Elizabeth (Bessie) Williamson

1910 - 1982

Influential whisky distiller. Born in Glasgow, the daughter of a clerk, Williamson was educated at the University of Glasgow, graduating in 1932 with the intention of becoming a teacher. However a summer job as a secretary at the Laphroaig Distillery on Islay led to a different career. She went on to manage the office and when the owner, Ian Hunter, suffered a stroke in 1938, Williamson took on managing the distillery as his most trusted employee. When Hunter died in 1954, he left his property, including the distillery to Williamson. She was the first woman in modern times to own and run a distillery, going on to develop the sales of single malt whisky and establishing Laphroaig as an international brand. Williamson became an iconic figure in the industry, touring the USA to develop that market. She was well-respected for her charitable work on Islay, and had a reputation for keeping elderly workers and creating jobs for those that had none. She sold the business before her retirement in 1972 and died in Gartnavel General Hospital in Glasgow. In 2019, Laphroaig released a premium 25-year-old whisky The Bessie Williamson Story to celebrate her life.

Use the tabs on the right of this page to see other parts of this entry arrow

If you have found this information useful please consider making
a donation to help maintain and improve this resource. More info...

By using our site you agree to accept cookies, which help us serve you better