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Mon 6 July 2020
The first venture into making Whisky Liqueur by Rutherford and Company (see Rutherford and the MacRaes) was in 1952 and the result of family preference for a lighter drink than was then generally available. Although our family members much enjoyed Drambuie and Glayva, our ladies found that they actually preferred them reduced in strength by adding a mixer and being taken as a long drink.

MacRaeAfter many months of experimenting with herbs, spices and essences in the kitchen of his family home, Company Chairman Robert McRae came up with the answer. Every week or so he would appear with a new bottle of murky brew and offer this for critical analysis. Eventually, after almost a year of experimentation, the McRae ladies gave their seal of approval and our Whisky Punch was ready!

Although it was much enjoyed in the company’s establishments where it was available, Whisky Punch was not to be a huge seller. Perhaps the market was not yet ready for a Scotch based long drink but a major problem was the lack of finance necessary to take such a product to a wider market. Nevertheless, Whisky Punch was produced from 1952 until 1978, being available in 24 fl.oz, 12 fl.oz and miniature sizes. The original strength of 46 degrees proof was increased to 50 degrees in 1970 and the name was changed from Whisky Punch to Scotch Punch. The attractive shaped brown bottle created for Whisky Punch is still in use by Rutherford’s today for other products.

An interesting variation of Whisky Punch was produced during the early 1970’s. At that time the company’s Bow Butts Bonded Warehouse was bottling huge amounts of Black Bull Scotch Whisky for Dundee based George Willsher & Company and it’s American partner Jack Gross of Baltimore. Black Bull was filled into a range of bottles ranging from a massive 1 gallon down to the ‘hip flask’ flat quarter bottles popular with those attending sporting events in the United States. In an attempt to reduce alcohol related trouble at such events, the United States Government prohibited the filling of Scotch into the smaller, flat bottles and their sale ceased overnight. But not for long! The restriction applied only to Scotch Whisky so Bow Butts added a minute amount of sugar, indiscernible to the taste but enough to ensure that the spirit was legally no longer Scotch but was now a liqueur! Sales boomed again until the United States Government saw the futility of their action and removed the prohibition. Disaster! George Willsher was now sitting on a huge quantity of adulterated spirit, neither Scotch nor a proper liqueur. The sugar could not be removed so the only option was to use the spirit as a base for a real liqueur, a variation of Whisky Punch. And so Willsher’s Dundee Scotch ‘n Orange was created!

For further stories on MacRaes involvement in whisky, see The Spirit of the MacRaes

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