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Issue 99 - Don't be Vague

Whisky Magazine Issue 99
October 2011


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Don't be Vague

Gavin D. Smith looks at the fortunes of the Haig brand.

Successful advertising slogans have a peculiar way of staying in your head, often long after the relevance of the particular brand being promoted has passed its sell-by date.

For those of us of a certain age, the phrase “Don't be vague ask for Haig” remains instantly familiar, despite the fact that the once ubiquitous Haig Gold Label blend in its dark brown bottle with contrasting white and gold label is now the province of specialist retailers in the UK. The strapline was the work of Thomas Henry Egan who reputedly received £25 and a case of whisky from the distillers for his efforts.

It is worth noting that by 1939 Gold Label had become the biggest seller in the Distiller's Company Ltd (DCL) stable, and from the 1930s to the 1970s the Haig brand was Scotland's leading whisky.

To discover its origins we have to go back to the 17th century, when one Robert Haig was summoned to appear before the Kirk Session of St Ninian's parish church in Stirlingshire for operating a still on the Sabbath in 1655.

Evidence described “His cauldron on fyre, and a stand reiking.” Because of this reference, claims have been made that Haig's is the oldest whisky distilling company in the world, and during the 18th and 19th centuries, various members of the Haig family were at the very heart of large-scale Scotch whisky distillation.

Most famously, Cameronbridge distillery at Windygates in Fife (see issue 98) was established by John Haig in 1824, and the plant is credited with being t...

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