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The Broadford Hotel
The Broadford Hotel

Georgina MacKinnon lived from March 1884 to 11 April 1973. She became Chairman of Drambuie and did much to popularise the liqueur worldwide. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.

Georgina Davidson was born in Wick, the daughter of John Davison, a fish processor, and Maggie Russell. In about 1910, Georgina moved to Edinburgh to take up a post as a schoolteacher. At her local church she met Malcolm MacKinnon and the two married in 1915, later having two children.

Malcolm MacKinnon had moved to Edinburgh from Skye in 1900 and worked for a distillery company. In 1909 he began producing commercial quantities of a traditional MacKinnon liqueur called "Drambuie". The story goes that during the flight of Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1746, he was helped by a Captain John MacKinnon. In return, the Prince gave MacKinnon the recipe of his personal liqueur. After being made by the MacKinnons on Skye for their personal consumption for over a century, the drink went public in the Broadford Inn (now the Broadford Hotel) in the 1870s, and the name Drambuie was registered as a trademark in 1893. The name, incidentally, comes either from an dram buidhe meaning "the yellow drink" or an dram buidheach meaning "the drink that satisfies". Which translation you prefer depends on whether you are swayed more by the very literal way in which things were very commonly named after their colours in Gaelic, or by the desire to market a brand!

Malcolm's 1909 production of Drambuie introduced the liqueur to a much wider market and in 1914 he launched the Drambuie Liqueur Company. When Malcolm MacKinnon died in 1945, Georgina became chairman of the company. The dramatic growth in the popularity of Drambuie in the 1950s and 1960s owes much to her business acumen and her globetrotting, often accompanied by her own bagpipers. She also successfully created an aura of mystery around the drink, starting the tradition that the recipe was a secret known only to a single female member of the family. Georgina passed on the recipe to her daughter-in-law when she retired to become a cattle breeder near Linlithgow. She was awarded an OBE in 1964.

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