Booth’s Distillery, London England, High & Dry Gin

 

According to “Difford’s Guide,” the relationship between the Booth family and gin can be traced back to the establishment of their London distillery in 1740.

The Booth family, who moved to London from north-east England, were established wine merchants as early as 1569. By 1740 they had added distilling to their already established brewing and wine interests and built a distillery at 55 Cowcross Street, Clerkenwell, London…

During the 19th century Sir Felix Booth set up another distillery at Brentford and grew the business into the largest distilling company in England…

After the death of the last male Booth family member in 1826, the firm became an independent limited company. In 1937, Booth’s joined the Distiller’s Company Ltd, the interests of which would evolve into part of the conglomerate we know today as Diageo.

Booth’s gin is not currently listed as a brand on Diageo’s web site, apparently having gone out of production just recently.

It’s not clear when Booth’s gin first began appearing in the United States. The earliest U. S. newspaper reference for Booth’s gin that I could find is in a December 4, 1871 story in the Buffalo Daily Courier highlighting a local business called P.J. Hanour’s. It mentioned that “Holland” gin and Booth’s “Old Tom” gin were both available by the case at Hanour’s. Based on this story, its safe to say that Booth’s “Old Tom” gin was certainly available in the U.S. by the early 1870’s.

The December, 1887 edition of Bonfort’s Wine and Spirit Circular listed the firm of Purdy & Nicholas as the U.S. agent for Booth & Co.’s “Old Tom” gin.

An import company, the business was a partnership of John F. Purdy and George Stevenson Nicholas. According to Purdy’s obituary the company was established in 1857, so while it’s not clear when their relationship with Booth’s began, it’s possible that Booth’s U. S. presence dates back that far.

Always located at 42 Beaver Street in lower Manhattan, Purdy & Nicholas was listed in the New York City directories from 1862 up until 1888. According to an item in the September 12, 1894 issue of the New York Times, the partnership was dissolved on September 1, 1888. Subsequently, Nicholas continued to run the business, first as a sole proprietor, then, sometime around 1908, as G. S. Nicholas & Co. and finally in 1919 as G.S. Nicholas & Son. Throughout this time the business remained listed at the Beaver Street address.

By the early 1900’s, in addition to “Old Tom” their Booth & Co. imports also included Booth’s “Dry” gin. A 1902 advertisement in Life Magazine named G. S. Nicholas as the sole agent for Booth’s Dry Gin.

And the brand was included in the company listing under gin, printed in the January 1, 1903 edition of the Wine & Spirit Bulletin.

By 1908 the brand name “High and Dry” gin began to appear in the U. S. as a Booth & Co. product. That year, the June 17 edition of “Printers Ink” announced that the firm of H.B. Humphrey  had been hired to place advertisements for the brand.

A year later G. S. Nicholas & Co. included the Booth’s “High and Dry” brand along with Booth’s “Old Tom”in an advertisement published in the June 22, 1909 edition of the New York Times.

In 1919, the NYC Copartnership and Corporation Directory named G. S. Nicholas & Son as the agent for Booth Distillery, Ltd., confirming that their relationship remained intact right up to the start of National Prohibition.

Booth’s High & Dry gin continued to be available in the U. S. during Prohibition albeit illegally. One story in the (Wilmington Delaware) Evening Journal described a shipment that originated in Canada.

Eighteen days ago a fourteen ton, two-masted schooner cleared from the little port of St Pierre Miquelon, a French possession near Newfoundland, with a crew of seven and assorted choice liquors valued at upwards of $200,000 aboard.

Search of the schooner was made during the night. Bottles, cases and kegs of liquor were found in two hatches covered with bags of coal.

The small schooner is (now) berthed at a Delaware River pier in Philadelphia, heavily guarded. The cargo of liquor lies in concrete vaults of the U. S. Customs Department.

A list of the illegal cargo was provided in the story and it included “28 gallons of Booth’s High and Dry gin” and “62 cases of Booth’s High and Dry gin.”

Apparently Booth’s “High & Dry,” in addition to being smuggled in, was also being counterfeited in this country. A story in the April 7, 1928 edition of the Decatur (Illinois) Herald referred to one illegal operation as the “Decatur Branch” of the Booth Distillery, complete with a still, bottles and labels.

Police Friday raided the “local branch” of a London, England, distillery: makers of Booth’s “High and Dry” Gin, and other fine imported liquors. A new 50-gallon still was confiscated.

Swooping down on the cottage in 2129 North Church Street, they found John Alexander and his wife Sadie, in charge of the premises with 80 gallons of raw alcohol ready to be converted into choice imported liquors.

Bottles, labels, corks and seals were ready. Recipes for mixing a widely assorted list of liquors were found.

Booth’s London distillery, as described by the labels for use on the “imported” dry gin, made in Decatur, was established in 1740. The British lion appears on the label as a trade mark. The label is a work of art, printed in four colors.

Another label found is intended to give the information that the liquor manufactured in Decatur’s branch of Booth’s English distillery is imported by the “Henry Hollander Co., Inc.” under a special permit. Caution is given that it has been permitted in this country for medicinal purposes only and that “sale for use for other purposes will cause heavy penalties to be inflicted.”

The still was in the basement. It gave appearance of being recently installed. Under order of Chief Ed Wills, it was wrecked.

After Prohibition ended, Booth’s “High & Dry” gin began to be produced in the U.S. by Park & Tillford Distiller’s of New York City. The “High & Dry” label from the 1930’s included the following:

product of U.S.A. distilled and bottled by Park & Tillford Distillers, Inc. at New York, N.Y., under the supervision of Booth Distillers, Ld, London.

Other 1930’s advertisements explained that reducing the price by eliminating the import tax was the reasoning behind the change.

This is the same gin when imported retails $3.50 to $4.00 per fifth bottle. But it is now being distilled by the Park and Tillford distillers in New York City by the Booth’s distillers of London, England, same formula, same gin, but eliminating import tax, thereby bringing the price down compared to ordinary gin.

This advertisement from 1935 bore this out, listing the price of a fifth at $1.45.

By the mid-1950’s, Booth’s “High & Dry” gin was being produced in Linden New Jersey by the Distillers Co., Ltd.; W. A. Taylor & Co., was named as their sole distributor in the U.S and the bottle design had completely changed but this 1959 advertisement showed that their marketing strategy had remained pretty consistent.

They still stressed their English heritage.

It is good to know that when you buy Booth’s “High & Dry” Gin in the United States you are getting gin made according to the same formula as the Booth’s “High & Dry” purveyed in Britain. It is the only gin distilled in U.S.A. under the supervision of famous Booth Distilleries, Ltd., in London, England. Give Booth’s a try.

And price was still a major factor.

I’ve found a total of three bottles from the Booth’s Distillery, all machine made.  Two are square shaped “High and Dry Gin” bottles. One includes  “High & Dry Gin,” the British lion trademark, “Booth’s Distillery London England” all embossed on one face. The other is simply embossed “Booth’s High and Dry Gin”

They don’t include the typical post-prohibition embossed phrase (federal law forbids the sale or reuse of this bottle). As a result these bottles were most likely manufactured after 1908 when the brand “High & Dry” began to appear in the U.S and before the end of National Prohibition.

This is further supported by the embossing: “B & CO.LD.,” found on the base of each bottle.

Originally I thought that this stood for Booth & Co., however, I now think it’s the makers mark for “Bagley & Co., Ltd.,” an English glass house, that was in business from 1898 to 1962. The company manufactured bottles from 1898 to the late 1920’s or early 1930’s after which they ceased bottle production and focused on tableware. According to the U.S. Society of Historical Architecture they were one of the first users of automated bottle machinery in England and probably had the capability of making machine-made narrow-mouthed bottles as early as 1907.

This puts the range of production between 1908 and the early 1930’s and means that the bottles could have been legally imported by G.S. Nicholas or they could have entered the country illegally during Prohibition.

The third bottle has a hexagonal cross section and is embossed “Booths Distillery Ltd. London” The embossing does not include a brand name and there’s no makers mark on the base. It likely dates from the same time period as the others and may have contained the other brand Booth’s was advertising in the United States in the decade prior to Prohibition, “Old Tom Gin.”

Peter Dawson Ltd., Distillers

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., Distillers.”  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.

Old Parr

old-parr  old-parr1

“Old Parr” Scotch Whiskey was introduced in 1909 by the Greenlees Brothers of London. The design registration no. 547348 embossed on the base of the bottle dates to between August 10 and August 17, 1909.

Geenlees Brothers, was included on a list of distillers in an 1874 publication called “London and Suburban Licensed Victuallers Hotel and Tavern Keepers” so the business dates back to at least that far. In 1919 they merged with William Williams & Sons Ltd, builders and owners of the Glendullan Distillery, to form MacDonald, Greenlees & Williams (Greenlees belonged to Alexander & MacDonald at that time). This company listed three brands in a 1924 overseas advertisement: Claymore, Old Parr and Sandy MacDonald (Sandy Mac).

old-parr-ad

MacDonald Greenlees & Williams joined Distillers Company Ltd in 1925, shortening their name to Macdonald Greenlees in the process. Ultimately they ended up with Diageo.

The Old Parr brand took its name from old Tom Parr, reputedly the oldest man in Britain. Supposedly he lived for 152 years and at the age of 122 married for the second time. Charles I arranged for him to be buried in Westminster Abbey in 1635. Some say his records were confused with his grandfathers but I like the original story so I’m choosing to ignore this!

It’s not clear to me who distributed Old Parr in the United States from 1909 to the start of Natinal Prohibition in 1919. In 1894 Thomas N Dwyer & Co, located at 40 Barclay Street, was listed as the sole agent for Greenlee Brothers but by the early 1900’s they were not listed in the NYC Directories.

During Prohibition it appears that Old Parr illegally entered the United States via Canada in significant numbers. This 1925 news item in the Bridgeport (Conn.) Telegram describes a confiscated shipment of Old Parr that arrived from Halifax. Dated June 11, New Haven Conn., the story reads:

The Baltimore First, hailing from Halifax and captured off New London June 2, was brought into the city dock here today with her own cargo, 1500 cases of Old Parr Scotch and rye whiskey because of the shortage of space in the New London storehouse.

At the end of Prohibition Old Parr was rapidly available again legally. In fact, this December 11, 1933 newspaper advertisement that appeared in several large city newspapers including Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Baltimore, made it pretty clear that they were accepting orders prior to Prohibition’s official end.

Orders will be accepted from the trade for shipment of the above brands to States where and when the sale of liquor is legal, subject to import quotas.

According to scotchwhisky.com, Old Parr is still sold today in Japan, Mexico, the U.S. and parts of Latin America, especially Columbia.

The bottle I found is a classic Old Parr bottle; square with rounded edges and distinctive dimpled sides. It’s design hasn’t changed much since it’s inception in 1909 and over the years actually played a role in their advertising. This 1941 advertisement had the heading “An Old-Fashioned Bottle and An Old-Fashioned Reason”

In this streamlined age, there is sound thought behind the determination of Macdonald Greenlees of Leith, Scotland, to continue to ship Grand Old Parr Whisky to all countries of the world in the old-fashioned untippable bottle.

In far-off lands where house servants do not always read english labels, the squat brown flagon serves to identify at a glance this famous product from Scotland. The bottle is the guarantee of the genuine imported Grand Old Parr Scotch Whisky.

The bottle I found is mouth blown, making me think that it arrived here legally between 1909 and 1919 or illegally during prohibition. It does not have post-prohibition markings (federal law forbids…). One bottle chat-room connects it with the 1919 to 1925 MacDonald, Greenlee & Williams era but I cannot confirm this.

Buchanan’s Black & White Whiskey

buchanans

James Buchanan went into business on is own in England in 1884, bottling Scotch Whiskey and founding James Buchanan & Co. Originally he did not produce his own whiskey, it was produced for him by the Glasgow blenders W P Lowerie & Co.

The story of how the whiskey got the name “Black & White” was offered up in a July 19, 1968 Life Magazine advertisement.

He put it up in a striking black and white (labeled) bottle and called it Buchanan’s Blend.

But in the dimly lit pubs of the era, customers began asking for his whisky simply by pointing to “that black and white bottle.” So he quickly changed the name to “Black & White” Scotch

According to Diego, who’s the current owner of the brand, the name change occurred in 1902.

The Life Magazine advertisement also addressed the brand’s  black and white terrier trademark.

James Buchanan loved animals. This appears to be the principal reason why he settled on these black and white terriers as his trademark. In any case it proved an inspired choice.

The public promptly took them to heart and promptly labeled them “the Black & White Scotties.” Although dog breeders often remind us that technically speaking the West Highland white terrier isn’t really a Scottie at all.

In 1903 the business incorporated as a private limited company (Ltd). In 1906 Buchanan’s bought Loweries and by 1909 was the best selling Scotch in England. According to the Life Magazine advertisement:

To achieve the intricate balance of lightness, smoothness and flavor for which “Black & White” is noted, he used as many as 65 single whiskies in his blending.

The company merged with Dewers in 1915 and they joined with the Distillers Company in 1925. Guinness acquired the Distillers Co. in 1986, and they merged with Grand Metropolitan in 1997 to form Diageo.

In the early 1900’s, John Osborne & Co.,23 So. William Street in New York City, was listed in the Wine & Spirit Bulletin’s Importer Directory as the U.S. agent for the James Buchanan Co. Then sometime in 1902 or 1903 Buchanan’s opened a New York outlet. They were not listed in the NYC Directory in 1903 but I did find an advertisement in the January 3, 1903 issue of “Collier’s Weekly” that listed their U S Branch as 43 Broadway and Arthur Billen as their N Y manager.

They were listed that way in the NYC Copartnership and Corporation Directories until 1908. Around that time they moved to 29 Broadway and established a New York Corporation to act as their agent with Buchanan named as President and Billen as Treasurer.

In 1914 they dissolved this corporation and began using Alex D. Shaw & Co located at 76 Broad Street (and later 12 Stone Street) as their agent. Shaw was the agent for many over seas companies including Old Bushmill’s Distillery (whiskey), Bisquit Dubouche & Co (cognac), Coates & Co (dry gin), E H Keeling & Son (rum) and F Cinzano & Co (vermouth). This arrangement lasted until at least 1919 when National Prohibition was enacted.

The brand resurfaced in the United States shortly after the end of Prohibition. This 1935 advertisement in the Pittsburgh Press evidenced that Alex D.Shaw & Co. continued to act as their U.S. agent. By this time Shaw was located at 120 Broadway.

Diagio still produces the Black & White brand today. According to their web site it’s popular in India, South Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

I’ve found two cylindrical bottles embossed Buchanan’s Black & White Whiskey on the base of the shoulder. The bottles are both mouth blown with an applied finish and fit the 1902 to 1919 time period prior to Prohibition.