Distillers Company

Distillers Company
Former type Public
Industry Manufacture of distilled potable drinks
Fate Acquired
Successor Guinness
Founded 1877
Defunct 1986
Headquarters Edinburgh, Scotland
Products Scottish whisky

The Distillers Company Limited was a leading Scottish drinks and pharmaceutical company which at one time was a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. It was taken over by Guinness in 1986 in a transaction which was later found to have involved fraudulent activity, becoming known as the Guinness share-trading fraud.



The Company was formed in 1877 by a combination of six Scotch whisky distilleries: Macfarlane & Co., John Bald & Co. John Haig & Co, MacNab Bros & Co, Robert Mowbray and Stewart & Co. This company was born out of a trade association called the Scotch Distillers’ Association formed in 1865.

It combined with John Walker & Son and Buchanan-Dewar in 1925.

It was acquired by Guinness in 1986,[1] forming United Distillers[2] and the majority of its assets are now part of Diageo.


The following is a list of the subsidiaries of the Distillers Company as of 22 July 1980:

  • Ainslie & Heilbron (Distillers) Ltd, Glasgow
  • Baird-Taylor Ltd, Glasgow
  • John Begg Ltd, Glasgow
  • Benmore Distilleries Ltd, Glasgow
  • J.A. Bertram & Co. Ltd, Edinburgh
  • John Bisset & Co. Ltd, Edinburgh
  • James Buchanan a Co. Ltd, London
  • Bulloch Lade & Co. Ltd, Glasgow
  • Geo. Cowie & Son Ltd, Dufftown
  • John Crabbie & Co. Ltd, Edinburgh
  • Craighall Bonding Co. Ltd, Glasgow
  • A. & A. Crawford Ltd, Edinburgh
  • Daniel Crawford & Co. Ltd, Glasgow
  • The Distillers Agency Ltd, South Queens-ferry
  • Peter Dawson Ltd, Glasgow
  • John Dewar & Sons Ltd, Perth
  • A. Ferguson & Co. Ltd, Edinburgh
  • Donald Fisher Ltd, Edinburgh
  • John Gillon & Co. Ltd, Glasgow
  • Wm. Greer & Co. Ltd, Glasgow
  • John Haig & Co. Ltd, Fife
  • J. & W. Hardie Ltd, Edinburgh
  • J. & R. Harvey & Co. Ltd, Glasgow
  • John Hopkins & Co. Ltd, Glasgow
  • Low Robertson & Co. Ltd, Edinburgh
  • W.P. Lowrie & Co. Ltd, Glasgow
  • Macdonald Greenlees Ltd, Edinburgh
  • Macleay Duff (Distillers) Ltd, Glasgow
  • D. & J. McCallum Ltd, Edinburgh
  • John McEwan & Co. Ltd, Edinburgh
  • Mitchell Bros. Ltd, Glasgow
  • Jas. Munro & Son Ltd, Edinburgh
  • John Robertson & Son Ltd, Edinburgh
  • Wm. Sanderson & Son Ltd, Edinburgh
  • Slater, Rodger & Co. Ltd, Glasgow
  • J. & G. Stewart Ltd, Edinburgh
  • R.H. Thomson & Co. (Distillers) Ltd, Edinburgh
  • John Walker & Sons Ltd, London
  • James Watson & Co. Ltd, Dundee
  • White Horse Distillers Ltd, Glasgow
  • Wright & Greig Ltd, Glasgow


From 1942, Distillers Biochemicals (DCBL) operated an Agency Factory of the British Ministry of Supply manufacturing penicillin in Speke. The plant was one of the first two factories in Europe to produce penicillin.[3] Following World War II, DCBL purchased the facility for approximately four million dollars.

Distillers was also responsible for the manufacture of the drug Thalidomide in the United Kingdom.[4] Thalidomide had been developed by Grunenthal with whom, in July 1957, DCBL signed a sixteen year contract to market the drug. DCBL ordered 6,000 tablets for clinical trial and 500 grammes of pure substance for animal experiments and formulation. Thalidomide was marketed in England under the name Distaval, beginning on April 14, 1958. Advertisements emphasized the drug's complete safety, using phrases such as non-toxic and no known toxicity. Later, Thalidomide was marketed under the names Asmaval, Tensival, Valgis, and Valgraine.[5]

The Speke site, also known as Speke Operations, was eventually sold to Eli Lilly and Company in 1963.[6]

See also

  • Pharmaceutical industry in the United Kingdom


External links

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