Whyte and Mackay claims that the pride and passion of its original owners James Whyte and Charles Mackay still lives on in every glass of the company’s blended whisky, which claims to use 35 different whiskies from all four whisky regions.

But the firm has come a long way since 1882 when the two founders saw an opportunity – as the brand’s website claims – to “provide the hard-working residents of Glasgow with an alternative to Cognac”.

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Ironically it is now owned by one of the world’s largest brandy firms.

Its twin red lion logo is said to symbolise the oppression of clan Macgregor of Glenorchy by the Campbells. When Macgregors were banned from using that name in the 17th century, Whyte was one of the names many chose. One of Whyte and Mackay’s lions is said to be from the Macgregor crest, the other to represent the Scottish lion rampant.

Whyte & Mackay's brands


The company traces its origins to 1844, when James Whyte founded his company Allan & Poynter. After the later partnership with Mackay was established in Glasgow's dockyards, Whyte and Mackay remained privately owned until the 1970s.

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Earlier, in 1960 a merger with Mackenzie Bros had given the company its first distillery, Dalmore at Alness in Ross-shire. A further purchase, of Tomintoul-Glenlivet in 1973, gave it two more distilleries, Fettercairn in Kincardineshire and Tomintoul, although Tomintoul was sold off in 2000.

In 1972, it was purchased by Sir Hugh Fraser’s Scottish and Universal Investments, since when its headquarters in St Vincent Street has been the stage for a bumpy history of purchases, sale and takeover.


Tiny Rowland’s Lonhro conglomerate bought the company in 1981, and it was subsequently bought by Brent Walker in 1988, and subsequently American Brands in 1990, before a management buy-out in 2001. The £205 million deal, touted as the largest ever in Scotland, saw the birth of a new venture called Kyndal and brought the company back into Scottish ownership.

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This was short-lived. Although named the leading seller in UK off-licences in 2002, by 2003, the company had been re-named Whyte & Mackay following a boardroom clear out as global profits and market share slipped and the firm was forced to make redundancies.

In 2007 the controversial entrepreneur Vijay Mallya, once dubbed “the Richard Branson of India”, purchased Whyte and Mackay, which by now sold nine million cases a year, and commanded neearly one in ten sales of Scotch Whisky around the world, for his United Brands group paying £585 million.

When Diageo took a controlling interest in United Spirits, the UK Competition and Markets Authority insisted on a sell off. Mallya sold the company for a huge loss in November 2014 to Chinese Filipino billionaire Andrew Tan.

Mr Tan acquired Whyte and Mackay’s range of aged blends and the Dalmore and Jura premium single malt brands plus Vladivar vodka and Glayva Liqueur, for £430 million, for his firm Emperador Distilleries, home of the world’s best-selling brandy.

Mr Mallya, meanwhile, has been investigated in India by the authorities over debts he left when he allegedly fled the country in March this year after the collapse of his collapsed Kingfisher airlines.

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India’s finance minister has pledged to reclaim more than £1 billion from the businessman in lieu of debts to a group of mainly state owned banks. The Indian government – which has a warrant out for his arrest - is said to be considering whether it can extradite him from his home in Welwyn Garden City, near London, while Mr Mallya says he has done nothing wrong and is living in ‘forced exile’.