Whyte and Mackay the origins of a franchise brand
Whyte and Mackay traces its beginnings to 1844 and the establishment of Allan & Poynter in Glasgow, a business run by James Whyte before forming his partnership in 1882 with Charles Mackay.
The pair operated as whisky merchants and bonded warehouses, and launched their own blend of Scotch whisky under the name Whyte and Mackay Special.
The company remained in private hands until 1972, when it was acquired by Sir Hugh Fraser's Scottish and Universal Investments, which in turn was acquired by Lonrho Ltd in 1981. In 1960 Whyte and Mackay had merged with the Mackenzie Bros, owners of Dalmore, giving the company its first distillery.
In 1973, Fettercairn was added to the portfolio when Whyte and Mackay bought the Tomintoul-Glenlivet Distillery Co, which owned the Fettercairn and Tomintoul distilleries, although the latter was sold to Angus Dundee Distillers in 2000.
Whyte and Mackay was bought by Brent Walker in 1988 and sold to American Brands two years later. In 1993, Whyte and Mackay acquired Invergordon Distillers after a hostile takeover battle, resulting in the company owning not only its own grain distillery at Invergordon, but also the Jura and Tamnavulin malt distilleries, along with Bruichladdich, which was closed in 1995 and sold six years later, while Tullibardine was mothballed until its sale in 2003.
Whyte and Mackay Invergordon distillery
Meanwhile, in 2001, what had now become Fortune Brands sold Whyte and Mackay to management for £205 million, and the new company was renamed Kyndal Spirits. Kyndal was eventually run by South African tycoon Vivian Immerman, who reinstated the Whyte and Mackay name and developed a strategy focused on the company's whisky brands rather than third-party bottling.
Then, in 2007, India-based United Breweries, owned by Vijay Mallya, known as the 'Richard Branson of India', acquired Whyte and Mackay for £595 million and operated it through subsidiary United Spirits. This lasted until the UK Competition and Markets Authority ruled that United Spirits had to divest some assets after Diageo took a majority stake in the Indian company, and in November 2014 Emperor Distilleries acquired Whyte and Mackay for £430 million.
Emperador Distillers owner of Whyte and Mackay brand
The secret to Whyte and Mackay's award-winning taste is their triple maturation process and the way they blend to ensure that no one whisky overpowers another, creating a harmony of flavours that work together to produce that famously smooth, rich taste.
The story begins with choosing the finest malt and aged grain whiskies from two of Scotland's most famous distilling regions, Highland and Speyside. They then carefully age the malt whisky while separately ageing the grain whisky. Most blended whiskies stop at this stage but Whyte and Mackay adds an extra step.
The final chapter in the maturation story involves marrying these two different whiskies in sherry casks. This triple maturation process produces a whisky rich in colour with golden highlights, round and full on the nose with smooth, rich honey and fruit flavours. As in life, Whyte and Mackay believes that the more dedication and effort you put in, the greater the reward.
Whyte and Mackay says the pride and passion of its original owners, James Whyte and Charles Mackay, lives on in every glass of blended whisky from the company, which claims to use 35 different whiskies from the four whisky-producing regions.
The origin of the Whyte and Mackay emblem
Its twin red lion logo is said to symbolize the oppression of the Macgregor clan of Glenorchy by the Campbells. When the MacGregor were forbidden to use that name in the 17th century, Whyte was one of the names many chose. One of the Whyte and Mackay lions is said to be from the Macgregor coat of arms, the other representing the Scottish lion rampant.
Whyte and Mackay emblema
Whyte & Mackay today
The brand is aligned with new consumer trends and like other whisky brands has launched a 21.5% Light version, a very light whisky made using the same techniques as its higher proof whisky, including sherry and bourbon casks.
The face of Whyte and Mackay
To speak of Whyte and Mackay is also to speak of Richard Paterson, known as "the nose", who has become one of the most revered professionals in the Scotch whisky industry after five decades in the business. At the 2013 World Whisky Awards, Whisky Magazine presented Paterson with the Icons of Whisky Lifetime Achievement Award.
Paterson was introduced to whisky making by his grandfather, who founded a company specializing in blending, bottling and brokering in 1933. His father took over the company in the 1950s and taught Paterson to sniff whisky when he was just eight years old. He began his career in whisky as a general production assistant at A. Gilles & Company Whisky Blender & Brokers in Glasgow, before moving to Whyte and Mackay. Just five years later, at the age of 26, Paterson was promoted to the position of master blender.
In 2008, Paterson published his own book, entitled Goodness Nose. He writes regularly for magazines such as Financial Times How to Spend It, Whisky & Bourbon and The Huffington Post, and has also been a presenter on TV channels around the world, including CNBC in the US, Style TV in Russia and STV in the UK. He has also worked with the Benevolent Trust of Scotland, which strives to raise funds and offer support to those who have worked in the drinks industry and fallen on hard times.
Whyte and Mackay and Richard Paterson