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Issue 100 - The Big Man

Whisky Magazine Issue 100
December 2011


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The Big Man

Gavin D. Smith looks at the fortunes of the Long John blend.

Once a familiar sight on off licence shelves and bar counters across Britain, the Long John blend is another brand now only available in the UK courtesy of specialist retailers.

Long John takes its name from ‘Long John' Macdonald, who established Ben Nevis distillery at Fort William in 1825, a time when many new distillery ventures were being implemented as a result of the liberating Excise Act of 1823.

Macdonald stood six feet four inches tall, hence his nickname, and his whisky was marketed as ‘Long John's Dew of Ben Nevis.' It soon gained a reputation for high quality, and a cask was presented to Queen Victoria when she visited the distillery in 1848.

According to an article published in the Illustrated London News during April of that year, “The cask is not to be opened until His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales attains his majority,” which was not to occur for another 15 years.

In 1911 the Macdonald family sold the Long John brand name to London wine and spirits merchants W H Chaplin & Co Ltd, though Long John had been a blended Scotch whisky since two years previously. The brand subsequently passed to the old established gin distilling firm of Seager Evans & Co Ltd when they bought out Chaplin's in 1936.

Keen to make inroads into the Scotch whisky market, Seager Evans had already built Strathclyde grain distillery in Glasgow and went on to purchase the now demolished distillery of Glenugie at Peterhead in 1937, in order to provide spirit for their newly a...

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