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Issue 26 - A class of their own

Whisky Magazine Issue 26
October 2002

 

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A class of their own

Tom Bruce-Gardyne looks into the story of the Haig empire

To judge by the number of top hats and tails featured in their early advertising, many brands of Scotch whisky were obsessed with the Establishment. It was as though they craved nothing more than to join the club and be accepted into Edwardian society. For those at whom the advertisements were aimed, Scotch was a very new vice. It was fine for sipping beside the river-bank in the Highlands while the ghillie endeavoured to hook you a salmon, but perhaps a little coarse for drinking indoors in England? To convince them otherwise it was essential for the newly minted brands to establish their pedigree. Although blended whisky was a fairly recent invention, some link to the past, ideally one hinting at noble and ancient Scottish roots, had to be forged. And on this, no one came close to the House of Haig.

In 1927, its rivals could only watch with awe as Haig celebrated its tricentenary with a series of adverts which reflected on the way various things were done in 1627 – the year Robert Haig became a tenant farmer at Throsk. Whether he actually began distilling straight away on his farm just south of Stirling may have been stretching a point, but his still was certainly bubbling away by January 1655. That month he received a summons to appear before the Kirk for breaking the Sabbath. Four witnesses “deponed unanimously that they saw the cauldron on the fyre.” Robert Haig denied all knowledge of the charge, but the summons was marked in the parish records for which his desc...

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