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Royal Whisky Warrants - Current & Past Holders + Brief History & Requirements

Updated: Jun 15


Royal whisky warrants

We would like to play a little game before we start. Can you name all the current Royal Warrant holders in whisky? You can write them on a piece of paper or memorise your selections, and see how many you got right at the end of the article. If you want to, you can share your score in the comments section.

 

Since Queen Elizabeth II passed away on the 8th of September 2022. In May 2024 new warrants we issued by King Charles III for two whisky producers.


Royal Warrants have been around for a long time. The first warrants (then Royal Charters) were given to trade guilds, the first of which was granted by Henry II of England to Weavers' Company in 1155. Since the 15th century, the Royal Charter has been known as the Royal Warrant of Appointment.


But when were they introduced into the whisky world? How many distilleries and brands have them? And when was the first one granted? We'll find out soon, won't we?


If you are already familiar with a Royal Warrant and its current requirements, you are more than welcome to jump ahead to sections about Royal Warrants in whisky.


 

What is a Royal Warrant of Appointment?


The British Royal Warrant of Appointment is a sign of recognition approved and granted by royals (monarch, their spouse, and the next in line for the crown) and issued by the Lord Chamberlain's Office. Royals from around the world also have their royal seals that are granted to companies, but in this article, we will concentrate on the Scottish whisky industry and warrants given by The United Kingdom royals.


To qualify for consideration for a warrant, a company has to have a lasting relationship providing goods for the royal households - exceeding 5 years. Even though the word 'providing' is used here, the goods are paid for, and a transaction has been made. Applying for a Royal Warrant doesn't cost anything, but the company has to apply before one can be granted. (We guess back in the early years' traders were specially selected by the King/Queen if they liked the product to carry their warrant as 'selected and approved by the King'. Some were given out as payments and part of agreements between the King and a trader. Nowadays, companies need to nominate themselves.)


Every warrant is given for 5 years at a time, after which it is reviewed. Around 20-40 warrants are withdrawn every year if the product hasn't lived up to standards, balanced out with a matching amount of new warrants. When a warrant has been void, companies have 12 months to strip the warrant out of their products.


Royal Warrants of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles

Image by The Whisky Ardvark - New Warrants Displayed When Available



After the death of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in 2021, only 2 royals can approve warrants in the UK - The Queen and Prince Charles. But what happened to the warrants given out by Prince Philip? What a great question, and one we also asked ourselves.


When a royal dies, their warrant automatically becomes void. In the case of Prince Philip (and possibly Queen Elizabeth II), the companies have 2 years to stop using the Royal Warrant. After the Queen Mother died in 2002, her warrants were given a five-year expiration date.


In the past, a warrant was valid as long as the Grantor stayed in power. A renewal had to be granted by the new monarch if the company wished to continue having a Royal Warrant to display. Royal Warrants are granted to a company, and a Grantee will be appointed. A warrant can't be changed, extended to the parent or a sister company, or transferred to a different company altogether.


In the 1800s, having a Royal Warrant of Appointment was seen as proof of 'fit for royalty'. At the time authenticity and the quality of products were a real issue without food and safety regulations, and displaying a Royal Warrant gave the public reassurance about the product. Queen Victoria was generous with Her warrants and gave out over 2,000 before her death. Queen Elizabeth II granted 686 Royal Warrants during Her reign.



Nowadays, the Royal Warrant is mainly a sign of quality approval with a royal seal and doesn't have the same resonance or importance to consumers or companies as before (surely some still find more value in it than others). With a granted warrant, a company gets a 'handsome'More than 800 companies framed document of the warrant, and they have the right to display the crest of the Royal Warrant of the Grantor throughout their business (since the Merchandise Marks Act of 1887 it is illegal for companies falsely claim to have a warrant). There are more than 800 companies that currently carry this right, from Bentley and Aston Martin to Booths and multiple construction companies. If you want to know more about Royal Warrants and current holders, please follow the link to visit Royal Warrant Holders Association's official website.


Past Royal warrants by royals

Past Royal warrants by royals

Images by The Whisky Ardvark


All cigarette warrants were automatically cancelled in 1999 with public safety in mind. We were unable to pinpoint exactly when the 5-year rule for reconsideration and review came into effect. It is known that companies that received the Royal Warrant before 2000 were still able to show off their warrants given out sometimes some 100 years earlier.



 

Royal Warrants in Whisky - Current Holders (for now)


King William IV granted the first royal warrant to Royal Brackla in 1835. Currently, there are only 4 single malt distilleries, 4 whisky blends, and 2 whisky merchants that have at least one royal warrant.


In this article, we have only included the Royal Warrant holders with links to whisky.


Get your checking pens ready!

 

Berry Bros & Rudd Ltd


Trade Category: Wine & Spirit Merchant

Owned by: Berry & Rudd Families

First Warrant Granted: 1903 by King Edward III

Current Grantor: Queen Elizabeth II ( since 1952), Prince Charles (since 1998)

Associated Brands: Independent whisky bottler Berry Bros & Rudd, The King's

Ginger Liqueur, No. 3 Gin


The Berry Bros & Rudd has been around since 1698 and is the UK's oldest wine and spirit merchant. Their flagship store in London is next to St. James's Palace, which served as the main residence for British monarchs from 1698 to the 1830s. Starting as a tea merchant, they've expanded their range to wine and spirits and have a long-lasting history with the royals. Berry Bros & Rudd also provided goods for the famous sinker Titanic.


King Edward III granted Berry Bros & Rudd their first royal warrant in 1903. Every monarch since has continued that honour.


The London shop currently employs 6 Masters of Wine, and wine is the company's main focus. For many whisky lovers, they are most famous for their independently bottled whiskies that carry the name Berry Bros & Rudd - along with Royal Warrants from both Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles.


Berry Bros & Rudd - Warrants Displayed on the Neck of the Bottles

Image by Berry Bros & Rudd - Warrants Displayed on the Neck of the Bottles


 

D. Johnston & Co


Trade Category: Distiller And Supplier of Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Parent Company: Suntory Global Spirits

First Warrant Granted: 1994

Current Grantor: King Charles III (Prince Charles since 1994)

Associated Brands: Laphroaig Single Malt Whisky


The Laphroaig distillery was established in 1815 by brothers Alexander and Donald Johnston. Passed down in the family, the distillery eventually landed in the hands of Ian Hunter, who formed the company D. Johnston & Co. in 1950. Even though the distillery is now owned by Beam Suntory, the operation is still run by its subsidiary D. Johnston & Co, for whom the Royal Warrant was granted by Prince Charles in 1994.


To celebrate this honour, Laphroaig distillery released a limited edition 10yo whisky that carried the name 'Royal Warrant'.


In May 2024, King Charles III renewed his Royal Warrant for D. Johnston & Co.

Laphroaig 10 year old Royal Warrant

Image by Whiskybase


 

John Dewar & Sons Ltd


Trade Category: Scotch Whisky Distillers

Parent Company: Bacardi

First Warrant Granted: 1893 by Queen Victoria

Current Grantor: Queen Elizabeth II (since 1955)

Associated Brands: Dewar's Blend, Aberfeldy Single Malt Whisky


Aberfeldy distillery is the home of Dewar's whisky. It was founded by brothers Alexander and Tommy Dewar in 1896 to produce whisky for their blend White Label. Their father John had started his whisky blending company in 1846 and was granted a Royal Warrant in 1893 by Queen Victoria to recognise his blend as a quality product. John's sons had joined the company some years earlier. With the newly built distillery, the warrant found a new home base. (We guess back then, a Royal Warrant could be extended to companies established by the same company.)


John Dewar & Sons (a subsidiary of Bacardi) also owns Scottish Aultmore, Craigellachie, Macduff (Deveron), and Royal Brackla single malt distilleries, but since they were not part of the original John Dewar & Sons, the Royal Warrant does not apply to them (among other reasons).

John Dewar's & Sons royal warrant

Images by John Dewar & Sons


 

John Walker & Sons Ltd


Trade Category: Scotch Whisky Distillers

Parent Company: Diageo

First Warrant Granted: 1934 by King George V

Current Grantor: Queen Elizabeth II

Associated Brands: Johnnie Walker, John Walker


John Walker & Sons, a subsidiary of the global drinks giant Diageo, was established by John Walker, who started blending his whisky in 865. With the gaining reputation after the fiasco of the Pattinson crisis in the 1890s, the company had to wait until 1934 for their Royal Warrant. It was given to them by King George V and was continued by both monarchs.


Because John Walker & Sons is alive as a daughter company, their Royal Warrant does not extend to other Diageo brands. The Royal Warrant by Queen Elizabeth II is displayed throughout the Johnnie Walker range.

Johnnie Walker royal warrant

Image by Diageo


 

Justerini & Brooks Ltd


Trade Category: Wine & Spirit Merchant

Parent Company: Diageo

First Warrant Granted: 1761 by King George III

Current Grantor: Queen Elizabeth II

Associated Brands: J&B Blend, Knockando Single Malt


Justerini & Brooks is also owned by Diageo. Just like Berry Bros & Rudd, they are a wine & spirit merchant located in London on St. James' Street. With a history dating back to 1749, they also have a long-lasting relationship with the British Royal family. Justerini & Brooks gained their first Royal Warrant in 1761 (King George III), and have been continued by every monarch since.


Justerini & Brooks acquired the Knockando single malt distillery in 1962 which now serves as the home of the popular blend J&B ( shortened from Justerini & Brooks). The Knockando whisky is still displaying its Royal Warrant on the labels.


The shop is mostly left to function as its own entity, but the production of the blend and Knocknado has been taken over by Diageo. And something tells us that J&B is relying heavily on the status given to them by the Royal Warrant.


Justerini & Brooks royal warrant

Image by Diageo


 

Matthew Gloag & Sons


Trade Category: Scotch Whisky Blenders

Parent Company: The Edrington Group

First Warrant Granted: 1984

Current Grantor: Queen Elizabeth II

Associated Brands: Famous Grouse Blended Whisky


Matthew Gloag was a grocery store owner turned blender, born in 1797. Matthew's son William Brown Gloag expanded his father's business and introduced the Famous Grouse blended whisky brand in 1896. The company was granted the Royal Warrant in 1984 by Queen Elizabeth II - the only brand of whisky to do so without a previous warrant given out by The Queen.


Today the Matthew Gloag & Sons, and the Famous Grouse brand is owned by The Edrington Group, and it is the best-selling whisky sold in the UK mainly due to sales at Christmas time.

The Famous Grouse royal warrant

Image by The Famous Grouse


 

The Lochnagar Distillers Limited T/A Royal Lochnagar


Trade Category: Scotch Whisky Distillers

Parent Company: Diageo

First Warrant Granted: 1848 by Queen Victoria

Loss of Warrant: Between the 1970s and 80s

New Warrant: Queen Elizabeth II (2021)

Associated Brands: Royal Lochnagar Single Malt Whisky


Royal Lochnagar is the only current Royal Warrant holder with the prefix of 'Royal' in its name. Established in 1845 by John Begg, the New Lochangar distillery followed two unsuccessful attempts by James Robertson to establish a Lochagar distillery - both of which burned down. Queen Victoria had a helping hand with Beggs' business. She purchased the Balmoral Estate nearby in 1848 and visited the distillery soon after. The tour of the distillery ended with Queen Victoria granting Begg a Royal Warrant for his whisky. The facility was soon renamed Royal Lochnagar.


John Begg Ltd. was bought in 1918 by John Dewar & Sons, and in 1925 became part of DLC. John Begg also had a blend to his name that was bottled until the late 1980s and the trademark was officially dropped in 1998.


Somewhere between the 1970s and 80s, Royal Lochnagar stopped displaying their Royal Warrant and started displaying a crest instead. What exactly happened is uncertain. All we know is that in 2021, they regained their Royal Warrant from Queen Elizabeth II. By Diageo's Special Releases of 2021, the Royal Lochnagar has not yet displayed its new icon, but we are expecting to see a new label for the whisky very soon - displaying the Royal Warrant.


Royal Lochnagar royal warrant

Image by The Whisky Ardvark


Royal Lochnagar royal warrant celebration cask 2021

Image by The Spirit Business


 

Past Holders


These companies and brands have carried a Royal Warrant at some point in time. Due to tricky marketing, use of Coat of Arms and crests, the name, and association with the Royalty in the past, many consumers still believe these companies are carrying a Royal Warrant. In reality, at some point in time, they stopped having the right to display the Royal Mark.


No company wants to promote losing a warrant. Queen Victoria granted many warrants to whisky producers, which were honoured and continued by her successors - along with her love of Scotch. However, Royal Warrants survived the next monarchs.


Just having the word 'Royal' in the name of the brand or a distillery does not mean that it carries a Royal Warrant. This is the most common misconception that does have some truth to it. When the first warrants were given out, they entitled owners to use Royal as a prefix or a suffix. Even though their Royal Warrant isn't valid anymore, some brands have chosen to keep their granted name. Because of the decline of the value of a Royal Warrant in the eyes of consumers, many companies have decided not to seek out a new one.


Even though releasing a commemorative bottling to mark royal events including weddings, coronations, and jubilees is common, brands like Macallan, Bell's, and Bowmore do not hold a Royal Warrant.


 

Chivas Brothers


Parent Company: Pernod Ricard

First Warrant Granted: 1843 by Queen Victoria

Void: Early 1990s

Associated Brands: Chivas Regal Blended Whisky, Royal Salute Blended Whisky,

Royal Citation Blend, Royal Strathythan


John Forrest was a merchant who established his shop in Aberdeen in 1801. James Chivas joined him in 1838 and was soon followed by his brother John. When Forrest died, the brothers took over the company. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited the establishment in 1842, and a year later awarded the brothers with a Royal Warrant as grocers for their Royal household.


In the 1860s the first blend carrying the Royal prefix - Royal Strathythan - was launched. Queen Victoria renewed the warrant in 1884 naming the Chivas Brothers. Chivas Regal was introduced in 1909, followed by Royal Salute in 1953 in tribute to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. But when did they lose the right to the Seal?


Old royal warrant for Chivas Brothers

Royal Salute has done a great job at displaying royal icons on their bottles over the years, but did they ever display the Royal Warrant? We only managed to find one example of a bottle design that did - it might have been the first one released, who knows.


Bottlings of Royal Salute blend

Image by The Whisky Ardvark


And what about Chivas Regal? Up until the late 80s, Chivas Regal displayed a Royal Warrant. In the 90s they had a sneaky-sneak plan for a gradual change from the warrant to 2 lions that shared the same colours and overall design of the warrant, to a crest. Did you notice the move? We sure didn't. With this sneaky approach, we guess no one did, and losing a warrant isn't something a company advertises, so job well done.


Old bottlings of Chivas Regal blended whisky

Image by The Whisky Ardvark

 

George Ballantine & Sons


Parent Company: Pernod Ricard

First Warrant Granted: 1895 by Queen Victoria

Void: 1910

Associated Brands: Ballantine's Blended Whisky


George Ballantine was also a grocery store owner turned blender. He founded his first shop in 1827 in Edinburgh, but in 1865 moved his operation to Glasgow and established George Ballantine & Sons as a family business. The Royal Warrant was granted to the company by Queen Victoria in 1895, and in 1938 George Ballantine & Sons were awarded the Grant of Heraldic Arms, which is still used today.


Likely, the warrant was never extended by King George V after he took the throne in 1910. But Ballantine's found a way around it for years, stating, 'By Appointment to The Late Queen Victoria/ The Late King Edward VII'. Needless to say, this phrase faced out in the 1990s.


Ballantine's royal by late king and queen label

Image by Ballantine's


 

Glenury Royal


Parent Company: Diageo owns the rights

First Warrant Granted: King William IV in 1835

Void: Unknown

Closed: 1985


The Glenury distillery was founded in 1825 by Captain Robert Barclay Allardice. He was a well-known entrepreneur and a war veteran who mingled with royals and other members of high society. In 1835, he convinced King William IV to grant him a Royal Warrant and eventually regained the right to the suffix Royal. The honour was continued by Queen Victoria, and the distillery became officially known as 'Distiller to Her Majesty'.


Captain Barclay didn't stick around for long. He sold the distillery to William Richie in 1858. Likely, the warrant was never renewed by Queen Elizabeth II. All we know is that the Glenury Royal single malt bottlings did not display the warrant.


The Glenury Royal distillery was one of 19 that permanently closed down in the 1980s 'distillery massacre'.

Old bottling of Glenury Royal single malt

Image by Whiskybase


 

Hill, Thomson & Co


Parent Company: Pernod Ricard

First Warrant Granted: 1830s King William IV

Void: End of 1990s

Associated Brands: Something Special Blend, Queen Anne Blend


In 1793, William Hill founded a grocery shop in Edinburgh that became to be known for its quality blends. His sons William Jr. and Robert Hill took over the extended operation after William's death in 1818. King William IV granted The first Royal Warrant to William Hill company in the 1830s. The company would be passed on to the third brother, George Hill, in 1837, who received a continuation of the Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria in 1838.


The two blends made by Hill, Thomson & Co were called Something Special (launched 1912) and Queen Anne (launched 1884, registered 1902). In 1970, the company was merged into Glenlivet Distillers Ltd and to Diageo some years later before it was acquired by Pernod Ricard in 1998.


Queen Anne blend was discontinued by the new owners, but up until then, the label carried the Royal Warrant. Something Special is still part of Pernod Ricard's portfolio, and the Royal Warrant was displayed on the label at least till the turn of the millennia before it was replaced by a Coat of Arms.


Hill Thomson past royal warrant bottlings

Image by The Whisky Ardvark - New Something Special Label and Crest on The Right


 

Royal Brackla


Parent Company: John Dewar & Sons under Bacardi

First Warrant Granted: 1833 by King William IV

Void: Unknown

Associated Brands: Royal Brackla Single Malt Whisky


Royal Brackla (then Brackla) was the first distillery to be granted a Royal Warrant by King William IV in 1833. Captain William Fraser established the distillery in 1812 and was not well-liked due to his demeanour of superiority and tyranny. But as a self-promoter, he managed to use his connections in London and the elite to persuade the King to grant him a warrant. Brackla was immediately renamed Royal Brackla and advertised as 'The King's Own Whisky'.


The first official distillery single malt bottlings were rolled out by Diageo in 1993 as a part of their Flora & Fauna range. Since 1998, the distillery has been owned by Bacardi. They introduced the first royal symbol on the label in the form of a crown in 2004. In 2015, a new logo was revealed that included a Coat of Arms that could easily be mistaken for a Royal Warrant by the Queen. (If you look closely, you realise that the unicorn on the right is actually another Barbary lion.) Maybe because of this confusing crest, Bacardi introduced a new logo with their rebranding in 2019.


The marketing of the brand is still misleading since Bacardi is relying heavily on Royal Brackla's past royal status and reputation.


Royal Brackla whisky label

Images by John Dewar & Sons


 

White Horse Distillers Ltd.


Parent Company: Diageo

First Warrant Granted: 1908 by King Edward VII

Void: 2000

Associated Brands: White Horse Blended Whisky, Lagavulin Single Malt


The White Horse Distillers was named after the White Horse Inn in Edinburgh, which was owned by the Mackie family. James Logan Mackie was a stakeholder at the Lagavulin distillery in 1880. He launched the White Horse blend in 1890, naming it after his family Inn and used Lagavulin whisky as his main component.


Probably the most notable member of the family came to be Peter Mackie, James's nephew. He trademarked the White Horse name under Mackie & Co. and went on to establish the Craigellachie distillery in Speyside, and the Hazelburn distillery in Campbeltown. The company was later named White Horse Distillers Ltd. and sold to DLC in 1927. In the same year, Glen Elgin distillery was attached to the White Horse name.


In 1908, Peter Mackie's distilling and blending operation was granted a Royal Warrant by King Edward VII. This tradition was continued by George V, George VI, and Queen Elizabeth II. Eventually, White Horse Distillers Ltd. was removed from use in 2000, losing its Royal Warrant. The company was completely dissolved by Diageo in 2010, but the White Horse blend is still made for export markets overseas. Lagavulin single malt has become a whisky fan favourite and is still available worldwide - without the Royal Warrant.


History of White Hose royal warrant

Image by The Whisky Ardvark

 

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Or did we possibly forget someone? Let us know so we can update our information.



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