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Issue 98 - The House Blend

Whisky Magazine Issue 98
September 2011


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The House Blend

In the first of a new series, Gavin D. Smith takes a look at some of the famous names of blending which were once very familiar, but have now dropped below the radar, disappearing altogether or diverted to overseas markets.

Back in the early 1980s when I was a student drinker in the bars of Newcastle upon Tyne if you ordered a ‘whisky' to accompany your pint of Newcastle Exhibition Ale the chances were that you would be served a measure of The Original Mackinlay from an optic.

Mackinlay's was the ‘house' blend for the tied estate of pubs belonging to Scottish & Newcastle Breweries Ltd, just as Isle of Jura was the ‘house' single malt.

By that time, the Mackinlay's blend had become a cheap and cheerful ‘brewer's whisky,' with volume sales the principal objective, but despite its decline in status, the brand boasted a proud and lengthy heritage. Its origins lay in a company established by Charles Mackinlay in Leith during 1847. According to legend, Mackinlay enjoyed a round of golf on his local Leith Links and conceived The Original Mackinlay blend to provide refreshment for himself and his fellow golfers.

What is known is Charles Mackinlay deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Andrew Usher when it comes to the origins of blended Scotch whisky, as both men were working with malt and grain whiskies in Edinburgh around the same time.

Mackinlay's introduced a number of blended Scotch whisky brands, commencing with Mackinlay's Vatted Old Ben Vorlich, which was registered in 1875 and was one of the earliest blends to be sold in the London market, where the firm also became whisky suppliers to the House of Commons. Such was the strength of their reputation that it was to the Mackinl...

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