According to Internet sources the Old Smuggler brand dates back to as early as 1835.
The first mention of the brand that I could find associates it with the Stirling Bonding Company, founded in 1878. They registered “Gaelic” as a trade name in 1884 and “Old Smuggler” as a trade name in 1887 but were probably using them before they were registered.
In 1894 the Craigellachie-GlenlivetDistillery Co was formed to acquire both the Craigellachie Distillery Co and the Stirling Bonding Co. At the time the new company issued a statement that in part said:
The business carried on formerly by the Stirling Bonding Co was founded in 1878 for the purpose of shipping high class whiskies to the colonies and the company has since done a profitable and steady export trade. The company’s brands have since been in high repute and it is anticipated that with increased capital a larger and more profitable trade will be done.
Based on the above statement it’s safe to assume that Gaelic Old Smuggler began being shipped to the United States prior to 1894, probably sometime between 1878 and 1887.
P W Engs & Sons was the bottler/distributor for the Craigellachie-Glenlivet Distillery Co. in the U S during this time. They were a reputable wholesale Liquor Dealer in NYC dating back to 1808.
An article in an 1898 issue of the Pacific Wine & Spirit Review stated that Engs was a bottler for the Glenlivit Distillery and P W Engs, 268 West Broadway, was also listed with Craigellachie-Glenlivet in the 1903 and 1904 Importers Directory of the Wine and Spirits Bulletin.
A Pre-prohibition advertisement from the February 13, 1913 edition of the Ottawa Journal described Old Smuggler like this:
Genuine Old Scotch Whisky in moderation, is the safest and most economical beverage on account of its refreshing and stimulating qualities.
Gaelic Old Smuggler is a genuine Scotch Whisky, matured for 10 years in sherry casks and possessing those subtle ethers and higher alcohols only found in the very highest class Whiskys. It has stood the public test for half a century.
Another advertisement, this one from July 31, 1912, exhibits a squat, cylindrical bottle, similar to the one I found.
In 1921 the Stirling Bonding Co, then a subsidiary of Craigellachie-Glenlivet, was acquired and made a subsidiary of a company called Stodarts. During prohibition, they shipped Gaelic Old Smuggler to Canada and the Bahamas but there was little doubt it was intended for re-export to the United States. Among its illegal receipiants in the U S were Jack Kriendler and Charlie Berns, proprietors of the 21 Club, a famous speakeasy during the 1920’s in Manhattan. They later became the whiskey’s distributor in the U S.
In 1930 the Canadian firm Hiram Walker acquired a 60% holding in Stodarts and the Stirling Bonding Co. The Old Smuggler brand remained with Hiram Walker and was subsequently passed on to Allied Distilleries. In 2006 Gruppo Campari acquired the brand.
I’ve found two Gaelic Old Smuggler bottles. One is a mouth blown squat cylinder that most likely dates from 1894 when Craigellachi-Glenlivet acquired Stirling to as late as the mid-teens. The other is a machine-made pint sized flask that appears to date to just prior to or during the Prohibition era.