The story of Teacher’s whisky dates back to more than 175 years, when the new ‘Excise Act’ was introduced and William Teacher was a 19 year old, former cotton mill worker with an uncompromising attitude and whole barrelful of self belief. The 1823 Excise Act altered the shape of the spirits industry. Only around 60 Scottish distilleries had been operating openly (although it is believed that many more operating illegally). In 1830 William Teacher obtained a license to sell whisky from a grocer’s shop in the Anderson district of Glasgow (like many others of his age, Mr Walker inc). The shop was owned by the mother of his girlfriend, Agnes MacDonald. William married Agnes in 1832 and went on to open the first ‘dram shop’ in Piccadilly Street where customers could stop by and enjoy a glass of fine whisky. In 1836 – when opening his second shop – William secured a license to sell bottled whisky. With a booming population in Glasgow (doubling since the turn of the century), it wasn’t long before Teachers had a chain of nearly 20 dram shops where customers could sit and enjoy their drams and also purchase a bottle to take home (do we swap dram shops for “pubs”?).
In the early years of the whisky industry, William had access to a constant supply of single malts and grain whiskies from across Scotland. When the Spirits Act was passed in 1860, William Teacher was legally allowed to experiment and create his own whisky for sale in his dram shops. It was during this time that William Teacher crafted a whisky with an unusually high peated malt content. It had such a deep rich flavour and unique flavour profile that he considered it perfection itself and it was this whisky that Teacher considered good enough to carry his name. And so Teacher’s Highland Cream came into being.
When William Teacher died, less than 15 years later in 1876, it was his second son William Junior and his younger brother Adam that worked to keep their father’s spirit alive. The company became known as William Teacher & Sons Ltd and it was their forays into the business of exporting that proved key to the growth of the company. At the start of the twentieth century the number of operating distilleries dropped from over 150 down to around just 15. Economic depression and the Temperance movement alongside rising tax levels in the UK all contributing to this turn of events. It was a difficult time for all, not just the purveyors of whisky.
The tide changed however and in 1933 with the end of prohibition, legal trade to America resumed and it was during this year that Teacher’s shipped their first consignment on the Cunard Steamer Scythia. The company continued to grow and in 1960 the Glendronach Distillery was bought and a new blending facility was in constructed in Glasgow 2 years later. In 1972 Teacher’s annual sales in the UK alone exceeded 1 million cases for the first time. In 1976 Allied Breweries took over Teacher’s and in the late 1980s, Teacher’s Highland Cream was the second best selling blend in the UK with over 150 export markets and notable success in India. 1997 – Teacher’s launched the Teacher’s 50, in commemoration of 50 years of independence in India. In 2010 and 2012, Teacher’s Origin and 25YO were added to the portfolio, Allied Breweries sold off its’ spirits assets and Jim Beam took over Ardmore and the Teacher’s brand. In 2014 these were then purchased alongside other Beam assets to Suntory Holdings of Japan.
The malt in Teacher’s is peat smoked, which is what gives the whisky it’s deep flavour and amber colour. It is the composition of The Ardmore single malt, blended with a number of different malt & grain whiskies that creates Teacher’s Highland Cream. William Teacher experimented with many blends and THC was his masterpiece – the one he gave his name to. Like all their blends it has an unusually high portion of fully peated single malt whisky. To this day, The Ardmore has never varied, and so Teacher’s Highland Cream has continued its distinctive, rich flavour.
Here endeth my spiritual education for today; Paul McLean (Father Paul).