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Is the secret of Drambuie hidden in this Victorian mansion?

THE centuries-old secret of Drambuie, one of the world’s most popular liqueurs, could be hidden inside a beautiful Victorian mansion now on the market for £1m.

Williamcraigs House in Linlithgow, West Lothian, belonged to the late Georgina MacKinnon – once the chairwoman of the Drambuie company.

There is speculation the secret recipe is still hidden somewhere within the six bedroom property were Mrs MacKinnon lived until her death in 1973.

Is the secret recipe for Drambuie hidden somewhere in the mansion


According to legend, the MacKinnon family guarded the Drambuie recipe for centuries after Bonnie Prince Charlie gifted it to them as a reward for helping him flee from Culloden in 1746.

The contents of whisky, honey, herb and spice mix remains shrouded in mystery.

Claire Barrett from Savills, who has the property on her books, explained: “Mrs MacKinnon of the famous Drambuie family empire lived in Williamcraigs House until 1973 when she died.

“The closely guarded secret recipe was taken daily by Gina MacKinnon in her chauffeur driven Bentley to Drambuie HQ.”

She continued: “Speculation as to where the recipe was hidden and whether it remains hidden in the depths of Williamcraigs House remains rife.

“The current owner suspects that all tradesmen to have visited the property since he has owned it do so in the hope of finding a copy of the recipe under a floor board.”

It was fom here that MacKinnon masterminded the worldwide success of the brand


Mrs MacKinnon was responsible for the worldwide popularity of Drambuie and was the only person who knew the secret recipe.

At the peak of her success she would set out from Williamcraigs House once a month to personally collect the ingredients for the drink.

The recipe was so secret she would also buy a number of random ingredients to throw any spies following her off the scent of her success.

From Williamcraigs House she also masterminded the hugely success campaign in the 50s and 60s promoting the mysterious liqueur.

Travelling the world, accompanied by her own bagpipers, Mrs MacKinnon started the tradition of the Drambuie recipe being a secret known only to a single female member of the family.

The opulent mansion, which includes a turreted tower, six bedrooms and a stunning garden pavilion, was previously on the market at £1.25m in 2012 but failed to find a buyer.

Now her home, listed by Historic Scotland as the place where Drambuie was developed, is for sale at offers over £950,000.

The listing states: “Mrs MacKinnon a later owner of the house developed the liqueur Drambuie here.”

The house, which is in the Scottish baronial style, has undergone various alterations over the years including the addition of an oak framed conservatory but has retained its grand style.

The brochure from agent Savills explains: “There is a wealth of space on offer with large reception rooms’ ideal for entertaining and substantial bedrooms overlooking the beautiful grounds.

“The reception hall, drawing room, dining room and morning room are all impressive rooms steeped in ornate features and opulence.”

It adds: “The space provided by the turrets has been cleverly utilised by creating a shower room on one floor and a library/reading area in the other.”

Drambuie was produced on Skye for personal consumption for over a century before Mrs MacKinnon’s husband Malcolm took it to Edinburgh in began producing commercially in 1909.

When her husband died in 1945 Mrs Mackinnon took over the business and made it a worldwide success.

The liqueur also featured in a cocktail called “the rusty nail”, which mixes scotch whisky with Drambuie over ice and a lemon garnish.

Rat pack actors Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis jnr and Dean Martin were reported to be “enamored” with the drink.

Between 1960 and 1970 sales of the liqueur soared to 750,000 cases per year and became popular as an after-dinner drink.

Late in 2014 the brand was sold to whisky giant William Grant & Sons for an estimated £100m, who promised to boost sales by bringing the brand to “an entirely new generation of consumers.”

Mrs MacKinnon eventually passed the recipe onto her daughter in last and became a well known cattle breeder in Linlithgow before she passed away in 1973.

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