The Pattison Crash
last updated February 13th 2015

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(I did not the this on purpose - it arrived damaged)
The Pattison crash happend in December 1898. It had major influence on the whisky trade. Most whisky books mention the crash, the famous 500 parrots, the flamboyant life of the brothers and that they were sent to prison. As you see below I have spent some time on finding more about the history. Below is the menu. If you find information that is wrong, if you have additional information or photos av bottles, advertising material etc. please send an email to
Thanks for your help!


PATTISON, ELDER & CO How it started
ALFRED BARNARDS VISIT  Sometime between 1891 and 1893 he visited Pattison, Elder & Co
THE FLOATATION  In March 1896 75% of the preference shares were offered to the public
MARKETING  The company spent a fortune on marketing and was innovative
THE WHISKY BRANDS  The names of the Scottish and Irish blends
THE PROBLEMS START  Some knew about the problems long before the crash
  5th of December 1898 came the crash
THE SALE OF ASSETS  Property and whisky for sale
  The trial July 8th - 17th 1901

To make it easier to follow the time course - I have made a
"What Happend When? - image which you can reach from the top of every page.
time frame
Click on the image to expand/shrink

In The Edinburgh News October 14th of October 1893 it is reported that a band of 10 boys had been breaking panes and windows on a warehouse belonging to Pattison, Elder & Co, in John’s place Leith Links. Two of the boys were charged and they admitted their guilt. Bailie Bennet said “their fathers ought to have given them a good beating, and he hoped they had”. One of the parents: "So I have; his back will show you that."

The future would show that there were worse boys inside the building and at the end they were also caught with their pants down. However, others like accountants and banks, also responsible for what happened, escaped unscathed from the crisis.
Robert Pattison wrote in a letter:
"Every one knows that when he borrows money he is largely within the power of those who lend it, but I never expected to realise in my own person the adage that the borrower is a servant to the lender. I thought I was rich, but now I am penniless".

     Animo non astutia = by courage not craft = THE MOTTO FOR PATTISON
I have been fascinated by this story since I read about the 500 parrots. I have studied over 300 newspaper articles, material from The National Archive of Scotland and other sources. Thanks to Ron Pattinson (author of many books about beer) for a lot of material. What happened over 100 years ago had great impact on the whisky industry and highlights the special conditions:
- How to match the current production with future demand - many years later.
- How to value whisky (this was a critical point at the trial)
- How to market whisky (Pattisons were creative!)

The crash is also a history of human greed and extravagance. It was a time when you did not pay nor were you paid - the banks were very generous - present a bill and be paid in cash. However when it started to blow they banks were the first in the queue to get paid.

End of 1800 was a time when you did not pay, nor were you paid - the banks were very generous - present a bill and be paid in cash. However when it started to blow, the banks were the first in the queue to get paid. Pattisons got all the blame for the difficulties in the whisky trade, but a crash would have occurred also without them.
Whisky in stock:
March 1894: 61 1/4 million gallons.
March 1899: 103 1/4 million gallons
an increase of 68 % in 5 years.

I would thank Ronald Pattinson for a lot of material. I have studied 300 newspaper articles, material form Advocate Library/National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh and other documents.
The Pattison brothers very innovative and creative in many fields, marketing and accounting just to mention a few.. I have also made a FB group about this and hope you will contribute with information, photos, ads etc. If you are interested please join the group – The Pattison Crash.

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Article by Ian Buxon about Pattison    Detailed article about Pattison       R.B Weir The History of the Distillers Company 1877 - 1939