Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 125,719 pages of information and 196,442 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.
of 21 St. James's Square, London, SW1. Telephone: Whitehall 1040. Cables: "Fermenter, London". (1947)
1877 The Distillers Company Limited was a public company formed by a combination of six Scotch whisky distilleries.
c.1885 Began a policy of diversification to spread risks of failure in any one part of the business.
1910 Controlled 10 distilleries in Scotland, five in Ireland and one in Liverpool.
1915 The yeast business was sending weekly supplies to the forces in France. Industrial alcohol was in great demand for the manufacture of explosives; this was important to the company even though the price was not as good as for potable spirit; the directors were alive to the potential for using alcohol for making other products.
1922 Production of "Discol", motor fuel made from alcohol which although expensive might help to alleviate shortage of petrol.
1924 In order to find a cheaper feedstock than molasses for making Discol, the company acquired 2 "Continental" processes that were amalgamated in a new company International Sugar and Alcohol Co, in which Distillers had the controlling vote.
1933 Gyproc Products Ltd, controlled by Distillers Co, was formed at Rochester and subsequently at Glasgow.
1937 The Distillers Co purchased a small company, British Resin Products Ltd (BRP), manufacturers of paint and other thermosetting resins in Tonbridge, Kent.
1937 United Glass Bottle Manufacturers acquired four bottle manufacturers from the Distillers Co.
1937 AGM told that the company recognised that may be necessary to explore 2 or 3 new lines of business arising from chemical developments in the laboratory in order to find a successful extension to the business. Extension of Gyproc business in Scotland, and Carbonic Acid (dry ice) business at Bankhall and Hammersmith.
1939 Acquired majority holding in Commercial Solvents Ltd of Bromborough, Cheshire, which made industrial alcohol and solvents by fermentation.
1941 Acquired shareholding of 48% in F. A. Hughes and Co Ltd.
WWII: The company was able to produce less than one year's normal output of whisky during the whole war. Fortunately it was able to draw on stocks to maintain limited sales. Production of various chemicals was a major contribution to the war effort and the largest penicillin plant was under construction at the end of the war.
1947 Investment by Distillers in the works of British Industrial Solvents at Salt End, Hull to increase production of solvents, plasticisers, acetic acid, etc. Reorganisation and centralisation of plastics production at Barry. Purchase of the penicillin factory at Speke that the company had been operating for the government. Plans to develop large petrochemical plant at Grangemouth in conjunction with Anglo Iranian Oil, adjacent to the latter company's refinery. New plant would be built by British Geon Ltd to make PVC in association with the B. F. Goodrich Chemical Co; British Resin Products would also build new plant.
1947 British Industries Fair Advert as Producers of Industrial Alcohol, Solvents, Plasticisers and a wide range of chemicals including Carbon Dioxide, Methylated Spirit, Acetone, Butanol, Acetic Acid, Anhydride and their derivatives. (Chemicals etc. Section - Olympia, Ground Floor, Stand No. A.1024) 
1950 Project at Grangemouth of British Petroleum Chemicals Ltd (joint venture with Anglo Iranian Oil) will produce synthetic ethanol which would alleviate the supply problems with molasses. Grangemouth would also be the location for a new plant to make styrene monomer by a new company, Forth Chemicals Ltd, which was owned two-thirds by Anglo Iranian Oil and one third by Monsanto Chemicals Ltd - this was part of a plan to make derivatives from the petrochemicals made by the main plant at Grangemouth. Acquired majority interest in Magnesium Elektron Ltd.
1955 New plant to make vinyl acetate would be built at Salt End, Hull; it would be owned by a new company Hedon Chemicals Ltd jointly owned by Distillers Co and Shawinigan Chemicals of Montreal. Sales would be handled by Shawinigan and British Industrial Solvents.
1958 Licenced UK rights to thalidomide.
1959 Wound up Commercial Solvents as the products of molasses fermentation were no longer competitive.
1961 Parent of 63 subsidiaries. 22,800 group employees. 
1961 Distillers Co bought the entire British Xylonite Group.
1962 Withdrew thalidomide from the market on news of adverse side effects. Distillers Co and Union Carbide agreed to transfer the majority holding in Bakelite into a jointly owned company (plus an offer to acquire the remaining shares), as well as Union Carbide's low density polyethylene activities at Grangemouth and the whole of British Xylonite Co . The new company would be called Bakelite Xylonite Ltd. This would include plants at Birmingham, Aycliffe and Grangemouth. Distillers sold its biochemical division to Eli Lilly of USA.
1963 Component parts of the Distillers Company were:
1964 New acetic acid plant would be built at Hull using a process developed by Distillers. The carbide plant at Kenfig would be closed.
1966 Border Chemicals would establish a plant, based on Distillers' process for manufacturing acrylate, at Wilton; Distillers also licensed the process to Union Carbide who would build a plant 6 times as large in USA.
1967 Distillers Co sold its chemicals and plastics business to BP because the division did not have the scale of its major competitors in USA. Negotiation about some of the JVs took months - by mid-year BP had acquired 5 of the joint ventures: National Chemical Products (of South Africa), Murgatroyd's Salt and Chemical Co. Ltd, Orobis Ltd., Synthite and British Hydrocarbon Chemicals Ltd. Union Carbide vetoed the sale of the 50% share in Bakelite Xylonite. 9 other joint ventures were the subject of ongoing negotiation.
A list of 41 subsidiaries of the Distillers Company as of 22 July 1980:
1986 It was acquired by Guinness.
1997 Became part of Diageo.