By Jonny McCormick

Ask the Expert

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Do you have any information on the history of the Glasgow-based distiller Bulloch Lade & Co, specifically from the late 19th and early 20th centuries? My great-great-grandfather, Robert Sutherland, worked his way up through the company, starting as a saddler in the 1860s (according to family legend) and ending as Chairman in the 1890s. I would be interested in knowing how successful the company became and whether it is possible to buy a bottle or any company merchandise dating from that era?
J. Strachan

What a wonderful family connection to the whisky industry. The merger of Bulloch & Co. with D. Lade & Co. in the mid-1850s formed Bulloch Lade & Co. Ltd. The business had adjacent offices on Dunlop Street in Glasgow. Archibald and Matthew Bulloch owned Camlachie Distillery (1834-1920), later known as Whitevale distillery, becoming Loch Katrine distillery in 1870 (sometimes known as the Adelphi distillery). Their family had operated Duntocher distillery as early as 1817. Bulloch Lade & Co. Ltd built Benmore Distillery in Campbeltown in 1868 (closed 1927). Caol Ila (1846-present) is the distillery most closely associated with the company in the minds of whisky enthusiasts. They acquired the Islay distillery in 1863, undertaking rebuilding in 1879 until the company went bankrupt, going into liquidation in 1920 and it was sold. The Distillers Company Limited took over the company in the 1920s, but the Bulloch company name was retained and still appeared on later bottles. In 1896, Bulloch Lade & Co were incorporated as a limited company and the original company directors were listed as Robert Glen, John Archer and as Chairman, your great-great grandfather, Robert Sutherland. It is recorded that Robert Sutherland retired in 1908.

You may be hard pressed to find any authentic bottles of whisky from Robert Sutherland's era at Bulloch Lade & Co Ltd. There is a sole record of a bottle of Benmore from 1896 selling for £1,900 in the year 2000 (confusingly, there are later 20th century bottles of a blended whisky named Benmore). You will be able to find products released over the past 40 years at auction such as bottles of Caol Ila 12 year old bottled by Bulloch Lade & Co Ltd which have a round yellow label with red lettering, or blended scotch whisky such as Old Rarity and BL Gold Label.. Scotch Whisky Auctions and Mulberry Bank Auctions in Glasgow both have good track records of bringing items of whiskiana to auction.

I own two bottles from a special release of 270 limited edition bottles drawn from the cask of Laphroaig 15 year old presented to HRH the Prince of Wales to mark his 50th birthday. The Prince signed the cask in June 1994 and donated it to the Erskine Hospital 2000 Appeal. I purchased the bottles through an online auction organised by the Appeal, whose aim was to raise £5 million to enable the rebuilding of Erskine Hospital and to establish other Homes elsewhere in Scotland.

The two bottles form one of only seven pairs signed by Prince Charles. The bottles form a pair because, when placed side by side, the two labels recreate a single image produced from an artwork especially commissioned by a local artist on Islay. Each bottle is packaged with a certificate hand signed by Iain Henderson, then Laphroaig Distillery Manager, and Colonel Martin Gibson OBE, the then Chief Executive of Erskine Hospital. Both cartons and certificates are in perfect condition. Any information you can offer regarding the whereabouts of the other six pairs and their valuation would be greatly appreciated.
N. Martin

This is a highly collectible whisky. Unfortunately, you will understand that client confidentiality would prevent an auction house disclosing the whereabouts of the other six pairs. However, individual bottles of the Laphroaig 15 Years Old Erskine Appeal containing the signed certificate (though not signed by His Royal Highness) do appear at auction each year and would be valued at £300-350. On his June 1994 visit to Laphroaig distillery, Prince Charles signed another cask, which he donated to help raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Relief. A bottle of this whisky, signed by Iain Henderson sold at the Distillers' Charity Auction in London in October 2013 for £650.