Stylized black text "VAT 69" with registered trademark symbol.

William Sanderson & Son

  • Scotland
  • Queen’s Award for Industry (1967)
Phone Number
  • +44 20 8978 6000
  • Edinburgh Park, 5 Lochside Way, Edinburgh, EH12 9DT, United Kingdom​

VAT 69 Scotch Whisky sign on distillery building.

History of William Sanderson & Son

Founding and Initial Years
William Sanderson established William Sanderson & Son in 1863 in Leith, Scotland. His son, William Mark, joined the business in 1880, marking a pivotal moment in the company’s history.

Creation of Vat 69
In 1882, William Sanderson created around 100 separate blends, and a panel of whisky experts unanimously selected the 69th blend as the best. This blend led to the creation of Vat 69, the company’s core product.

Expansion and Innovations

Founding of North British Distillery
In 1885, concerned about the control of the Distillers Company Ltd. over the grain whisky industry, William Sanderson played a key role in founding the North British grain distillery in Edinburgh. He became its managing director when it opened in 1887.

Other Key Developments
William Sanderson & Son also contributed to the founding of Tamdhu distillery in 1896 and purchased Glen Garioch distillery in 1908.

World War I Impact and Later Developments

Impact of World War I
World War I had a significant impact on the Scottish whisky industry, including the Sanderson family. The war led to restrictions on whisky production and the use of distilleries for war efforts, such as producing acetone.

Further Business Developments
The company expanded by purchasing Robertson & Sanderson Ltd. after William Mark’s brothers, who were partners in the business, and two of his nephews died. Kenneth, William Mark’s son, joined the company after being discharged from the Black Watch regiment.

Company Changes and Modern Era

Mergers and Acquisitions
In 1935, William Sanderson & Son merged with Booth’s Distilleries. However, in 1937, the company lost its independence when it was taken over by Distillers Company Ltd., which was ironic given the North British distillery’s original purpose of breaking DCL’s control over the grain whisky industry.

Vat 69 in Modern Times
Vat 69 remains popular today and is part of Diageo’s portfolio. The blend includes about 40 malts and grains, with a light and well-balanced style.

Notable Historical Events
Noteworthy is that Vat 69 accompanied Sir Ernest Shackleton on his 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition and became one of America’s most popular whiskies after the end of Prohibition.

Legacy and Cultural Impact

Cultural Appearances
Vat 69 has featured in various media, including books, television programs, and movies, both in Britain and internationally. It gained particular fame in the United States as the favourite whisky of Captain Lewis Nixon in the TV series “Band of Brothers”.

Contemporary Status
The brand’s current formulation maintains its original character and continues to be a significant player in the global whisky market.

This brief history outlines the significant milestones and cultural impact of William Sanderson & Son, particularly its most famous product, Vat 69. The company’s journey from a small blending business to a significant player in the global whisky industry reflects both the challenges and opportunities within the whisky trade over the past centuries​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​.

Awards Won by William Sanderson & Son

Queen’s Award for Industry (1967): Recognised for their outstanding achievements in increasing exports by 20.1% over the previous year, with 87.4% of their output exported to over 180 countries.

What To Do Nearby William Sanderson & Son

Royal Yacht Britannia: This former floating palace of Queen Elizabeth II, now berthed at Leith’s shore, offers a fascinating glimpse into royal life at sea. It features a self-led audio-guided tour and a tea room with stunning views. It’s rich in history and offers a variety of family-friendly events throughout the year​​.

Leith Links: This large expanse of greenery in the heart of Leith is perfect for sunny afternoon strolls. It’s a popular spot for locals to relax, enjoy snacks, and soak up the Scottish sunshine​​.

The Biscuit Factory: Once a biscuit factory, this space now hosts a variety of creative businesses and cultural events, including art shows and exhibitions. It’s a hub for Leith’s cultural scene​​.

Leith Farmers Market: If your visit falls on a Saturday, the Leith Farmers’ Market is a must-visit. It’s a great place to support local artisans and pick up local and international goods​​.

The Shore in Leith: A peaceful area along the water, perfect for a morning walk. It’s lined with popular seafood restaurants and historic landmarks, including the Victoria Swing Bridge​​.

Out of the Blue Drill Hall: Located in a renovated Victorian army barracks, this creative hub hosts art exhibitions, workshops, and a variety of events, fostering a vibrant arts scene​​.

Ship on the Shore: A haven for seafood lovers, this restaurant offers fresh seafood and champagne in a lively setting​​.

Restaurant Martin Wishart: This Michelin-starred restaurant offers an unforgettable dining experience, blending classic French culinary techniques with Scottish produce​​.

Mimi’s Bakehouse: Ideal for those with a sweet tooth, Mimi’s Bakehouse in Leith is famous for its delicious array of cakes and pastries​​.

The Kitchin: Another Michelin-starred restaurant, run by renowned chef Tom Kitchin, known for its ‘nature-to-plate’ philosophy and use of fresh, locally sourced ingredients.

Frequently Asked Questions

What restaurants are near William Sanderson & Son?

Patina Bar and Restaurant: It has a rating of 4.4 stars on Google Maps. For reservations, you can reach out to them on their phone at +44 131 573 0851. Their address is 3, Airborne Place, New Park Square, Edinburgh Park, Edinburgh EH12 9GR, United Kingdom.

J & W: This takeout restaurant has a rating of 4.7 stars. They can be contacted at +44 7752 381808. The address for J & W is S Gyle Cres Ln, Edinburgh EH12 9EB, United Kingdom.

Chopstix – Edinburgh Gyle Shopping Centre: This Chinese noodle restaurant has a rating of 4.3 stars. They can be reached at +44 131 285 0951, located at Gyle Shopping Centre, Gyle Ave, Edinburgh EH12 9JY, United Kingdom.

What hotels are near William Sanderson & Son?

Premier Inn Edinburgh Park (Airport) Hotel: It has a rating of 4.4 stars on Google Maps. For reservations, you can reach out to them on their phone at +44 333 321 9255. Their address is 1 Lochside Ct, Edinburgh EH12 9DT, United Kingdom.

Travelodge Edinburgh Park: This hotel has a rating of 4.4 stars. They can be contacted at +44 871 984 6556. The address for Travelodge Edinburgh Park is 53 S Gyle Broadway, Edinburgh EH12 9LR, United Kingdom.

Novotel Edinburgh Park: This hotel has a rating of 4.4 stars. They can be reached at +44 131 619 2802, and they are located at 15 Lochside Ave, Edinburgh EH12 9DJ, United Kingdom.