25 Old Whisky Ads

let’s begin

Whisky has been around for decades, so it’s no surprise that it has a history in the advertising world as well.  This collection of old whisky ads is a snippet of some of the ads from the mid 1800s to early 1900s, to show you how different, and in some cases, eerily similar Whisky advertising was to how it is today.

This is one of the more spectacular old whisky ads from Dewar’s and they definitely make themselves appear on the same legendary status as the Sphinx. This probably says a lot about who their audience was back in 1904, considering that education was not as widespread and probably only the elite had ever read about the Sphinx.

I love these old whisky ads from 1898 and this one captures some of the same humour used in ads today.  Of course the “anxious moment” is when you almost rise off without your Scotch rather than saying goodbye to family or friends.  I’m pretty sure a lot of us can relate pretty heavily with this, despite the over 100 hundreds years gap.  This is quite a well-executed advert and the art really speaks for itself.  Or course back then things were not quite as sophisticated as they are now, so everything was done by hand.  I think this only serves to add to the effect of the advert.

Ah Pattisons, the company that would eventually bring the Scotch industry to its kness. But hey, at least they left us with some awesome adverts.  We don’t have a year for this, but it was most likely done at some point before 1898 and after 1849, when the Pattisons were first established.  This ad tells us a lot about Pattisons, mostly what brands they oversaw, as well as the fact that they also had interests in Irish Whiskies.

Forgive the watermark, but this one was too interesting not to include.  This is an ad for DCL, which was the name of Diageo before they became Diageo.  My favourite part in this ad is the tagline “Food – not medicine” which really speaks to how Whisky was thought about in those days.

This old whisky ads is very interesting as it shows the existence of a Welsh Whisky distillery, something that has not been around for decades.  This is taken from the Pendryn Whisky Distillery website itself, so obviously they’re very proud of their history.  The ad itself is pretty basic but that doesn’t stop it from communicating it’s message, that Welsh whiskey was around and was brilliant

Another old whisky ads from the Pattisons, this time from 1898, so right before they lost everything.  This quite a majestic ad and really captures how the Pattison thought of themselves.  The imagery is quite spectacular and stands out against the typical ads from this era, which are general a lot less fun and focus more on those drinking the Whisky or the Whisky itself.  It also says a lot about the global industry that was emerging during this time, with the focus on Pattisons power of export.

I think it’s fairly obvious what Gulliver’s are trying to communicate here. The use of the word “gravy” clearly indicates that this Whisky is just as good as the stuff you pour over your Sunday roast.  That may not be true, but from the look of the Scotsman’s face I would definitely have been convinced had I been reading this in 1899.

Dewar’s are capturing an idea that a lot of Whisky brands are still trying to capture today.  That is the idea of family and they use a lot of humour in this one, with Scots climbing out of picture frames to enjoy a good dram.  But then again who wouldn’t move through time and space in order to enjoy a particularlygood dram?

What could be more Irish than a girl wearing a dress made entirely from clovers?  Perhaps a girl wearing a dress made entirely from clovers whilst carrying a platter full of Whisky?  Personally I really appreciate art in this ad despite the fact that it is incredibly old. It is very well carried out and seeks to create a character that embodies the Whisky. This is a technique that is still employed very commonly today.

This ad is trying to communicate something that modern art are still trying today.  It is using place and method to promote the quality of its Whisky, something that is becoming more common for brands these days.  Of course this ad is quite dated in appearance but ultimately it is the equivalent of many of the Whisky ads we see today.

This is an American Whiskey ad that shows how older ads used to focus a lot more on text over imaging. Again this shows the intended audience are more likely to be wealthy males who were well educated.  It also shows that Whiskey was only 40 cents per quart, a price that many of us could only dream of today.

As the text glumly declares there is “More Whisky for sale” in this ad. Obviously we would all be rushing to buy this Whisky, which appears to be being sold due to some unpaid debts.  It is also interesting to note the lack of the letter E in the word Whisky, despite the fact that this is an American ad.

This Pattison’s ad is from 1870s and what I love about it is that it says “victorious all along the line”, which is a motto that did not stand the test of time, considering it was a mere two decades later that the Pattisons watched their empire crumble beneath them.  The amount of Pattisons’ adverts available to us today shows the audacity of the company and the fact that they were very good at marketing.

This is an incredible ad solely for the fact that I have no idea what’s going on. There appears to be two monks overseeing the sale of “Fig Rye”. This stuff is promoted as scientifically created to stop the liver becoming hard and also put to the rest the horrible after effects of drinking grain based Whisky.  Clearly the trend did not take off because I don’t think I have ever seen a bottle of Fig Rye in my local off-licence, and that is probably for the best.

This is an intriguing ad, again because of the price that Whisky was selling at.  It also shows us that Welsh Whisky was not completely unheard of in the 19th century.  There was a distillery in Frongoch in North Wales for a brief period in the 19thCnetury that was eventually closed due to the Temperance movement gaining traction in Wales.  It was another 100 years until another Whisky distillery opened in Wales.

This Jack Daniel’s ad is from 1904 and has a similar feel to the branding that Jack still maintains today.  It is clearly trying to use its roots in the South to promote itself, something that is not as necessary anymore, considering how widely known Jack and it’s origins are.  It’s quite interesting that the ad says “old time”, considering this was in 1904, and nostalgia is something that is very popular to promote products today.

There is so much going on in this ad, from the heavily Irish imagery to the fact that it’s actually made in Chicago.  Although Chicago does have a large Irish population so it’s not totally implausible.  The description of “a particular people” is quite an interesting tagline here.  It must have spoken to a certain type of people, but clearly is not a description that could still be used today.

We still talk about age today, and even in the 1915, it was clearly a thing of pride for most Whiskies.  The focus of this Carstairs Rye is the fact it was started in 1788 and of course that it works as a good nightcap.  If you look closely enough it even says “Tilt Quickly” on the bottle, instructions that many of us follow without even knowing!

This is a very interesting ad in that is tells us a lot about the Whisky industry in 1926.  This is a warning from Haig that people were using their bottles to sell product that wasn’t Haig.  It’s also quite interesting that Haig refer to themselves as “The Father of all Scotch Whisky”, which is quite an accolade indeed!

This ad has a lot of layers, including a wonderful shout out to the King!  I especially love the font in this ad.  It looks great and adds character, while not even showing the product.  The “age guaranteed by Canadian Government” is also an interesting touch to verify authenticity.

This one, like the Canadian Club ad above it, even includes a shout out to royalty.  In this case, this is to advertise that this expression of Glen Spey/Glenlivet had the prestige of being matured n her majesty’s bonded warehouse.  This ad is simple and straight to the point, letting you know everything you need to about this Whisky and all the reasons why you should buy it.

This ad includes a calander, which is really very considerate of them!  Is there a more Scottish image than Scotsmen taking part in the Highland Games in their kilts whilst surrounded by a border of thistles?  And could there ever be a more appropriate image to advertise Whisky?  This is quite a quaint ad and stands out against the others because it doesn’t try to use humour but instead opts to capture the spirit of Scotland.

This ad is very different from the one above it.  Rather than opting to show the genteel side of the Scots, this portrays a more aggressive vision.  The structure of the whole ad is quite alluring, with the bottle tilted top reveal the brand insignia.  The focus may be on the Scotch itself, but by bringing in the insignia behind it, it reveals a lot more to the viewer.

“Very agreeable flavour” is perhaps my new favourite way of describing Whisky.  This ad may look simple, but it tells us everything we need to know.  The fact that this is also promoting it at a health exhibition with a quote from the Medical Times tells us a lot about how and why Whisky was consumed in the 1800s.  if only we could tell people it was for health reason these days!

Canadian Club seem to like to focus a lot on he genuineness and age of their spirit, seeking to reassure their customers that this is the best quality product they will find.  It was probably a lot easier to lie about products in 1903 than it is nowadays so this probably shouldn’t be that surprising.

Tags: Adsearly 1900sHistorical Whisky Adsmid 1800sWhisky


My name is Greg, and I’m a brand strategy consultant, writer, speaker, host and judge specialising in premium spirits. My mission is to experience, share and inspire with everything great about whisky, whiskey, gin, beer and fine dining through my writing, my brand building and my whisky tastings.

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