It was in 1861 that James Hardie set up shop in Piccadilly Place, Edinburgh, as a tea, wine and spirits merchant. He moved into blending in 1880, registering the name J&W Hardie Ltd, with the help of his sons John and William, who joined the business. With his sons help, the brand became one of the founding shareholders in Edinburgh’s North British Distillery in 1887, allowing it to establish a steady supply of grain whisky .
The following year the brothers registered one of their blends as a brand, calling it The Antiquary, after the 1816 gothic novel by Sir Walter Scott. In fact, early bottles featured a caricature of one of the book’s main characters, often the antiquary himself, Jonathan Oldbuck, on the label.
J&W Hardie retained The Antiquary until 1917, when it was sold to J&G Stewart, who quickly relinquished control to the Distillers Company Limited (DCL) in the same year. The conglomeration had bailed J&G Stewart out of bankruptcy some 20 years earlier, and used the move to settle a £6,000 debt. The DCL then absorbed J&W Hardie in 1948, and, in doing so, reunited it with The Antiquary after 31 years apart.
From there, success was gradual but impressive, and by the early 1980s The Antiquary was proving to popular not just in the UK, but on a global scale. This prompted Tomatin Distillery Co. Ltd to buy it out in 1996, as a means to enter the premium blended Scotch whisky market. Since this point the Japanese-owned company has retained the established and reputable brand.
The Antiquary today is known as much for its unique diamond-esque bottle shape, which became synonymous with the brand, as it is for distilling exceptional Scotch whisky. Introduced in the mid-20th century, it survived the previous changes in ownership, until it was remodelled in 2015. A modern expression of the classic style was pursued, and resulted in the creation of a more stylish, taller and sophisticated bottle, which Pocket Rocket Creative furnished with a new label and packaging designs.
The Antiquary Blended Scotch Whisky, along with The Antiquary 12 Year Old and The Antiquary 21 Year Old, continue to be sold worldwide today, and have seen significant market success in France, Portugal, Russia, Angola, the USA and in the UK.