dublin distilleries during the 19th century. The Roes owned the Thomas Street distillery, and under the control of George and his sons, George Jnr and Henry, the business expanded dramatically, with Thomas Street becoming the largest distillery in Dublin.

Jim Sheridan

Sheridan is credited with inventing Irish coffee at Shannon House Hotel in the village of Foynes, County Limerick during the winter of 1942 in order to warm up passengers on transatlantic seaplane flights. The drink’s ‘recipe’ of coffee, Irish whiskey and cream was taken to San Francisco by a passenger, the journalist Stanton Delaplane.

Daniel E. Williams

Spent 60 years working at Tullamore distillery in County Offally. During his time as manager, the plant was modernised, and its whiskey became one of Ireland’s most successful export brands. Williams’ initials D.E.W. were incorporated into the brand name and advertisements carried the slogan ‘Give Every Man his Dew’. Williams died in 1921.


Edward Dyer

Dyer established the Kasauli distillery in the late 1820s, bringing brewing and distilling equipment by ship up the Ganges, before loading it onto ox drawn carts up to the Himalayas. Kasauli is the oldest operating distillery in Asia and one of the oldest whisky making distilleries in continuous operation anywhere.

Shri J. N. Radhakrishna

Founder of the Amrut Distillery in 1948 and thus one of the fathers of a truly indigenous Indian distilling industry, ‘JNR’ as he was generally known began by producing Indian Made Foreign Liquors but by the late 1950s was experimenting with improved maturation. Today Amrut’s malt whisky is rapidly gaining acceptance.


Kiichiro Iwai

Kiichiro Iwai worked with Masataka Taketsuru for the Osaka company Settsu Shuzo, and was instrumental in sending Taketsuru to Scotland to study distilling during 1918-20. The highly influential report presented by Taketsuru on his return home was drawn on by Iwai when establishing the Kagoshima whisky distillery for the Hombo-shuzo Corporation.

Keizo Saji

The second of Shinjiro Torii’s three sons, Keizo Saji ultimately became chairman of Suntory Ltd and made a major contribution to the development of the company’s international profile. Saji is also credited with being a driving force behind Japan’s Nihonbashi culture, the culinary practice of drinking whisky as accompaniment to food eaten with chopsticks.

Masataka Taketsuru

The son of a sake distiller who learnt the art of whisky-making in Scotland and was employed by Shinjiro Torii to develop Yamazaki distillery. In 1934 Taketsuro left Torii’s Kotobukiya company to set up in his own right, forming Dai Nippon Kaju Kabushiki
Kaisha, later renamed Nikka, and building Yoichi distillery in Hokkaido.

Shinjiro Torii

One of the most influential figures in the history of Japanese whisky, Shinjiro Torii was a pharmaceutical wholesaler who developed an interest in importing alcohol from the west and ultimately established Yamazaki distillery in 1923/24, the first dedicated whisky-making facility in Japan. The company he founded became Suntory, now Japan’s leading whisky producer.


Robert Armour

Plumber and still maker in Campbeltown, known to be working 1811 – 1817. Armour’s notes of Old Smuggling Stills is a rare record of the systematic manufacture of stills for illicit distilling which, judging by the scale of his business, was widespread in Kintyre. The firm supplied still safes to Springbank and Bowmore.

George Ballantine

One of the great 19th Century Scottish blenders, Ballantine started blending in the 1860s from shops in Edinburgh and Glasgow. His son, also George, began exporting and the firm grew to international success. Today part of Pernod Ricard, the Ballantine’s brand is particularly popular in the Far East.

Jimmy Barclay

Barclay began work as a clerk at Benrinnes in 1902 on a weekly wage of 2/- (10p). By his death in 1963 he had amassed a considerable fortune, largely on the strength of his work for Sam Bronfman and his role in the creation of Chivas Regal as an international icon.

Arthur Bell

Founded the eponymous firm of merchants in Perth in 1825 and, using skills learned in the blending of tea, went on to develop blended whiskies. The firm was expanded by his sons, notably the renowned A K Bell. For many years the UK’s most popular blended whisky; now part of Diageo’s whisky portfolio.

James Buchanan

One of the great ‘whisky barons’, James Buchanan set up in London as a whisky merchant in 1884, and received a Royal Warrant for whisky in 1898. Allegedly paid £50,000 for his peerage in 1922. Still a very popular blend in South America, and now part of Diageo.

A. J. Cameron

First Master Blender for John Dewar & Sons, Cameron pioneered the development of ‘marrying’, grouping the component malts and grains in the Dewar blends by geographical origin and vatting them prior to assembling the final blend, which he then returned to marrying casks for a further period prior to bottling.

Daniel Campbell of Islay

Following the burning of his Glasgow mansion in 1726 Campbell purchased Islay and much of Jura. He was responsible for the creation of Bowmore as the island capital and encouraged ‘improvement’. As such, he helped to stimulate the commercial distilling culture Islay enjoys today and is fondly remembered.

John and James Chivas

Established as grocers in an Aberdeen store founded by John Forrest in 1801, the brothers received a Royal Warrant in 1843 (for ‘provisions’) and were blending whiskies from the 1850s. Chivas Regal was launched in the USA 1909 as a 25 Years Old luxury blend. It remains a best-seller today as part of Pernod Ricard.

Friar John Cor

Based at the Tironensian abbey on the outskirts of Newburgh in Fife in 1494, Friar Cor was famously granted ‘eight bolls of malt wherewith to make acqua vitae’ by King James IV and is thus hailed as the first known Scottish distiller.

Helen and Elizabeth Cumming

Sometime around 1811, Helen Cumming distilled the first gallon of Cardhu and continued running the distillery until 1872 when her daughter-in-law Elizabeth took over management. Under Elizabeth’s direction the distillery was rebuilt in 1885. The two Cummings represent the archetypal female distiller, often under-represented in whisky’s history.

John and Tommy Dewar

Enterprising and entrepreneurial brothers who, in the late 19th century, expanded the family business to worldwide success based on aggressive sales of their blended whiskies. Built Aberfeldy distillery 1896 and embraced modern marketing methods. Company merged with the DCL in 1925; now part of Bacardi.

Charles Cree Doig

Elgin based architect who invented the Doig Ventilator, or pagoda roof now seen on distilleries worldwide. During the great boom from the 1880s, Doig designed or redeveloped 56 Scotch whisky distilleries including Balblair, Dufftown, Pulteney, Speyburn, Aberfeldy and Aberlour as well as Bushmills. His first pagoda, at Dailuaine, was destroyed by fire in 1917.

William Delme Evans

Innovative Welsh distillery engineer and architect who designed Tullibardine (1948), Isle of Jura (1960) and Glenallachie (1968). Reputedly, he also worked on MacDuff distillery but left the project part way through following a disagreement with the proprietors. His work influenced modern distillery design from the 1960s e.g. at Glenglassaugh.

Duncan Forbes of Culloden

In 1690, a privilege was granted to Forbes to distil free of duty on his Ferintosh estate, near Inverness, as compensation for the burning of his distillery by Jacobites. Withdrawn in 1784, the concession was lamented by Burns: Thee, Ferintosh! O sadly lost! / Scotland’s lament frae coast to coast!

Malcolm Gillespie

An infamous ‘gauger’ who, despite some 42 wounds, impounded 6,535 gallons of whisky, 407 stills, 165 horses, 85 carts and 62,400 gallons of barley wash from Aberdeenshire smugglers. Following the 1823 Act his income dropped and he turned to passing forged bills for which he was hanged in 1827.

Matthew Gloag

Joined his wife's grocer business at 22 Atholl Street in the early 1800s. In 1860, his son, William Gloag inherited and began producing blended whiskies. In 1897, William’s son, also Matthew, created The Grouse Brand blend, later renamed The Famous Grouse which, under the control of Highland Distillers (since 1970) has become the UK’s best-selling blended whisky.

John Grant

Robert Hay licenced the Glenfarclas distillery in Speyside in 1836. John Grant acquired the lease in 1865, and the Grant family have owned and operated Glenfarclas ever since, purchasing the freehold in 1930. His direct descendant John L S Grant remains as company Chairman to this day.

William Grant

Founder of Glenfiddich distillery at Dufftown on Speyside, where spirit first flowed on Christmas Day 1887. Grant and his family built the distillery from scratch, and went on to create neighbouring Balvenie in 1892. Today, William Grant & Sons remains a family-owned company and the third-largest producer of malt Scotch whisky in terms of distilling capacity.

Dr James Gray

Glasgow doctor and analytical chemist whose sensational revelations of the adulteration of whisky in Glasgow pubs and shebeens in the North British Daily Mail from September 1872 generated a major controversy. Whisky, he claimed, was being widely mixed with methylated spirits.

John Haig

John Haig opened the Cameron Bridge distillery in Windygates in Fife in 1824; said to be the first to produce grain whisky. He was one of the founding directors of the Distillers Company Ltd (DCL). His cousin, Robert Stein, created the first continuous still.

Captain William Fraser

Founded Brackla distillery in 1812. Despite being described by contemporaries as “arbitrary, overbearing and impatient of control” and “haughty, imperious and tyrannical” and frequently fined by the Excise for breaches of the law, he received two Royal Warrants – the first distiller so honoured. Distillery now owned by Dewar’s.

Charles Julian

Renowned whisky and tea blender, said to have created J&B Rare. From 1949-60 Master Blender, Chivas Brothers, responsible for Chivas Regal and the original Royal Salute. Not one to suffer fools gladly, once remarked of blending “there ain’t art in it, but for God’s sake don’t tell Mr Sam” [Bronfman].

W. P. Lowrie

A Glasgow-based whisky trader who founded Glentauchers distillery in 1897 in partnership with James Buchanan, the famous blender, and later owned Convalmore. Lowrie has a passable claim to being the first blender, a title generally awarded to Andrew Usher. Buchanan acquired the firm in 1907.

Peter Mackie

‘Restless’ Peter, ‘one-third genius, one-third megalomaniac and one-third eccentric’, joined his uncle’s firm at Lagavulin in 1878. By 1890 he was blending White Horse, to great success, and subsequently bought Craigellachie and Glen Elgin distilleries. One of the big five companies White Horse Distillers merged with the DCL in 1927.

Mitchell family

One of the leading families of distillers in Campbeltown since the mid-17th Century, after a career in illicit distilling the family founded Rieclachan Distillery (1825), Springbank (1828) and were also involved in Drumore Distillery (1834) and Glengyle (1872). Today, Springbank is owned by Archibald Mitchell’s great great great grandson, Hedley G. Wright.

Walter Pattison

Together with his brother Robert, Walter Pattison presided over the greatest scandal in the history of Scotch whisky. Following floatation of their family business they embarked on reckless expansion financed by fraudulent trading, eventually collapsing in December 1898 and bringing the ‘whisky boom’ to an abrupt end. Both were jailed.

William Robertson and John Baxter

Robertson & Baxter were a major influence in the Scotch whisky industry from 1861, when the firm was established (Baxter was originally Robertson’s clerk). In 1887 they helped found Highland Distillers and by 1936 the firm was the principal blenders for Cutty Sark. Part of The Edrington Group.

William H. Ross

Joined the DCL in 1878 and subsequently appointed General Manager, Managing Director and Chairman. Until he retired in 1935, Ross presided over the expansion of the firm (today, Diageo) and a controversial ‘rationalisation’ of Scotch whisky production that saw many distilleries permanently closed but, arguably, founded the modern industry.

George Smith

Famously the first distiller in the Livet valley to apply for a licence under the 1823 Act, Smith was threatened by his neighbours, carrying pistols to deter them from violence. Built and expanded The Glenlivet from illicit origins into the most famous distillery of its time. Now owned by Pernod Ricard.

Robert Stein

A member of one of the most significant and influential 18th and 19th century Scottish distilling dynasties, Robert Stein invented a revolutionary form of continuous still in 1826. Aeneas Coffey went on to further develop and refine the apparatus, which led to the large-scale distillation of grain spirit and ultimately the development of blended whisky.

William Teacher

A Glasgow blender, William Teacher was noted for his dram shops and was at one time the largest licence holder in the city. Teacher’s Highland Cream was registered in 1884 and in 1898 the firm opened Ardmore to provide single malt for blending.

George Urquhart

His father John joined the Elgin-based Gordon & MacPhail as an apprentice in 1895, subsequently rising to Partner and eventually owner of the company, which remains in family control. George introduced the ‘Connoisseur’s Choice’ range of bottlings in the 1960s, a major influence in the subsequent rise of single malt sales.

Andrew Usher Jnr

Widely regarded as the ‘father’ of Scotch whisky blending, Usher was born in Edinburgh, where his father, also Andrew, had set up in business as a spirits merchant. Andrew Usher Jnr was one of the first people to blend malt and grain whisky and retail it on a commercial basis during the mid-19th century.

John Walker

Probably the most revered name in blended Scotch whisky, John Walker founded the family firm in Kilmarnock in 1820. However, it was his son Alexander who grew the whisky business, launched the fore-runner of Black Label and introduced the iconic square bottle. Joined the DCL in 1925: the rest is history.

Bessie Williamson

One of the great female distillers, Bessie Williamson came to Islay for three months as a secretary at Laphroaig and stayed for more than 40 years. After WW2, she was appointed Distillery Manager; in 1954, Laphroaig was bequeathed to her. For her charitable work she was awarded the Order of St John.


Nicomedes Garcia Gomez

Spanish entrepreneur and anisette distiller Nicomedes Garcia Gomez established Spain’s whisky-making industry when he set up Destilerias Y Crianza Del Whisky (DYC) in 1958, building a distillery at Palazuelos de Eresna, near the historic city of Segovia, some 90km north of Madrid. The first whisky was marketed in 1963 and achieved instant popularity.


James Anderson

George Washington’s Scots-born farm manager at Mount Vernon in Virginia. It was Anderson’s idea to develop a distillery to produce whiskey from rye and corn grown on the plantation to complement its milling business. The distillery, built in 1797, was one of the largest in America and was re-created on the original site in 2000.

Isaac Bernheim

A German-born sometime Pennsylvania peddler, Isaac Wolfe Bernheim became involved in the whiskey trade with his brother, Bernard, and finally the pair began to distil in their own right. The brand that made their fortunes was IW Harper, registered in 1879. Today, the modern Bernheim distillery in Louisville produces Heaven Hill whiskeys.

Colonel Albert Blanton

Blanton started work at 16 as an office boy at what is now Buffalo Trace, in 1897, becoming manager 15 years later. The distillery had been founded by his father, Benjamin. Blanton remained at the Frankfort plant until his retirement in 1952, by which time he had also become the principal owner of the distillery.

Jacob Boehm

Members of the Boehm family emigrated during the late 18th century from Germany to Kentucky, changing their surname to Beam, and Jacob Boehm began to distil corn whiskey around 1788 in Nelson County. Jacob’s grandson was Jim Beam, and the family continues to be involved with the distillery today.

A. Smith Bowman

Abram Smith Bowman and his sons, Smith and DeLong founded their business on the Bowman family’s Sunset Hills Farm in Fairfax County, Virginia, in 1934 after the end of Prohibition. Since 1988, distilling has been carried out at Spotsylvania County, near Fredericksburg.

George Garvin Brown

Founder, 1870, of what has become the mighty Brown-Forman Corporation. As a young pharmaceuticals salesman in Louisville, Kentucky. Brown had the then radical idea of selling his Old Forester whiskey in sealed glass bottles. To ensure quality, each bottle was sold with a hand-written guarantee and his signature.

J. T. S. Brown

Half brother to George Garvin Brown, John Thompson Street Brown was initially his partner but established his own business sometime after 1875, eventually building the Old Prentice distillery in Anderson County. A J. T. S. Brown distillery operated in Lawrenceburg during the 1950s.

Al Capone

One of America’s most notorious gangsters, Alphonse ‘Al’ Capone was principally associated with Chicago, where the period of prohibition from 1920 to 1933 allowed him and his fellow mobsters to make a fortune from ‘bootleg’ liquor. Prohibition was partly responsible for the power and influence wielded by the US Mafia.

Elijah Craig

Rev. Elijah Craig was an 18th century Baptist preacher and distiller, sometimes credited with the‘invention’ of Bourbon whiskey. Craig established a distillery around 1789 in Fayette County, Virginia, and according to legend was responsible for the innovation of barrel-ageing whiskey in charred oak casks, giving it colour and character.

Dr James Crow

Scots-born physician responsible during the mid-19th century for scientific advances that gave greater spirit consistency in the American whiskey industry. Most notable was his refinement of the ‘sour mash’ process of whiskey production. The famous Old Crow distillery, near Frankfort, was built a decade after his death in 1856.

Jack Daniel

One of the most famous American whiskey names, Jasper Newton ‘Jack’ Daniel was born in Lincoln County, Tennessee in 1846. At the age of 14 he bought his first still and went on to create the Jack Daniel Old Time distillery close to Lynchburg. Having made his fortune in whiskey, Jack Daniel died in 1911.

J. W. Dant

Joseph Washington Dant is the
one log distiller remembered today. In Kentucky, c.1830, a section of tree trunk would be hollowed out with a copper pipe running through it. The hollowed section would be filled with the fermented mash and steam fed through the pipe to start distillation.

George A. Dickel

Born in Germany in 1818, George Dickel arrived in Nashville, Tennessee as a young man and established a thriving wholesale whiskey business. Dickel’s association with the Cascade distillery, near Tullahoma, began in 1888, the same year in which he was injured in a fall from his horse, leading to his death six years later.

Alfred Eaton

Eaton purchased the whiskey recipe of one Billy Pearson c.1825, operating in partnership with a Mr Tolley. They pioneered the “Lincoln County Process” using sugar maple charcoal filtration and later introduced (or sold, stories vary) a young Jack Daniels to the process, key to the flavour of Tennessee whiskey.

John E. Fitzgerald

John E. Fitzgerald opened a distillery in 1870 in Frankfort, Kentucky, and by 1900 was exporting to Europe. Against the trend to continuous distillation, Old Fitzgerald at the time was one of the last US pot-distilled whiskeys, produced by this method up until 1913.

Oscar Getz

The Getz family purchased what is now known as the Barton 1792 distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky, in 1944. Oscar Getz was responsible for assembling the first true collection of Bourbon artefacts, initially displayed at the distillery and now – as the Oscar Getz Whiskey Museum - a leading tourist attraction in Bardstown’s Spalding Hall.

Nearest Green

One of the forgotten figures of American whiskey history, Nearest Green was a slave owned by farmer and Lutheran lay preacher Dan Call in Louse Creek, Lincoln County, Tennessee. Call also ran a whiskey still, and he instructed Nearest Green to teach a young Jack Daniel the art of distillation.

Paul Jones

Distiller Rufus Rose may have been the first to market Four Roses, but in 1884 Paul Jones Jr., moved his grocery business to Louisville, Kentucky, where he opened on historic Main Street’s “Whiskey Row.” Four years later, he trademarked the name Four Roses, claiming production and sales back to the 1860s.

Bill McCoy

Captain William Frederick ‘Bill’ McCoy was an American boat builder and sea captain whose name entered the English language as a synonym for ‘the genuine article’ due to his liquor-running activities during prohibition. McCoy shipped whisky from the Bahamas to the east coast of the USA, and was renowned for always providing unadulterated, genuine merchandise.

Henry Mckenna

Emigrated from Ireland in 1837; settled in Fairfield Kentucky. Using Irish family recipes, he founded a distillery in 1855 soon adapting his techniques to the local grains, particularly corn, and began producing H. McKenna Old Line, Hand Made, Sour Mash Whiskey.
In particular he was an early pioneer of cask aging.

Tom Moore

Tom Moore’s eponymous distillery was established in 1889 and occupied the site in Bardstown which is now home to the Barton 1792 distillery. Previously, in 1877, Tom Moore and J.G. Mattingly had joined forces to produce their Belle of Nelson Bourbon, which featured a bevvy of naked women on its striking label.

Booker Noe

Booker Noe was the grandson of James ‘Jim’ Beam and served as Distiller Emeritus at the Jim Beam distillery for more than 40 years until his death in 2004. Noe was largely responsible for establishing the concept of ‘small batch’ Bourbon, launching Booker’s in 1988 as an uncut, straight-from-the-barrel whiskey.

T. B. Ripy

Thomas B Ripy was an influential 19th century Bourbon entrepreneur, the son of Irish immigrant James Ripy. ‘TB’ Ripy, as he was widely known, owned a number of distilleries and produced highly-regarded whiskey. One of his facilities, located near Lawrenceburg, became the Wild Turkey distillery, today owned by Gruppo Campari.

Lewis Rosenstiel

Lewis ‘Lew’ Rosenstiel made a fortune selling medicinal alcohol during prohibition and founded the Schenley Distilling Corporation. During the 1920s, Rosenstiel acquired some 30 distillers of whiskey and other spirits, and in the years following prohibition Schenley was the second-largest whiskey distiller in North America after Joseph E. Seagram.

Bill Samuels Snr

Kentucky distiller who established the Maker’s Mark brand of Bourbon, having acquired the Happy Hollow distillery near Loretto in 1953. Samuels famously burnt the old family whiskey recipe and set about creating a smoother, more refined style of Bourbon, which was named Maker’s Mark by his wife, Marge, a collector of fine pewter.

Victor Schwab

Brother-in-law and business partner to George Dickel, Victor Schwab was majority owner of the Cascade distillery near Tullahoma by 1888, when George A Dickel & Co acquired the sole rights to bottle the distillery’s ‘make.’ The company subsequently took control of Cascade, and the modern Cascade Hollow distillery is still home to George Dickel whiskies.

Shapira Brothers

The five Shapira brothers founded Heaven Hill Distilleries Inc in 1934, building a distillery south of Bardstown, Kentucky. However, the plant was badly damaged by fire in 1996. Heaven Hill remains America’s largest independent and family-owned marketer and producer of distilled spirits products, boasting the second-biggest holding of Kentucky whiskey in the world.

George T. Stagg

George T. Stagg was born in 1835, and having worked as a whiskey salesman in St Louis, teamed up with E H Taylor to expand the Old Fire Copper (OFC) distillery, now Buffalo Trace. In 1878 Stagg purchased the distillery, along with several others, and went on to develop its operations and influence it significantly.

Frederick Stitzel

Frederick Stitzel emigrated from the Alsace region of France to Kentucky during the late 1840s, taking with him experience of distilling whiskey from wheat. He adapted this practice to make wheated Bourbons, establishing the Stitzel Distilling Company in Louisville during 1870. Stitzel also patented the ‘open rick’ warehousing system in 1879.

E. H. Taylor

Colonel Edmund H. Taylor Jnr was a Kentucky whiskey entrepreneur who owned several distilleries and was responsible for constructing the imposing Old Taylor distillery, south of Frankfort, in 1887. Taylor was also the prime mover behind the 1897 Bottled in Bond Act which was instrumental in securing the integrity of Bourbon whiskey.

Pappy Van Winkle

Julian ‘Pappy’ Van Winkle started out as a salesman for liquor wholesalers W. L. Weller & Sons, going on to buy the firm in partnership during 1908. At the time of his death in 1965 at the age of 89, ‘Pappy’ Van Winkle was the oldest working distiller in the USA.

Andrew Volstead

Minnesota-born lawyer and Republican congressman, whose name is forever associated with prohibition in the USA, as the legislation enacted to turn America ‘dry’ in 1920 was popularly known as the Volstead Act. Andrew Volstead sponsored and championed the prohibitionist bill, conceived and principally drafted by Wayne Wheeler of the Anti-Saloon League.

George Washington

The first president of the USA was also a distiller, making whiskey from rye and corn grown on his Mount Vernon plantation in Virginia from 1797. Washington also played a part in quelling the ‘Whiskey Rebellion’ of 1794 – a protest against what was perceived as unfair taxation levied on small-scale distillers.

William LaRue Weller

William LaRue Weller came from an established Kentucky distilling family and first bottled a wheated Bourbon in 1849. In the control of his two sons, the business became associated with that of the Stitzels . During prohibition, the two firms merged to establish the Stitzel Weller distillery in Louisville.


Alfred Barnard

Victorian journalist, remembered for his comprehensive Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom (1887 and reprints), today eagerly studied and collected as the definitive record of the 19th century industry. Also wrote on UK breweries and produced promotional pamphlets for the brewing and distilling industry.

Robert Burns

Eighteenth century Scottish poet and Excise Officer, Burns celebrated whisky in such immortal works as Tam o’ Shanter; Scotch Drink; John Barleycorn and The Author’s Earnest Cry & Prayer. Best-known couplet: “Freedom and whisky gang thegither / Tak off your dram!” On January 25th every year millions round the world follow that advice.

David Lloyd George

British politician, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Prime Minister (1916-22). A hard-line enthusiast for temperance he endeavoured to restrict whisky sales by punitive tax increases and minimum aging requirements (1909) and the introduction of the Central Liquor Control Board (1916) which restricted distilling and limited strength.

Neil M. Gunn

Born in Caithness in 1891, Gunn became one of Scotland’s leading 20th century novelists, but before adopting a full-time writing career in 1937 he served as an excise officer, based from 1921 at Glen Mhor distillery in Inverness. One of his 27 published books was the classic 1935 tome Whisky and Scotland.

Michael Jackson

Journalist and writer Michael Jackson single-handedly changed the worlds of beer and whisky. The most influential writer of the current generation he championed Islay, single malts and especially independent brewers and distillers until his death in August 2007. His extensive writings inspired many to try whisky for the first time.

Henry, Baron James of Hereford

Chairman of the Royal Commission on Whisky and Other Potable Spirits (1908/09) set up to resolve the “What is Whisky?” debate following the 1905 Islington ‘passing off’ trials. In admitting grain spirit as whisky, the Commission finally confirmed the legal status of blending, thus defining the modern Scotch industry.

Aeneas MacDonald

Albeit under the pen name of Scots journalist, author and nationalist George Malcolm Thomson, the first modern writer on whisky from a consumer standpoint. Whisky, published 1930, is arguably the most poetic and lyrical book of its type and anticipated contemporary interest in single malts by at least 50 years.

Sir Compton Mackenzie

Popular novelist now best-known for his comic masterpiece Whisky Galore, which tells in fictional form the true story of the wrecking of the SS Politician off Eriskay during the Second World War. The novel was subsequently made into a classic Ealing Studios film. Mackenzie later featured in advertisements for Grant’s Standfast blended whisky.

J. A. Nettleton

Perhaps the best-known technical author on distillation, Nettleton’s fame rests largely on his monumental The Manufacture of Whisky & Plain Spirit (1913), for many years the standard work. Based in Elgin he consulted widely for a number of distillers and brewers, having originally trained in the Inland Revenue laboratory, London.

Michael Scot

The so-called Wizard of Balwearie trained at Oxford, Paris and Toledo Universities in the early 13th Century. Manuscripts attributed to him refer to “Aqua Ardens”, the earliest name for distilled alcohol. Returning around 1230 he may have brought with him distilling secrets. Could he be the father of Scotch Whisky?

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