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Issue 9 - Peter the great

Whisky Magazine Issue 9
April 2000


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Peter the great

Restless genius Peter Mackie was a true champion of malt. Tom Bruce-Gardyne describes the life of the whisky baron who created the White Horse.

Peter Mackie was a man with a mission. Hanging from the wall of his office at 13 Carlton Place, Glasgow, was a huge sign emblazoned with the words, "Take Nothing for Granted." As the father of White Horse, he was the most passionate of all the pioneers of modern blended Scotch, in his beliefs about what whisky should be and the crucial role of maturation. These things mattered more than seeing his name in lights, something that was perhaps not always the case with the Tommy Dewars of this world. Yet when it came to business he was ruthlessly single-minded and drove his staff as hard as himself. In the words of Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart, Peter Mackie was "one third genius, one third megalomaniac and one third eccentric."

Mackie was born in 1855 at Corsepatrick, St Ninians, just south of Stirling. At the time Jimmie Buchanan was aged nine and still in Canada while Alexander Walker was about to join his father's drinks shop in Kilmarnock and start building the Johnnie Walker empire. Perhaps it was this and the pressing need to catch up with his rival whisky barons that earned Mackie the nickname ‘Restless Peter'. Aged 23, he went to work for his uncle, James Logan Mackie, who ran a small whisky firm in Glasgow. It was a partnership with John Graham whose family had been leasing the Lagavulin distillery on Islay from the Kildalton estate since 1837. The young Peter was sent here straight away for an apprenticeship into the art of distillation, and so began a love of the islan...

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