William Lawson’s: A Dream Realized

Not much was known about how the brilliant William Lawson’s Blended Scotch Whisky came to be, for the longest period of time. If anything, William Lawson’s appeared quite suddenly in the market. Over the course of time, it may have undergone a lot of changes, concerning both production procedure and its shifting geography, but it sustained its essence.

If you are wondering why you have not heard of William Lawson’s before, is because it was not introduced in the Asian market like its contemporaries were. That should not suggest in any way William Lawson’s is a small brand. On the contrary, this is an elaboration on how William Lawson, the man behind the name wanted to immortalize it and did, even though he could not enjoy the fruit of his passion.

This article is homage to William Lawson, although he could do little but dream. This article is for all who dream and build, irrespective of challenges and the unpredictability of the future.

Born in Scotland, uncertain but between 1853 to 1859, he lived there but shortly before migrating to Ireland. Little is known as to why he migrated but it is believed that by 1888, he was at E&J Burke’s Blending, Bottling and Exports Company, Dublin as an exports manager. Within a year’s time, the name W. Lawson & Co, Dundee was beginning to be heard and soon enough the label “Lawson’s Liqueur Whisky” came to be registered to E&J Burke’s company. Confusion arose since the E&J Burke started trading as W. Lawson & Co too. But in 1890 when Burke’s became a limited company, and Lawson was appointed as the secretary, it became evident that William Lawson had his mind set on achieving success by having the company to his name. It hardly came as a surprise to people when he became the director of the Burke’s the following year.

However, in November 1903, for reasons unknown till date, Lawson’s ambition suffered a huge blow when he was dismissed by Burke’s. What happened to William Lawson next, nobody can tell but in the interim, two things happened.

Burke’s blending and bottling operations shifted from Dublin to Liverpool, even though they continued to use the 20 Reform Street, Dundee address on papers for their blends. This was around 1923. Over four decades later, in September 1963, Martini & Rossi owned Clan Munro Whisky bought the William Lawson trademark from Burke’s. Now the company’s distiller, the Distillers Company Ltd (DCL) had a blend of their own, known as Peter Dawson. Martini & Rossi, in order to avoid confusion, kept the William Dawson label. 

In another four years tentatively, the firm that was operational from Liverpool moved to Coatbridge, Lanarkshire and two years since, the William Lawson Whisky Ltd was born. The intention behind this was that the new company would take over every Martini & Rossi whisky asset from Clan Munro. And so it did, the takeover was complete by 1972 and the new company came to be known as William Lawson’s Distillers.

That very year, as an expansion plan, William Lawson Distillers Ltd acquired the newly born Macduff distillery in Banffshire, which had been constructed around 1963. Its single malt began to be marketed as Glen Deveron.

Another three decades and in 1993, a game changing event took place. Rum specialist Bacardi acquired Martini & Rossi, giving it the William Lawson blended Scotch brand and Macduff distillery continued to be a part of the brand.

1998 saw new headquarters facilities being developed at Parkhead, in the east end of Glasgow. Until then, the company had but only Macduff distillery. With the acquisition of John Dewar & Sons Ltd and five distilleries from Diageo, Lawson’s grew larger and shifted to Parkhead.

Bacardi ensured the brand unprecedented success. Lawson’s sales increased dramatically with production doubling within 2010 and 2014. In 2008, Lawson was introduced in Russia. That alone ensured that the brand became the country’s largest imported brand of spirit, winning recognition across the globe. Today the blend enjoys strong sales in Spain, Portugal, France, and Mexico.