Vat 69

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
A partial bottle of Vat 69 whisky.
TypeBlended Scotch whisky
ManufacturerWilliam Sanderson & Son Limited
Country of originScotland

Vat 69 is a blended Scotch whisky created by William Sanderson & Son Limited[1] of South Queensferry, Scotland, now part of Diageo.[2]


William Sanderson was born in Leith, Scotland January 27, 1839.[3] He started an apprenticeship with wine and spirituous liquors producer Matthew Buchan at the age of 13.[4] By 1863, he already owned his own business producing liqueurs and whisky blends. In 1880, his son William Mark joined the business and persuaded his father to bottle various blends of whisky.[5]

The iconic Vat 69 bottle with its bulbous neck was introduced to the market and was not changed for the next hundred years. In 1882, William Sanderson prepared one hundred casks of blended whisky and hired a panel of experts to taste them. The batch from the cask (or “vat”) with number 69 was judged to be the best, and this provided the whisky's brand name.[6] The whisky was at first bottled in port bottles. In 1884, Sanderson bought the Glen Garioch distillery which was situated in the middle of a barley field. The distillery was meant to ensure the delivery of grain whisky.

Sanderson took care that there were always new products to be blended, because DCL, which was a strong society at that time, controlled such a large amount of the production that it had a huge influence on the supply of the competing company. For this reason Sanderson, together with Usher and Bell, founded a company to produce grain whisky, which still exists today as the North British Distillery. Sanderson sourced a few malt whiskies used to blend VAT 69 from a friend, John Begg, who owned the Royal Lochnagar distillery. When Begg died, Sanderson became director of Begg's distillery. In 1933, Sanderson's company merged with Booth's Distilleries, which merged again with the DCL group in 1935.

In autumn 1980, "Vat 69 Reserve" from the House of Sanderson had its world première in England.


Vat 69 production in 1972.

Despite its name, it is not a vatted malt, but a blend of about 40 malt and grain whiskies. Vat 69 Reserve carries no standard age statement.

Since autumn 1980, Glenesk, which is a 12-year-old Highland Single Malt (40%), is available from Sanderson in Germany. Glenesk is stored for at least 12 years in sherry barrels. Since 1964, William Sanderson & Sons Ltd. has produced "Antiquary", which is a 12-year-old De-Luxe-Scotch-Whisky (40%).


Whisky products available from Sanderson in Germany are:

  • VAT 69 Finest Scotch Whisky (40%)
  • VAT 69 Reserve de Luxe Scotch Whisky (40%)
  • Glenesk Single Malt Highland Scotch 12 Years Old (40%)
  • The Antiquary de Luxe Old Scotch Whisky 12 Years Old (40%).

Whisky products available from Sanderson in Australia are:

  • 700 mL Vat 69 Fine Scotch Whisky (40%)

Media appearances[edit]

Captain Lewis Nixon, an American World War II army officer who is a major figure in the 1992 non-fiction book Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose and the award-winning 2001 HBO miniseries made from it, is portrayed as an enthusiastic drinker who went to great lengths to obtain supplies of Vat 69.[7]

At approximately 1:36:27, a bottle of Vat 69 can be seen on the wall of the bar called Martini's, in 1946's It's a Wonderful Life.

A Vat 69 dispenser and bottle can be seen behind the bar of Fawlty Towers in the 1975 British television comedy of the same name.

Jake McQuillen (Frankie Miller) and Dancer Dunnichy (Ken Hutchison) drink straight from a bottle of Vat 69 in the cab of a cantilever crane in a Greenock shipyard in BBC Play for Today’s Just a Boys' Game, 1979, written by Peter McDougall.[8] Time 31:15

A bottle of Vat 69 can be seen on the shelf behind Nelson, barman of the Railway Arms in episode 1, series 2 of Life on Mars.

Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective, a fictional character created by pulp magazine, radio, and TV writer Robert Leslie Bellem, kept a ready supply of Vat 69 in his apartment, and had remarkably good luck finding a handy bottle at most of the murder scenes he investigated.

Penny Priddy, a character in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, got drunk on Vat 69 in the scenes where Buckaroo was playing in a club.

Orson Welles in The Roots of Heaven (1958) is seen drinking from a bottle of Vat 69 in his first appearance in the film.

A bottle of Vat 69 can be seen being removed from the clenched hand of a dead man in the 1959 film Our Man In Havana starring Alec Guinness.

Vat 69 is referenced by the protagonist of the BBC show Yes, Minister in the episode "English Customs", where a British delegation to a fictional Arab country is trying to sneak alcoholic beverages to a party held in their honour by their (presumably Muslim) hosts.

Stanley Baker pours a glass of Vat 69 in a casino in Venice in the movie directed by Joseph Losey, Eva, in 1962.

Gregory Peck, as Brigadier General Frank Savage, pours an impressive half a tumbler glass for himself from a bottle of Vat 69 in the 1949 movie, Twelve O'Clock High while speaking with his commanding officer, Major General Pritchard, who is lying sick in bed.

In a cartoon "Gustavus ( Gustav ) wants to marry" you can see the main character pouring VAT 69 into two glasses for him & his date.


  1. ^ "Sanderson's". Master of Malt.
  2. ^ "Member's Principal Brands". Scotch Whisky Association.
  3. ^ "William Mark Sanderson". Retrieved 24 July 2016.
  4. ^ "William Sanderson & Son Ltd Distillers, Leith". Leith Local History Society. Retrieved 24 July 2016.
  5. ^ "Sanderson's". Master of Malt. Retrieved 24 July 2016.
  6. ^ "VAT 69 Blended Scotch Whisky". Master of Malt. Retrieved 24 July 2016.
  7. ^ Winters & Kingseed 2006, pp. 275–277
  8. ^ "Just a Boys's Game". Retrieved 27 October 2020.