This whisky blender has been blending quality whisky for 5 generations but their history even precedes the blended whisky trade. The clan Grant can be traced to the 14th century when they were awarded land in Speyside for services to the King. There were 3 brothers Daniel, William and Alexander who fought for the Jacobites against the English and somehow managed to escape the massacre of the Jacobites at Culloden and go into hiding. It was Alexander whose great-grandson William would found the Grants whisky we know and love today in 1839.
William Grant was not born into a life of luxury and started working at the age of 7 as a sheep herder however a teacher at his school seen his potential and encouraged William to better things. Later he served time as a shoemaker and after a short period of study was employed as a bookkeeper at a local distillery. So talented was William Grant it didn’t take too long before he was managing Mortlach distillery of Dufftown.
William worked there for 20 years but harboured dreams of better things and with his 9 children (yes nine) started his dream in 1886 buying the necessary materials to build Glenfiddich distillery. It was on Christmas day a year later that the first spirit ran down the copper stills at Glenfiddich. His story has a romance which is hard to match however, bad luck struck just one year later when the Pattison crash happened (Pattison was Scotland’s largest blender which went bankrupt) and much Scotland’s whisky distilleries were forced to close. However William Grant was a determined man and he saw this disaster as an opportunity and began to expand. Realising the dangers of being reliant on producing one product for one large customer he started to blend, bottle and wholesale.
It was at this juncture that Grants blended whisky was born and I was his son in law Charles who was given the task of selling Grants Blend in the UK with one of his sons John who had to take into international markets. William was a pillar of the Dufftown community being a church elder and playing the cornet in local band. Grant’s has remained in the hands of his family for the next 5 generations when most have sold out to the giants of the drinks industry. The question remains why Grants whisky was so successful in a crowded market place.
In the late 1950’s the Grant family instructed their bottle designer Hans Schleger to develop a whisky bottle differentiating it from its competitors perhaps spurred on by the growing success of Johnnie Walker whisky in its square bottle. Hans was a pre-war refugee from Germany and came up with a triangular bottle which was good for packing and gave Grants a distinctive look from its competitors. Hans went on to be a successful designer for London Transport, Penguin books and ICI the chemicals giant.
It was the mix of the distinctive bottle and the complex and smooth taste of Grants that made it one of the leading Scottish blended whiskies. Now sold in over 180 countries this mix of malt whisky including Glenfiddich and Balvenie and grain whisky from its Ayrshire grain whisky from Girvan that makes Grants what it is today.
The main achievement for William Grant the sheepherder is that his family have retained the business and hopefully they will keep the business for years to come.
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