Cutty StorySince 1923


The Beginning of Cutty Sark

An old-fashioned lunch in the parlor of 3 St James’s Street in London on 23rd March 1923 changed the course of Scotch whisky history FOREVER.

The Conversation

In attendance were Francis Berry and Hugh Rudd, the partners of the world’s most prestigious wine and spirits merchants, Berry Bros. & Rudd, together with Scottish artist James McBey. The conversation turned, inevitably, to whisky; Berry had been selling its own brands for some time in the UK and a small quantity had been exported to the USA to private customers immediately before World War I. Berry Bros. & Rudd, like all good merchants, knew what their customers liked and felt that heavy, dark whiskies would spoil the palate of their wine-loving clientele.

the scotch with a following of leaders

Cutty Sark Bottle


The USA was in the grips of Prohibition but there were signs that this would not last forever; the partners saw an opportunity to create a new type of blended Scotch specifically for an international market. It was suggested that this whisky should differentiate itself from those already available by being lighter in style, blended only from the very finest whiskies. The new blend was to be bottled at its naturally pale color to avoid the danger of caramel coloring masking its more subtle flavors. Coincidentally, this style of blended whisky would suit their personal tastes as wine drinkers. See where we've been.

History & Prohibiton

Cutty Sark was launched to immediate international acclaim; as the first light-colored blended Scotch whisky, its lightness ensured Cutty Sark would become a firm favorite as an aperitif and in cocktails.

The name 'Cutty Sark' was inspired by the fastest and most famous of all the Scottish-built clipper ships, launched in 1869. The clipper was named after a young witch dressed in a 'Cutty Sark' or short shirt, who could run as fast as the wind, from the famous poem Tam O'Shanter by Scotland's celebrated poet Robert Burns.

During Prohibition, Cutty Sark gave rise to the expression 'the Real McCoy'; it was bootlegged by the legendary Captain Bill McCoy, a smuggler based in the Bahamas. McCoy and his contraband was uncut and unadulterated; the iconic expression still remains a synonym for integrity and authenticity today.

Following the Repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the impeccable reputation continued to surge sales and in 1961, Cutty Sark became the best-selling Scotch whisky in the USA and it remains one of the world's best-selling blends.


The Real Difference

Other blenders continued to market heavier, darker blends giving the new Berry Bros. & Rudd blend a real point of difference in an already competitive market. All that was missing was a name; the world's fastest ship — a tea clipper named Cutty Sark — had just returned from many years trading and was much in the news at the time.

James McBey, a keen sailor, suggested that this would be an admirable name for the new whisky. He then proceeded to draw a preliminary design on a napkin and used the correct term 'Scots' rather than the more common 'Scotch' whisky. Now, see where we're heading.

Cutty Sark Bottle


At the heart of Cutty Sark is a tale of adventure. It's known for its intrigue and daring courage, ensuring the the whisky's colorful history would give any seasoned storyteller a run for their money.

For nearly a hundred years, Cutty Sark has stood at the cutting edge of spirit making, from the London entrepreneurs who dared to be different, right through the turbulent years of Prohibition to its status as a world-renowned blended Scotch whisky.

To help us immortalize its pioneering spirit, we have invited a select group of expert writers to collaborate in evoking Cutty Sark's rich and illustrious past. Their writings are brought together in The Making of a Whisky Brand. Each chapter of the book is written by a different industry expert, including, Helen Arthur, Dave Broom, Ian Buxton, Charles Maclean, Marcin Miller, Martine Nouet, Paul Pacult, Gary Regan, Neil Ridley and Gavin D Smith.

Whatever you take from this Scotch's great story, we hope The Making of a Whisky Brand inspires an adventure of your own.

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