Vat 69

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A bottle of Vat 69 whisky.
Type Scotch blended whisky
Manufacturer William Sanderson & Son Limited
Distributor Diageo
Country of origin Scotland
Introduced 1882

Vat 69 is a Scotch blended 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 because of the combination of the malts and grains.[7]

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%)

Popular culture[edit]

Film and TV[edit]

  • In the 1937 Japanese film What Did the Lady Forget?, a bottle of Vat 69 is featured prominently in the opening shot of a visit to a Geisha house.
  • In the movie Twelve O'Clock High (1949), Gregory Peck as General Savage pours a glass while meeting with his commanding general at Bomber Command.
  • In the movie "Another Man's Poison" (1951), Bette Davis as Janet Frobischer spikes George Bates' flask of Vat 69 with poison.
  • In the 1958 film Our Man in Havana, one of James Wormold's friends is found killed with a bottle of Vat 69 in his hand. It was a present for James, who collected miniature whisky bottles.
  • In the movie "Sergeant Deadhead" (1965), Frankie Avalon's character, "Dead Head," is seen pouring his newly acquired wife a drink from a bottle of Vat 69.
  • In the Italian movie Febbre da cavallo (1976) Vat '69 is the whisky used for a cult sketch played by Gigi Proietti.
  • Vat 69 was frequently shown in Bollywood movies of 70s and 80s as the preferred drink of rich and powerful villains.
  • In the "The Moral Dimension" episode of the British series Yes Minister, Vat 69 is used as code to illicitly obtain alcohol at a party in an Islamic country. "Oh, there was a message for you in the communications room. The VAT man, your 69 returns." "What?". "VAT 69". "Oh. Ah! Yes... thanks".
  • In the night club scene in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984), the character Penny Priddy (played by Ellen Barkin) has a bottle of Vat 69.
  • Vat 69 was Captain Lewis Nixon's favorite liquor in the book and mini-series Band of Brothers (2001). Before D-Day, to avoid having it confiscated he used the footlocker of his teetotaling friend Richard Winters to store his stash. During the course of the war, Nixon became an alcoholic and went to great pains to obtain Vat 69. In Episode 9, "Why We Fight", he is seen taking several drinks from a bottle of Vat 69 and enlisting the company clerk to help him find more.
  • In Series 8, Episode 9 of the British television show Doctor Who, a bottle is seen on a table in an apartment.
  • Several Pakistani films of the 1960s and 1970s era showed villains drinking VAT 69. It was the whiskey of choice displayed most prominently in club scenes of song and dance routines.
  • Vat 69 also appeared in the 1981 Bollywood movie Naseeb. The depressed Vicky is drinking directly from a bottle of Vat 69 in the song "Zindagi Imtihaan Leti Hai", which can be found on a popular video site.


  • In chapters three and fifteen of Raymond Chandler's The Lady in the Lake (1943), Philip Marlowe sees bottles of Vat 69 in Mr. Lavery's house
  • Robert Leslie Bellem's detective Dan Turner rarely makes it through an episode without taking a few slugs of Vat 69.
  • In the first chapter of Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow (1973), Osbie Feel is portrayed drinking Vat 69 and water from a half-pint milk bottle
  • Vat 69 is parodied in the title of a short story, "Vat '96," from the collection The Acid House (1994) by Scottish author Irvine Welsh
  • In Francis Imbuga's Shrine of Tears (1993), Vat 69 is consumed by Jay Boge.
  • In Stephen King's 1977 novel The Shining Vat 69 was mentioned. The author explains Jack Torrance's hang-over headaches during his past drinking problems: "He had begun to think of his morning-after thumpers as Excedrin Headache Number Vat 69".


  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. ^ "Vat 69 Blended Scotch Whisky". Bring a Bottle. 
  8. ^ "Vat 69". The Whisky Exchange. Retrieved 24 July 2016.