William Grant (businessman)

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William Grant (19 December 1839 – 1923) was a Scottish distiller and entrepreneur who founded William Grant & Sons, the manufacturer of Glenfiddich, as such, the first company in the world to market a true single malt whisky and a leading brand today.


Grant was descended from Clan Grant, which arrived in Speyside after being rewarded with land for "services to the king".[1] In 1745, three brothers fought in the Jacobite rebellion against Hanover. Alexander Grant survived the Battle of Culloden but had to flee to Banffshire where he was hidden by a clan chief.

Alexander Grant's great-grandson, William Grant, was born in 1839 in Dufftown, Scotland. When he was seven he began herding the family cattle in the hills. He then worked as an apprentice shoemaker and a limeworks employee. He did, however, receive a good education. Consequently, in 1866 he became a bookkeeper at the local Distillery. He gained an appreciation for the production of whisky and became manager of the distillery, where he worked for 20 years. His wife, Elizabeth, had nine children.

Throughout this period of his life he saved money to set himself up as a distiller. In 1886, he quit his job, purchased the necessary land, materials and machines, and built the Glenfiddich Distillery with the help of his 9 children.[2] On Christmas day in 1887, his distillery began operation, pioneering single malt Scotch whisky. Until Glenfiddich only blended brands were common.

Glenfiddich whisky from William Grant & Sons proved successful and so in 1892, he built a second distillery next door in Dufftown, known as the Balvenie Distillery.[3] His daughter Isabella married Charles Gordon, who became the company's first salesman.[4] In 1909, Charles Gordon began travelling to export Glenfiddich around the world. By 1914, he had established distribution networks in 30 countries, and today the company exports to 180 countries.


William Grant died in 1923. In the 2008 Sunday Times Rich List, his family were ranked 86th richest in the UK, and 3rd richest in Scotland. In the Sunday Times Rich List 2013, the Grant and Gordon family were listed as the second richest family in Scotland.[5]

His grandson William Grant, Lord Grant[6] (1909–1972) was an advocate who served as Solicitor General for Scotland, Lord Advocate, and Lord Justice Clerk from 1962 to 1972.[7]

Supercentenarian granddaughter[edit]

His granddaughter was a woman named Janet Roberts (née Gordon; 13 August 1901 - 6 April 2012) who lived to be supercentenarian. Bottles of whisky were produced in her honour to mark her 100th, 105th, 107th and 110th birthdays.[8] She died in her home at the advanced age of 110. She was the oldest living person in Scotland.[9]


  1. ^ "The Grant's Story - Early Years". William Grant & Sons Ltd. Retrieved 2008-02-24.
  2. ^ "Discover our heritage". William Grant & Sons Ltd. Retrieved 2008-02-24.
  3. ^ Lord Cameron of Lochbroom (1999-02-19), OPINION OF LORD CAMERON OF LOCHBROOM in the cause WILLIAM GRANT & SONS LIMITED AND OTHERS, Pursuers; against GLEN CATRINE BONDED WAREHOUSE LIMITED AND OTHERS, Scottish Courts, retrieved 2008-02-24
  4. ^ "William Grant". Retrieved 2020-06-05.
  5. ^ "Sign In to The Times & The Sunday Times". account.thetimes.co.uk. Retrieved 2020-05-06.
  6. ^ "Called to Scottish Bar". Aberdeen Journal. 27 October 1934. p. 8. Retrieved 12 January 2016 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  7. ^ Watt, George (20 November 1972). "Lord Grant killed in car accident". Glasgow Herald. p. 1. Retrieved 12 January 2016 – via Google News.
  8. ^ Leanna MacLarty (11 April 2012). "Scotland's oldest woman dies aged 110". news.stv.tv.
  9. ^ "Oldest woman in Scotland Janet Roberts dies, aged 110". BBC News. 2012-04-11.