White Horse Story



The Brands

The Distilleries

The Companies

The Personalities

Advertising/ Publicity

Further Reading


Shop –Whiskies for sale

Shop – Memorabilia for sale



A much loved blend from the old DCL stable – forgive the pun – which Diageo still promotes in many overseas markets, including Japan. It sold 1.5 million cases in 2015 but dropped to 1.3 million in 2016. However, that decline has been arrested with sales back up to 1.5 million cases in 2017.

Let’s start with what we had to say in “The Schweppes Guide to Scotch” in 1983:

“This is one of the rare examples of a company taking its name from a brand, although the present title was only adopted in 1924 with the death of Sir Peter Mackie. Mackie & Co., Distillers, Ltd then became White Horse Distillers Ltd to reflect the company’s enormous success worldwide with its White Horse brand, originally known as Mackie’s White Horse Cellar Scotch Whisky when introduced in the late 1880s. Mackie established his company in 1883, although it can claim a more ancient heritage since he had previously worked for his uncle, James Logan of J. Logan Mackie & Co. (Distillers) Glasgow, whose origins go back to 1801 and which had acquired Lagavulin distillery on Islay. The distillery, whose name in Gaelic means ‘mill in the valley’ is said to have antecedents which date back to 1742. The distillery proper was built much later, in the early nineteenth century. There was a succession of owners but it was the Grahams who entered into partnership with James Logan Mackie. Thereafter, its future became part of the Mackie story and prospered accordingly.

Lagavulin is today, at 12 years old and 75°, one of the best regarded Islay malts, full in body and rich in flavour with a generous peatiness to it.

Peter Mackie’s success arose from his keen appreciation of the potential of the international market for blended whisky and his determination to meet future demand with a high quality product. Mackie had close family ties with Edinburgh where the ancestral home was located near the White Horse Inn in Canongate. Famous both as a haunt of writers and actors and as the starting point of the Edinburgh-London stage, he adopted it as the name for his particular blend. Vigorous marketing at home and abroad soon established its high reputation, whilst the company’s founder went on to become a prominent public figure.

Having inherited Lagavulin, Mackie went on to build a new distillery at Craigellachie in 1890 in partnership with Mr Alexander Edward. The Craigellachie-Glenlivet Distillery Ltd was eventually taken over completely by Mackie. It stands in a commanding position above the Craigellachie Rock and the famous single-span bridge across the River Spey. Its production is used only in blending although Wm Cadenhead Ltd have bottled a little at 16 years old.

As a subsidiary of DCL, the company today also owns and operates Glen Elgin distillery in the parish of Longmorn, probably in one of the prettiest locations of any Highland distillery. Production got under way in 1900 under the ownership of James Carle and W. Simpson, both local bankers. Original production was between 1500 and 2000 gallons due to combined mashing and distilling.

Ownership soon passed to the Glen Elgin-Glenlivet Distillery Co. Ltd and, in 1907, to J.J. Blanche of Glasgow. DCL later acquired it through Scottish Malt Distillers Ltd and responsibility for it was subsequently passed to White Horse Distillers Ltd. Glen Elgin, like Lagavulin, is bottled at 12 years old, but is, of course, a totally different sort of dram. It is slightly sweet on the palate, which is not unusual for a Speyside. The White Horse blending and bottling facility is located alongside Port Dundas Grain Distillery in Glasgow which is owned and operated by another DCL subsidiary, Scottish Grain Distillers Ltd.”

The Brands

At the time of writing the above, White Horse, the standard blend, was marketed worldwide and today Diageo still states that it is sold in over 100 markets. The main ones are Japan, Brazil, US, Greece, Africa and, once more, the UK. On being launched in 1890, it was purely for export and only entered the UK domestic market in 1901. However, it soon attracted a strong following and that remains the case today.

According to the Diageo Archive, by 1940, the export brand WHITE HORSE CELLAR BLENDED Scotch Whisky was being shipped in brown glass bottles. The title of the brand differed to that of the Home Trade in that it is described as “The Blended Scotch Whisky of the White Horse Cellar” as opposed to “The Old Blend Whisky of the White Horse Cellar”. The flasks have several features, which were later adopted on the Home Trade bottles such as the serial number (incorporated on the home trade bottles in 1962) and the WHITE HORSE logo embossed into the bottle just below the neckline (introduced on the 1966 home trade bottles). They feature royal warrant to the Late King George V who died in 1936.The back of the bottle features a pink guarantee label and a white horse transfer.

The philosophy of the blender is very much about consistency so that every bottle of your favourite brand will be the same, no matter where you buy it. All very well in theory but over what period of time can that consistency be reasonably sustained?  In a fascinating experiment carried out in 2016, two distinguished aficionados of the White Horse blend – as well as of Lagavulin - selected 6 different bottles from their respective collections from the 1930s through to the 1970s and with a group of associates subjected them to a rigorous round of tastings. Three of the whiskies fully met expectations, whilst three fell well short. The pre-War example with its spring cap fastener tightly secured and the well maintained screw cap bottlings from 1969 and 1979 all achieved the usual high expectations of the brand.  And it seems that the secret lay, as one might expect, with the different closures being used at the time. The bottle from the early 1950s had had its aluminium capsule breached, the 1957 bottle’s Bakelite closure’s cork had partially disintegrated, and the 1962 bottle was also deficient. All three were deemed by the tasting panel to be well short of acceptable by normal White Horse standards. Whilst the issue rests at least in part with closure efficiency, the quality of the later bottles undoubtedly reflects the fact that the expanding whisky loch of the 1970’s and 1980’s released many casks of middle-aged whiskies into the blending halls of such famous brands as White Horse resulting in a qualitative surge in the product.

White Horse did particularly well in the United States and we have in Whisky Memorabilia an early photograph of their ambitious street advertising in New York in the 1900’s which clearly paid off.

We know from very early bottles that Browne Vintners were the US importers from as early as the 1890’s. We don’t have a huge amount of information regarding Browne Vintners and it is not clear what happened to them during Prohibition when presumably there was no White Horse coming into the country – at least legally! Whatever its fate during those troubled times. the company seems to have been re-established by bootlegger, Joseph Hersch Reinfeld, in 1933 following the end of Prohibition, before being sold to Seagram’s in 1941. It looks like they acted as distributors for White Horse until the late 1960s, and after that time White Horse was distributed by Four Roses Distillers Co., NYC. Diageo acquired a selection of Seagram’s brands and companies back in 2001, as did Pernod Ricard, but Browne Vintners doesn’t appear on the list of companies acquired from Seagram’s, either by Diageo or Pernod Ricard.

White Horse 8 Years Old appeared intermittently between 1936 and 1952.

There have also been de luxe versions of White Horse at various times. Currently there is White Horse 12 Years Old in a more or less standard tall bottle, which seems to have replaced White Horse 12 Years Old Extra Fine, which came in a much fancier package.

More traditionally, the higher priced variations have been the preserve of a subsidiary brand, currently known as Logan Heritage. It has been around under that name since 2014 when Diageo removed the 12 year old tag which had applied to its predecessors known variously as Laird O’ Logan, Logan’s Deluxe or just Logan. With a strong following in Portugal, this deluxe version of White Horse is almost as old as the original blend registered in 1891 and appeared a decade later as a tribute to Peter Mackie’s late uncle, James Logan Mackie. Originally known as Logan’s Perfection and Logan’s Superb, it appeared in the 1960’s as Logan’s Extra Age Superb.

In 1983, White Horse Extra Fine was introduced exclusively for Japan and in 1990 White Horse Mild was also created for the Japanese market, but it is not clear for how long. A subsidiary brand – Craig Castle – was sold only in Scandinavia. There was also at one time a White Horse Liqueur. The forerunner to White Horse was Mackie’s Ancient Scotch (known as Mackie’s Ancient Brand in the US), which probably appeared in the mid 1880’s, and the two brands were sold side by side for a time but it is not clear for how long.  

From time to time, special event bottles have appeared. These include White Horse Gold Edition 1890 which was brought out exclusively for the travel retail trade to mark Chinese New Year in 2014 which was, surprise surprise, the Year of the Horse! There is also White Horse 1900, named after the year in which the brand was first exported although there is clear evidence that this was already happening in the 1890’s. It is described as a lighter version of the standard blend – presumably because it contains less Lagavulin – or perhaps none at all!. Then there is the White Horse America’s Cup 1987 expression, which is now a collector’s item.

Also being marketed as part of the White Horse collection was Glen Elgin 12 years old Highland Malt (for the Japanese market) and Lagavulin 12 years old Islay Malt. The former is still around, but no longer exclusive to Japan, and there are now many variations of Lagavulin, but without the White Horse connection, which has been eclipsed by the cult of the Islay malts, in which Lagavulin has been a major beneficiary in its own right.

The Distilleries

Two of the distilleries, Lagavulin and Glen Elgin, which were once licensed to, or associated with White Horse Distillers Ltd. are still around and still owned by Diageo. And Lagavulin is rightly famous and much appreciated by the “Islayphiles”, as I call them, being one myself! It is part of Diageo’s Classic Malts selection and comes at various ages and expressions. When White Horse Distillers became part of DCL in 1927, Lagavulin was transferred within the group to its subsidiary, Scottish Malt Distillers (SMD). However, Lagavulin was subsequently licensed to White Horse Distillers Limited, thus re-establishing the old link. And so it remained for many years but, for reasons which remain unclear, that association has become somewhat fudged. We have some earlier Lagavulin expressions that were bottled at 16 years old by White Horse.

If I dwell now on the historical side, it is because Lagavulin—or Lagganmhouillin to give it its original rendering in Gaelic which means “mill in the valley”— is such a handsome and historic site and would fascinate anyone interested in distilling as it did both Barnard and me, although our respective visits there were 100 years apart.

Lagavulin dates from 1816 and celebrated 200 years of unbroken production in 2016 with the appearance of an 8 years old, a 12 years old and a 25 years old, the latter having already gained scarcity status and now selling at up to three times its price at the time of release. However, there is also an even scarcer option in the form of the 1991 single cask (522 bottles) at 52.5% ABV. This was available only through ballot with the proceeds going entirely to Islay-based charities.

John Johnston started legal distilling at Lagavulin in 1816 as did Archibald Campbell in 1817 at Ardmore Distillery, next door. The two businesses appear to have worked well alongside each other but eventually only one survived with Ardmore being absorbed into Lagavulin around 1837. In 1852 the Graham family acquired the enlarged distillery and continued to own it until James Logan Mackie, in partnership with Capt. John Graham, bought it in 1867 for use in his blends.

Lagavulin’s subsequent prominence undoubtedly owed much to the vigour with which Peter Mackie pursued all aspects of his business. This did not always produce positive results, and, for example, led to a long-standing dispute with Laphroaig Distillery next door, for whose whisky he once was the sales agent.

The agreement with Laphroaig had worked well – at least for the Mackie’s – for many years and no doubt a good deal of the product went into their blends. However, the death in 1907 of the long-time owner, Alex Johnston, who had done the original deal with the Mackie’s, changed all that. Johnston’s nephew, Ian Hunter, succeeded him and immediately took exception to the long-running agreement, which saw most of the Laphroaig production ending up in the Mackie blends, no doubt to the commercial advantage of Mackie & Co! The dispute ended up in court and Mackie lost and so no longer had the right to represent Laphroaig or sell its product.

Both distilleries relied on the same water supply. Peter Mackie was a poor loser at the best of times and the logical next step was for him to cut off the water supply to Laphroaig, which he promptly did.  This led to a further legal dispute, which then ran for many years.

Peter Mackie was certainly an innovator and after his quarrel with Laphroaig, he proceeded to build a second distillery at Lagavulin, rumour being that he wanted to produce a whisky which replicated as near as possible the Laphroaig make, which clearly was never achieved. That was despite having enticed some of Laphroaig’s employees, including the head brewer, to come over to the other side! Mackie took a former still-house and maltings, and brought them back into production using the name Malt Mill Distillery. He started up in 1908 with the aim of producing a whisky, which followed exactly the techniques which he thought the old Islay distillers had employed before legalization. It was, in effect, a replica of an old traditional distillery. For example, no coal was burned in the kiln, which used only peat. The scale was much smaller than Lagavulin with three small washbacks and two pear-shaped stills (allegedly modeled on those of Laphroaig), and Malt Mill whisky was totally different from the Lagavulin make. Malt Mill, however, relied on the Lagavulin mash tun but was otherwise independent of its big brother. Unfortunately, rationalisation led to its closure in 1960, and the stills were incorporated into Lagavulin in 1962. The original Malt Mill maltings thereafter served as a reception centre for the distillery.

It was in that handsome visitor centre, that the distillery manager at the time of my visit in the footsteps of Alfred Barnard, Mr. Alastair Robertson, afforded me the privilege of tasting what may have been the only remaining bottle of “Mackie’s Ancient Scotch”. I was assured that it was, in fact, Malt Mill single whisky bottled in 1926 at either 10 or 12 years old and at 75 degrees proof, and not a blend. The bottled Lagavulin 12 year old, which we also sampled, compared favourably, in fact, with the whisky in the much older bottle and which had kept extremely well. We also tried new whisky from the Lagavulin still, and although there was clearly a rawness about the taste, the heavy peating, which so marks matured Lagavulin, was already coming through firmly in the aftertaste.

Nothing much more was heard of Malt Mill until a cask was “discovered” in the film “The Angel’s Share” released in 2012. It was, of course, a prop and not the real thing! However, there is a bottle of Malt Mill new make spirit from the last ever distillation on display in the Lagavulin visitor centre.

Glen Elgin – “the fruitcake in the bottle” – is available as an official bottling only at 12 years old. There are a number of independent bottlings at various ages. It has no historical connection with the old Mackie & Co or White Horse Distillers, having entered the DCL as late as 1936 (although some records suggest that the acquisition was in 1929). Whichever date is correct Glen Elgin was subsequently licensed to White Horse Distillers Ltd. Its association with the latter did gain it some recognition, particularly in Japan (where the 12 years old was an “exclusive” for some years), beyond that which many of the DCL malt distilleries, whose product was used solely for blending, ever achieved.

A third White Horse associated distillery, Craigellachie, was sold in 1998 to John Dewar & Sons, which is owned by Bacardi, and still flourishes under that ownership. Craigellachie’s connections with White Horse go back a long way since Peter Mackie, the founder of White Horse Distillers and the creator of the brand, was one of the original principal partners in Craigellachie, the other being Alexander Edward, a prominent distillery entrepreneur who already owned Benrinnes. For a time the road on which the distillery stands was called Edward Avenue. Edward gave up his interest in 1900, after which Mackie’s involvement with Craigellachie steadily increased until, by 1915, he had complete control. In 1927, White Horse Distillers Limited - as the company had been renamed after Sir Peter Mackie’s death in 1924 - joined DCL and responsibility for running Craigellachie passed in 1930 to SMD, whilst White Horse continued as licensee.

Hazelburn was owned and operated by Mackie & Co from 1919 until they closed it in 1925. Their real interest was in the extensive warehouses for use as storage, including over 124,000 gallons (563,000 l) moved from Craigellachie in 1922. The company’s decision to close the Hazelburn distillery no doubt reflected in part how poor the reputation of Campbeltown whiskies had become. There was a move to reclassify the Hazelburn product as “Kintyre whisky” to get away from the Campbeltown stigma, but that did not eventuate. DCL continued to use the warehouses until 1988 and they were eventually demolished in 1995.

Noteworthy is the role that Hazelburn distillery played in the development of the Japanese whisky industry inasmuch as the “father” of Japanese whisky, Masataka Taketsuru, in effect had his apprenticeship at the distillery when he worked there for about four months in the winter of 1920 under the stewardship of Peter Margach Innes. Taketsuru produced a report based on his experience there entitled “On the Production Methods of Pot Still Whisky”. This has now been translated into English and was published in 2021 and is an important contribution to the annals of whisky history – in both Scotland and Japan.

Peter Mackie was also involved in Cragganmore distillery, being a member of the syndicate – styled the Cragganmore Distillery Co. Ltd. - which purchased it in 1923 from the widow of Gordon Smith. He had inherited it from his father, John Smith, who had built it in 1869. Cragganmore was eventually acquired in its entirety by DCL in 1965.

Mackie & Co. was one of the initial shareholders in the North British Distillery Company Ltd. set up in 1885 to construct and run a patent still distillery in Edinburgh as an alternative source of supply to the DCL near monopoly in grain whisky.

The Mackie/White Horse involvement in distilling led thus to ownership of, or an association with a number of distilleries – some prominent, others less so. However, the current Diageo arrangements mean that there is now no overt link between White Horse and any of these distilleries.

The Companies

None of the companies mentioned in the above extract from  “The Schweppes Guide to Scotch” still exist. Let’s, however,  add a few historical facts, which were not fully recorded in 1983.

Although there are unsubstantiated claims of its origins going back as far as 1801, the firm of James Logan Mackie & Co.’s formal existence was first recorded only in 1883. It was a partnership of J.L. Mackie and Capt. J.C. Graham, mainly to own and operate Lagavulin distillery on Islay, which they acquired in 1867. Graham was the distiller and Mackie the salesman. Enter the real salesman – the latter’s nephew Peter – in 1878 when he joined the company and immediately went off to Lagavulin to learn the business. The company was soon following the industry trend of diversifying into blending, and by around 1886 had its own blends under the Mackie label, but built around the distinctive Lagavulin malt, which has always been the dominating component in the company’s products.

In 1889, James Logan Mackie died and Peter Mackie became a partner in the firm the following year.  It became Mackie & Co. in 1891, with Peter as sole proprietor. They took ownership of White Horse as a trade name and opened branch offices in London and Liverpool.  The Mackie family of Edinburgh had acquired the White Horse Inn in the Canongate around 1650 and it stayed in the family until 1917. It was typical of Peter’s ingenuity to adopt the name for the company’s principal product. After all, it was an attractive symbol and the inn itself was much celebrated. Dr. Samuel Johnson and James Boswell were guests there before they undertook their legendary journey to the Hebrides.

The company became a limited company in 1895 with Peter as chairman of Mackie & Co (Distillers) Limited. It was in the mood to grow and had become a partner in Craigellachie distillery, assuming sole ownership in 1915. In 1919 they also purchased Greenlees & Colville Ltd, which owned the Hazelburn distillery in Campbeltown, where one of the first industry laboratories was established. The company also started making gin but it is not clear what brand name was used – presumably not White Horse!

White Horse’s success as a brand caught the attention of the other big blenders. Sir Peter’s long-term plan had been for his only son, who was named after the company’s founder, Peter’s uncle, to inherit the company, which he had joined in 1914. Unfortunately, Mackie junior died in the war in 1917 and so there was no male heir to carry on the tradition. Sir Peter (as he had become in 1920) Mackie looked around for other solutions and in 1923 turned to Buchanan-Dewar Ltd., which represented the merger of two other highly successful blenders. An amalgamation very nearly happened and if it had it is most likely that White Horse would have disappeared then as a brand. Buchanan-Dewar wanted it removed from the market, being a serious competitor to their own brands, due in part to Mackie & Co.’s prolific advertising and ceaseless promotion.

It was Sir Peter’s opposition to his beloved White Horse being euthanized but also disagreement over the value of the company, that resulted in negotiations breaking down. The company had been having problems over the financing of stocks of maturing spirit, which had led to the search for a partner within the industry. Nevertheless, it continued to operate independently for a few more years.

Sir Peter Mackie, “the erratic gentleman in Glasgow”, as he had become known by some of his peers in the industry, died, after a long-term illness, in 1924. The company was restructured and non-core activities, including such diverse products as concrete slabs, cattle cake, flour, carrageen moss and even Highland tweed, were disposed of. Out went Sir Peter Mackie’s pet schemes and out went his name, the company becoming White Horse Distillers Ltd., after its best known product. White Horse Distillers Ltd. entered the DCL fold in 1927. It had become clear that this was not going to happen whilst Sir Peter was still around, although he had been playing “footsie” with the DCL parties for some years, which had led to his being dismissed by them as “not being serious”.  Although White Horse Distillers was a sizeable acquisition by DCL it did not lead to a position for them on the DCL board. However, White Horse did benefit from DCL’s modernization program with a new blending and bottling facility being established in 1938 alongside DCL’s Port Dundas grain whisky distillery.

Acquiring White Horse was a good move by DCL. In the year before the acquisition the former had launched the “White Horse screw-cap” which replaced the traditional cork stopper. This eliminated the need to use a corkscrew as well as cork spoilage. Sales doubled within six months! Did DCL have a spy inside White Horse? Either way, it proved to be a fruitful marriage.

Within DCL White Horse became the license holder of both Lagavulin and Glen Elgin distilleries, although operationally they became the responsibility of DCL’s former subsidiary, Scottish Malt Distillers Limited.  Diageo dissolved White Horse Distillers Ltd. as a separate company in 2010. Some years earlier DCL had withdrawn White Horse blended whisky from the UK market, as it did with a number of its brands because of parallel trading, particularly in Europe. However, it continues to be a valued second tier export brand and a very highly regarded standard blend and has since re-entered the domestic market.

The Personalities

Whilst White Horse was really all about “restless Peter”, we should not forget his uncle, James Logan Mackie, who started it all and had the foresight to recognize in his young nephew a person of immense energy and imagination. Whilst Peter Mackie was no doubt pushing to take the reins, and only really got his head once Uncle James had passed away, he did have the decency to name the deluxe version of the White Horse blend after him and the “Logan” brand is the only direct trace we have today to the founders of the original Mackie establishment.

Peter was ambitious and spent his entire working life from the age of 23 in the whisky business. However, his drive and determination were tempered with a strong adherence to the work ethic of the times as well as a dedication to ensuring good quality control and a distinctiveness in the company’s products, which was achieved largely through the use of Lagavulin in the blends.

As he used to say, not just of himself but of those around him, “nothing is impossible”.  And so the company grew in stature and its products, and in particular White Horse, grew proportionately in demand and on a global scale. His goal of becoming one of the leading whisky production companies – which came to be known as “the Big Five” – was soon achieved. White Horse Distillers were in an excellent position to exploit the boom in whisky demand which followed the end of the First World War, but would have been of limited consolation to Peter Mackie following the death of his son in war in 1917, a tragedy from which the father never really recovered. Nevertheless, he threw himself into non-stop activity, which led to acquisitions, innovation and conflicts, but probably none as bitter as the one with the owners of Laphroaig Distillery, as already described above under “Distilleries”.

Politically, Peter Mackies was a true blue Scottish Unionist and it may have been his strong adherence to the Conservative persuasion that led to his achieving only a baronetcy, which put him on the junior bench amongst the whisky nobility. His outspoken opposition to some of the policies of Liberal governments of the day would not have helped his cause.  In particular, he attacked the April, 1909 “People’s Budget” of Liberal Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lloyd George. Amongst its provisions were an increase in distillery license fees and a rise by nearly a third in the duty on spirits. Whilst all the distillers were unanimous in their disgust, it was Peter Mackie who had the temerity to speak out in words judged for those times as intemperate if not downright rude: ” The whole framing of the Budget is that of a faddist and a crank and not a statesman. But what can one expect of a Welsh country solicitor being placed, without any commercial training, as Chancellor of the Exchequer in a large country like this?”

Peter was a marketing genius, but also power hungry and a bit of an eccentric, all of which combined often enough to put him at odds with his peers in the industry who were striving to both rationalize and to some extent standardize it, not least in the wake of the inglorious Pattison crash of 1898. Mackie distinguished himself from his principal rivals in another important way. He had been born into the whisky industry and had learned distilling at first hand through his family’s inherited interests in the whisky business.

Whilst self-interest was never far from Peter Mackie’s machinations, there is no doubt that he also had at heart the interests of the industry as a whole and this manifested itself in several ways. Whilst he was fastidious regarding the make up of his own blends, he also lectured his fellow whisky makers on the need for the industry to self regulate so as to ensure quality and campaigned incessantly for the introduction of a minimum age for Scotch whisky.

Sir Peter’s baronetcy came in the Birthday Honours of 1920, ironically under Lloyd George as Prime Minister. It was small consolation for the loss of his son in war in 1917. Clearly this had been a terrible blow and had no doubt made him more amenable towards the idea of merging with a larger organization or simply selling the company. Given his nature, however, nothing much happened until after his own death in September 1924 at his Ayrshire estate. No sooner had that happened than his name was removed unceremoniously from the title of the company, which was, under new management, soon to be swallowed up by DCL.


Given its long history and being a major brand in the times of expansion for the Scotch whisky industry, the company was a vigorous proponent of advertising, not only in the print media, but also in all manner of promotional activities.

Indeed, one of the criticisms of Peter Mackie by his competitors was that he spent far too much on advertising which caused them to have to increase unnecessarily their own advertising and promotional budgets!

We give some examples in Whisky Memorabilia of White Horse advertising over the decades, both in print form and promotional merchandise. 

A particularly good example of White Horse creativity in their advertising is a hilarious 1961 video of the brand’s global positioning, although some of the ethnic characterization might not pass muster today! 

An even earlier example of White Horse sense of humour is the advertising post card of 1908  entitled “Scotch Fun in the Olden Times” depicting kilted half-naked highlanders at play with a hint of modest inebriation amongst some of them. Again, totally incorrect politically by today's standards.

The photograph taken around 1905 of Broadway and Fifth Avenue in New York, with the prominent White Horse hoarding on top of the building at the apex of the two thoroughfares is ample proof of the brand’s early arrival in the US market. The Worth Monument can be seen in front of the White Horse sign and Madison Square is on the right.

Further Reading

There is not a lot of literature about the brand. Alfred Barnard wrote a publicity pamphlet at Peter Mackie’s request some time after the appearance of “The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom” in 1887, which includes an intriguing formula for the make up of a blend comprising 75% malts and 25% grains.

The company produced a booklet in 1935 entitled “Scotch: from Birth to  Glorious Maturity”, which is now very hard to find.

More readily available is Jack House’s publicity large-scale book of 40 pages “The Spirit of White Horse”, which the company brought out in 1971.  We have a few used copies available – see Whisky Biblioteca.

There is an excellent coverage of Sir Peter in Allen Andrews’ book “The Whisky Barons” (1977, 2nd edition 2003) - again, see Whisky Biblioteca.

White Horse Whisky Collectables & Barinalia have a Facebook page.



1650 White Horse Inn acquired by Mackie family.

1742 Forerunner to Lagavulin Distillery traced.

1801 Forerunner to J Logan Mackie & Co. (Distillers) traced.

1816 Lagavulin commences legal distilling.

1817 Neighboring Ardmore commences legal distilling.

1837 (approx..) Ardmore absorbed into Lagavulin Distillery.

1852 Graham family acquire enlarged Lagavulin Distillery.

1867 Lagavulin sold to J. Logan Mackie and Capt. J. Graham.

1878 Peter Mackie joins the company of J. Logan Mackie.

1883 James Logan Mackie & Co. formally established.

1885 North British Distillery Company Ltd. set up with Mackie & Co. as an initial shareholder.

1886 (approx.) Mackie’s Ancient Scotch launched.

1887 “The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom”.

1888 Craigellachie Distillery construction begins by Alexander Edward and others, including Mackie & Co.

1889 James Logan Mackie dies.

1890 Peter Mackie becomes a partner in James Logan Mackie & Co and White Horse Cellar blend created.

1891 Company renamed Mackie & Co. and White Horse Cellar blend registered as a brand and launched overseas.

1895 Limited company established as Mackie & Co. (Distillers) Limited with Peter Mackie as Chairman.

1898 Glen Elgin Distillery constructed.

1899 Pattison crash.                                                            

1900 Alexander Edward gives up interest in Craigellachie and Glen Elgin Distillery starts production.

1901 White Horse Cellar blend enters UK domestic market and Logan’s Perfection is launched as a deluxe version.

1907 Alex Johnston, owner of Laphroaig Distillery, dies leading to dispute between his successor and Peter Mackie.

1908 Malt Mill Distillery set up within Lagavulin Distillery.

1909 Peter Mackie publicly attacks Lloyd George’s budget.

1914 James Logan Mackie junior joins company.

1915 Mackie & Co. takes complete control of Craigellachie.

1917 Mackie family sell White Horse Inn and James Logan Mackie junior killed in Great War.

1919 Mackie & Co. buys Greenlees & Colville Ltd. and their Hazelburn Distillery.

1920 Peter Mackie receives a baronetcy.

1922 Large stocks moved from Craigellachie to Hazelburn.

1923 Mackie opens negotiations with Buchanan-Dewar Ltd.

1924 Sir Peter Mackie dies and Mackie & Co., Distillers, Ltd changes its name to White Horse Distillers Ltd.

1925 Hazelburn Distillery closed and used for warehousing.

1926 White Horse screw-cap launched and sales double.

1927 White Horse Distillers Ltd becomes part of DCL.

1930 Operation of Craigellachie Distillery passes to SMD.

1936 White Horse 8 Years Old appears and Glen Elgin Distillery is acquired by DCL and licensed to White Horse.

1938 New White Horse blending and bottling facility opened alongside Port Dundas Distillery in Glasgow.

1960 Malt Mill Distillery ceases production.

1964 Glen Elgin rebuilt and stills increased from 2 to 6.

1965 Craigellachie rebuilt and stills increased from 2 to 4.

1962 Malt Mill stills incorporated into Lagavulin and Glen Elgin maltings decommissioned.

1971 “The Spirit of White Horse” published.

1983 White Horse Extra Fine introduced in Japan only.

1987 White Horse America’s Cup official whisky.

1988 Hazelburn ceases to be used for warehousing.

1990 White Horse Mild introduced exclusively for Japan.

1995 Hazelburn demolished.

1998 Craigellachie Distillery is sold to John Dewar & Sons.

2010 Diageo dissolves White Horse Distillers Ltd.

2012 Malt Mill whisky features in “The Angel’s Share” film.

2014 Logan Heritage (with no-age-statement) and White Horse Gold Edition 1900 launched.

2016 Lagavulin celebrates 200 years of production.


Shop - Whiskies for Sale

We  have some interesting old bottlings of White Horse and associated brands at Great Whisky Icons.

Shop - Memorabilia for Sale

We offer some scarcer examples in a sample collection of memorabilia, some of which really go back a long way, at Whisky Memorabilia