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 Diageo, 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.