The famous whisky is actually named after the Cutty Sark tea clipper, which was known for being the fastest of its day.
The name ‘Cutty Sark’ comes from an archaic Scottish term for a short shirt of nightdress. It is what Nannie the witch wore in the poem Tam O’ Shanter by Robert Burns.
Cutty Sark the Tea Clipper
As a tea clipper, Cutty Sark was built to transport tea from China to London as quickly as possible. Cutty Sark made this voyage eight times, each one carrying enough tea to make over 200,000,000 cups.
The value of the cargo was around £272,000 – over £18.5 million today. At this time, 30-50m kg of tea were entering Britain each year.
During her time as a clipper, the ship made eight voyages from China to London.
Cutty Sark the Whisky
In 1923 British wine and spirit merchant Berry Bros. & Rudd decided to develop a new whisky for American drinkers. They named it after the clipper ship which had just docked in London and had hit headlines all over the world - the Cutty Sark.
Despite prohibition in the US at the time, Cutty Sark whisky became popular, smuggled in as an alternative to moonshine.
This meant that when prohibition was repealed, Cutty Sark was already an established brand of whisky. The drink was the first scotch whisky to sell over a million cases in the US.
The drawing of the ship which appears on the bottle was drawn by Swedish artist Cael Georg August Wallin and has appeared on the bottle since 1955. He was a marine painter, and it was his most famous work.
The whisky has many links to the maritime world. The Tall Ships Races was originally sponsored by Cutty Sark Whisky and as such was called the Cutty Sark Tall Ships Races.
Cutty Sark Whisky has even made it into space. On the Mercury 9 mission, Gordon Cooper smuggled a 50ml bottle of Cutty Sark and some cigarettes aboard, for a midnight snack.
There was plenty of drinking on board the original Cutty Sark as well. When the ship set sail for the first time in 1870 the captain’s log reported that there was ‘large amounts of wine, spirits and beer’ on board.