Peter Dawson was third generation of a family of Scottish distillers that began with his grandfather sometime in the first decade of the 1800’s. According to Whisky.Com, he established Peter Dawson Ltd., in Glasgow in 1892. A distilling and blending company, between 1893 and 1924 they were associated at various times with a number of Scottish distilleries including Convolmore, Towiemore and Balmenach.
According to the 1920 edition of “Harper’s Manual – The Standard Work of Reference for the Wine & Spirit Trade,” the business incorporated in 1911 with Peter Dawson and W. Campbell named as Managing Director and Secretary respectively. The Harper’s listing also mentioned three brands: “Dawson’s Extra Special,” “Dawson’s Old Curio,” and “Dawson’s Special.”
By 1925 they had been purchased and were operating as a subsidiary to the “Distillers Company, Ltd.” Guinness acquired the Distillers Co. in 1986, and they merged with Grand Metropolitan in 1997 to form Diageo. Today, Diageo’s web site does not list Peter Dawson as one of their scotch brands.
It appears that the Peter Dawson brands began appearing in the United States sometime in the early 1900’s. On June 16, 1903 they registered their label with the United States Patent Office (10,105) and their newspaper advertisements began appearing in 1909. The first one I could find was in the January 14, 1909 edition of the Chicago Tribune.
The Dawson taste for old scotch whisky is the cultivated taste. Peter Dawson Scotch Whisky is bottled in Scotland and has a flavor that will be a revelation to you. Kindly but firmly refuse substitutes at bars, hotels, cafes and on trains.
Like most European based whiskies, the Peter Dawson brands continued to make their way into the United States after the start of National Prohibition. An article printed in the March 10, 1925 edition of the Casper (Wyoming) Star Tribune described a confiscated shipment of Peter Dawson Scotch.
Ten quarts of Peter Dawson Scotch liquor, shipped out of New York City to F.J. Alder of Casper Wyoming, was yesterday seized by federal prohibition officers. No such man at the address has been found.
The liquor, shipped by express, was packed in a wooden shoe box which had been filled with sawdust and tin packing strips had been nailed around the box to reinforce it.
C.F. Peterson and Otto Plaga, federal agents, confiscated the shipment and sent it to headquarters of the department at Cheyenne.
Following the end of Prohibition, Julius Wile Sons & Co. was appointed as Dawson’s United States distributor. The following advertisement appeared in the December 11, 1933 edition of several U.S. newspapers.
Wile was still listed as their agent and/or distributor on advertisements as late as 1971.
Julius Wile Sons & Co. was a wine and spirits importing company that dated back to 1877, so it’s possible that they also served as Peter Dawson’s distributor prior to National Prohibition but I haven’t been able to verify (or refute) this.
The Peter Dawson Scotch bottle was a unique design that included “brambles” and “dimples” on the shoulder and near the base but leaving a smooth area in between for the label. An April 10, 1924 advertisement in the The (London England) Guardian focused on their unique bottle design.
The Whisky bottle that gives you inside information.
Old masters, bank-notes, and the labels on valuable commercial commodities are so easily imitated nowadays that extra precautions are often necessary.
In the case of Peter Dawson, it has been found imperative to adopt, in addition to the label on the bottle, a distinguishing mark which will at once defy imitation and protect both the public and the blender.
That is the reason why “brambles” and “dimples” have been grown upon the “P.D.” bottles. It is strange but true that these “brambles” and “dimples” will only grow upon bottles containing whisky that’s genuinely old and mellowed in wood.
Seek out the “P.D.” bottle that “brambles” with pride and “dimples” with pleasure. It will give you reliable inside information of a “special” nature.
As far as I can tell, the “brambled” and “dimpled” bottle design began appearing in newspaper advertisements in the early 1920’s and the design remained relatively unchanged (other than the finish) well into the 1980’s and possibly longer.
The bottle I found is a machine made quart that exhibits the Peter Dawson “brambles” and “dimples” and matches the bottle in the 1924 advertisement, including the finish. The base is embossed “Peter Dawson Ltd., Distilleries.” It doesn’t include the typical post-prohibition embossed phrase: “federal law forbids sale or reuse of this bottle.” As a result, the bottle was most likely manufactured overseas in the 1920’s and smuggled into the United States during Prohibition.