William Teacher started work in a cotton mill aged seven; in 1830 he was employed by a small grocer in Glasgow. He married the owner’s daughter, persuaded the firm to take out a license to sell wines and spirits, and expanded into ‘dram shops’. These were basic public houses selling reliable spirits, with rules against buying rounds and having loud conversations; drunks and rowdies were quickly removed. Within twenty years he was the largest licence holder in Glasgow.
By this time he had been joined in the business by his sons, Adam and William. Following the example of others, they moved into wholesaling, providing special blends for specific customers. One of these became very popular, so they concentrated their energies on producing and marketing it as Teacher’s Highland Cream (it was registered in 1884). Export growth was the next move: as early as 1903 the brand was being exported to America.
During the First World War, the company voluntarily reduced sales of its whisky, by giving customers a ration card that entitled them to only five glasses a week or a bottle a fortnight. As a result, when peace returned the company had a great deal of whisky in store.
The demand for teacher’s Highland Cream grew steadily over the years – so much so that the company was able to build a modern blending and bottling plant in Glasgow in 1962.
In 1976 William Teacher & Sons Ltd joined Allied Distillers, and today their key brand is among the top five best-selling whiskies in Britain, with a strong position in the world market.