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What do the different animals on whisky brands represent?

From stags to geese and unicorns, the animals on whisky logos have certain meanings.

Published: August 5, 2021
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Many whisky brands have different animals in their logos, many of which are rooted in the history of the distilleries and Scotland.

Here we take a look at some of the most prominent ones, and explain what they represent.

Clynelish

This Highland whisky distillery was where Brora began life, and those familair with the label on its 14 year old will notice a wild cat, a symbol that also graced the labels on Brora bottles (which was originally Clynelish).

In the late 1960s it was decided to expand production by building a new distillery, with the old distillery eventually being used to supply a need for heavily peated whisky for blending.

The wild cat is inspired by the Sutherland coat of arms, since the distillery was founded by Marquis of Stafford, the future Duke of Sutherland.

Fettercairn

The Fettercairn branding features a unicorn, which is said to stand for purity, strength and magic - and is, of course, the national animal of Scotland.

The founder of the distillery is Alexander Ramsay, and the unicorn is also used within the Ramsay clan crest.

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Monkey Shoulder

The monkeys on the monkey shoulder bottle symbolises the name of this blended whisky, which refers to a condition that the malt men could end up with during the traditional whisky making process.

During malting barley, the malt men used to turn the malt with heavy shovels. Some developed a strain injury that could cause their arm to hang down a bit, and it was nicknamed 'monkey shoulder'.

Made from a mix of three different Speyside Single Malts – Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie – Monkey Shoulder is popularly used in cocktails but is also great enjoyed neat.

Glenfiddich

Picture: Glenfiddich

The stag symbol has been symoumous with Glenfiddich for years and refers to the name of the popular single malt.

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Glenfiddich means valley of the deer in Scots gaelic, which is why the symbol is used on their branding.

Glengoyne

Glengoyne whisky branding used to featured a pair of geese, which recently had an update to a flying goose along with their branding and bottling.

Much like Glenfiddich, the reason for these is to do with the distillery name.

Glengoyne means 'the glen of the wild geese' in Scots gaelic, hence the geese on the labels.

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The Sassenach

blended whiskies

Outlander star Sam Heughan launched his Sassenach whisky in 2020 and has gone on to win multiple awards.

The branding of the whisky also, like Fettercairn, features a unicorn - the national animal of Scotland.

The unicorn is also the natural enemy of the lion - a symbol employed by the English royals - and another nod (along with the name) to the hit TV show.

The Dalmore

This Highland whisky is well known for its shape of bottle and eye catching stag emblem.

The reason for this animal is to do with the legend of the Dalmore, which dates to 1263 when the chief of the clan Mackenzie saved King Alexander III of Scotland from a charging stag.

As a reward the King, granted him the lands of Eilean Donan, the motto ‘Luceo Non Uro’, which translates to ‘I Shine, Not Burn’ and the right to use the 12-pointed Royal Stag (or caberfeidh) as the Mackenzie clan crest.

Descents of the Mackenzie clan ended up buying the distillery and started using the 12 point stag logo.

Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind writes for The Scotsman on all things food and drink related as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.

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