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Ballantine’s Geese: Beware The Scotch Watch!

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Ballantine’s Bodyguards: The Scotch Watch

Think back to 1959. The classic Mini Cooper car has just been released and the James Bond book Goldfinger is a worldwide smash. In true spy style, you need to defend the Ballantine’s whisky stocks, but how? If your instant response was geese, you’re perfect Ballantine’s material.

That’s exactly what Ballantine’s did back in the day. Louder than guard dogs, one honk from the goose squad and the entire distillery would know about an intruder. When you have your own coat of arms, as Ballantines do – awarded by Lord Lyon back in 1938 – only the finest security system will do when it comes to Ballantine’s scotch whisky.

That’s right, the warehouses were guarded by a gang of white feathery wardens, known as the “Scotch Watch”, until 2012 when CCTV took over and these mighty birds were able to kick back and relax. And that’s how it panned out for these lucky birds: the last members of the gaggle lived a well-earned life of luxury over at Glasgow Green.

How did this come about?

Meet Ronald Cowan, a civil engineer for the new 14-acre Ballantine site by day and bird-enthusiast by night. His idea is less crazy than it might seem. He knew that geese were easier to look after than guard dogs but just as rowdy when it comes to intruders. Dogs may be man’s best friend these days, but centuries ago geese were the Romans best friends, saving lives by alerting troops to invaders. 

The Scotch Watch is a legendary part of Ballantine’s history. Clips of them hard at work can be found online, taken from their showstopping appearance on a BBC special. They became tourist attractions in their own right, with people flocking to Scotland to catch a glimpse of Ballantine’s latest and loudest employees. The Scotch Watch even made it in the music industry, providing the cover art for the debut album by the successful 90s rock band China Drum.

The Stars of Ballantine’s Ads

Fitting their celebrity status, these geese lived a good life and took a starring role in some of Ballantine’s most legendary ad campaigns. At one point there were as many as 70 patrolling the grounds of the Dumbarton site, fed on a delicious diet of grass and the grain used to produce the award-winning whisky

The Scotch Squad might not be with us any longer but their spirit lives on at Ballantine’s. What might seem crazy at first can lead to a loyal flock for many decades. These bold ideas lead to bold flavours, which is exactly what our blends deliver and have done for over a century. 

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