Mackie & Co Profile

Although now dissolved as a company, Mackie & Co. – which later ‘morphed’ into White Horse Distillers Limited – was once one of the ‘Big Five’ Scotch whisky producers along with John Walker and Sons, John Dewar and Sons, John Haig & Co., and James Buchanan & Co.

The nephew of one of the founders, Sir Peter Mackie, developed the company on a strategy of consistency and quality, buying a number of distilleries including Craigellachie and Hazelburn to ensure stability and excellence in supply. On the death of Sir Peter in 1924 the company changed its name to White Horse Distillers Ltd., and a few years later was taken over by the Distillers Company Ltd. (now Diageo).

Mackie & Co History

Although the company can trace its origins to 1801, it was not until 1883 that the name James Logan Mackie & Co appeared in records. Partners J. L. Mackie and Capt. J. C. Graham operated Lagavulin distillery on Islay – Capt. Graham managed the distillery while Mackie marketed the spirit to (as described by Alfred Barnard) ‘Glasgow, England and the Colonies’.

In 1878 James’ nephew Peter Mackie joined the company and was sent to Islay to learn about the product and the business. By the mid 1880s the company had begun to produce its own blends with the distinctive Lagavulin whisky at their heart. Around 1890 a new company, Mackie & Co. (Distillers) was established with Peter Mackie now a partner, at the same time the company went into partnership with Alexander Edward to build a new distillery at Craigellachie in Speyside.

In 1891, building on a long family relationship with property on the Canongate in Edinburgh, Peter Mackie registered the name ‘White Horse Cellar’ for the company’s most popular whisky blend. The name came from the famous White Horse Coaching Inn that used to stand on the Canongate and was the starting point for the Edinburgh to London Fly Coach.

Under Peter Mackie’s drive and Victorian work ethic – his personal motto was ‘Nothing is impossible’ – the company grew to become one of the ‘Big Five’ controlling whisky producers of the day, due in no small part to his insistence on consistency of quality of the final product and the distinctiveness of the whisky with its Lagavulin core. These combined to ensure the fame of Mackies’ White Horse whisky around the world.

The end of WWI saw a boom period for the company, as production returned to growth and acquisitions were made. In 1919 the company purchased the remaining interest in Craigellachie distillery, as well as Greenlees & Colville, which owned Hazelburn distillery. One innovation that secured much growth for the company was the introduction, in 1926, of the ‘White Horse screwcap’. By removing the need for corkscrews and the effects of bad cork, demand for White Horse whisky doubled in six months.

On the death of the now knighted Sir Peter Mackie in 1924 the company changed its name to White Horse (Distillers) Ltd., becoming one of the few whisky companies to name itself after one of its main brands.

In 1927 the company was amalgamated with the Distillers Company Ltd. (now Diageo) ensuring the continuing existence of the brands.

See also

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  • Blair Athol Blair Athol Blair Athol Distillery & brand

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    The home of Bell's blended whisky.

  • Caol Ila Caol Ila Caol Ila Distillery & brand

    Caol Ila

    Islay distillery belonging to Diageo.

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