Famous For A Reason - The First Famous Gloag - The Famous Grouse Experience
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Famous For A Reason – The First Famous Gloag

Experienced the world over, The Famous Grouse is a brand with a story that goes way, way back to a Perth grocery business first established in 1800 and a highly respected fine wines and spirits merchant called Matthew Gloag. His philosophy that if you focus on doing something well fame will find you, led to the birth of the Grouse brand. His vision was simple: to create the best quality blended whisky. Here at The Famous Grouse, we have been following our founder’s vision ever since, ensuring that our whisky is Famous For A Reason the world over…

The history of The Famous Grouse is as rich and tantalising as the whisky itself. With over two centuries of stories to tell, there’s no way we could squeeze all that history into one blog, so, over the coming months we plan to tell you some of the standout Famous stories. And, there isn’t one more Famous and worthy of a look to the past, than that of our founder, the very first ‘Famous’ Matthew Gloag.

The First Famous Gloag

Matthew Gloag I, the first in a long and illustrious line of Matthew Gloags, was born in Perth in 1797. Tradition has it that Matthew began his career at Scone Palace, the historic crowning site of Scottish Kings, as an assistant butler. Butler had a very different meaning a couple of hundred years ago, with Matthew’s role being more appropriately described as a ‘bottler’. A sign of Famous things to come…

As anyone who counts Downton Abbey as a guilty pleasure will be able to confirm, an assistant butler role was an important one and, as a senior member of staff, Matthew would have been well respected and placed in a position of trust by the Mansfield family at Scone Palace.

cropped - 1855-matthew-gloag-aged-30-and-matthew-gloag-aged-5-250x335Cutting his teeth in the service sector, the first Matthew Gloag went on to manage the household of James Patton, the Sheriff Clerk of Perthshire, at a townhouse called Marshall Cottage, a grand residence overlooking the town.  During his time there, he met and married a local lass called Margaret Brown. Her family lived on what is now known as Atholl Street in Perth.

Twenty years, and nine children, later, Margaret had begun to operate the shop below their Atholl Street home as a grocers and, showing true ‘Famous’ entrepreneurial spirit, Margaret applied for a license to sell wines and spirits in 1831. Four years later, Matthew joined the business full time and the shop ‘Matthew Gloag’ began to flourish.

Tragically, Margaret died suddenly five years after they began working together, but Matthew was able to use his passion and knowledge of wines and spirits built up during his many years working in the service industry both at Scone Palace and for James Patton, to grow a diverse drinks repertoire, from whisky to soft drinks.

Soon, Matthew was supplying preferred tipples to some of the most important people in the land including the Duke of Atholl and the Earl of Mansfield, his first employer at Scone Palace. In 1842, Matthew was also invited to supply the fine wines and spirits for a banquet held to celebrate Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s royal visit to Perthshire.

The business continued to flourish until Matthew Gloag I passed away in 1860. His son, William Brown Gloag took over the business after Matthew’s death, continuing Matthew Gloag’s vision for success. William bought further premises on Atholl Street expanding the shop during his tenure. However, it wasn’t until 1905 and William’s nephew, Matthew’s great-nephew, Matthew Gloag II took the reigns, that The Famous Grouse was born.

Two generations may have passed, but it’s clear that the Famous foundations were solidly laid by the first Matthew Gloag and his wife, Margaret, who developed a grocer and wine merchants that enabled the generations that followed to create the very best quality blended whisky. From an assistant butler, to the founder of a business that has endured for generations, Matthew Gloag’s fame is hard earned and key to the success of The Famous Grouse today.

If you’d like to read more about the rich history of The Famous Grouse and its origins, a fascinating book, Famous For A Reason The Story of The Famous Grouse, written by internationally acclaimed whisky writer, Charles Maclean is available to buy in The Famous Shop at Glenturret Distillery.

If a journey into the past has whetted your appetite for a rich and flavoursome dram, then visit our Online Shop and find our Dram of the Month, which this month is, of course, The Famous Grouse.

Do you know somebody who’s Famous for a Reason? It could anything, big or small, but they have to be deserving of their Famous title, just as Matthew Gloag was. Nominate them here and they could win their very own personalised bottle of The Famous Grouse.

Tricia Fox
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