Whisky Magazine Issue 105
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Gavin D. Smithlooks at the fortunes of the Highland Queen blend
For many years Highland Queen was one of those well-respected, decent quality mainstream blends to be found in all good off-licences, as the old adverts used to say. On the subject of which, one notable Highland Queen print ad from the 1970s featured a flamboyantly moustachioed male in evening dress, pouring two glasses of the whisky while a beautiful woman waits expectantly in the background. The strapline was ‘Highland Queen. The other woman in your life.' But gradually Highland Queen made fewer and fewer public appearances, and from a peak of 900,000 cases – and representation in more than 95 per cent of the world - the blend was selling less than 20,000 cases by 2008. It had been established in 1893 by Roderick Macdonald of Macdonald & Muir Ltd, a company based at the heart of the vibrant whisky community of Leith.
The firm of brokers and blenders went on to acquire Glenmorangie and Glen Moray distilleries, with expansion largely bankrolled by the commercial success of Highland Queen. The name Highland Queen came about because it was in the port of Leith that Mary, Queen of Scots landed on her return to Scotland from France in August 1561.
Highland Queen remained in the Macdonald & Muir portfolio through a change of company name to Glenmorangie plc in 1996 and then through a change of ownership, when the firm was acquired by French luxury goods purveyor LVMH.
Under the new regime, a realignment of strategy led to the decision to cease operating in the blended Scotc...