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Issue 137 - Politics, Mavericks and War

Whisky Magazine Issue 137
July 2016


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Politics, Mavericks and War

Scotch advertising in the early 20th Century

Early whisky advertisements were used as an effective outlet for companies to speak about legal and political issues of the day, such as the increases in duty from Lloyd George's People's Budget, 1909. The latter set a benchmark for whisky to be aged for a minimum of two years, and advertisers openly complained that this created a shortage of stocks, which would drive up the price of whisky.

In 1906 a case had been brought about by Islington Borough Council in prosecuting two wine and spirits merchants under the Sale of Food and Drugs Act of 1875 for retailing what they regarded of ‘substandard' whisky. However, this was simply grain, patent still whisky, and not malt pot still whisky. The whole heart and soul of whisky – still spelled with an optional ‘e' around this time – was being publicly fought over. This case became a battle between the malt and grain distillers, although it was eventually resolved in 1909. William Ross of grain distillery Cambus decided to have some fun in his adverts to declare his 7 years old Cambus patent still whisky as ‘notably different to all others in particular delicacy and charm of flavour', and that there was ‘not a headache in a gallon'.

Who were the notable figures who stood out from the crowd of early whisky advertisements? One man was Tommy Dewar. The son of John Dewar and later owner of the Dewar's brand, he became Vice President of the National Advertising Society and believed that 'Advertising is to business what im...

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