James Ainslie & Co. was a Scottish whisky company established in 1888.
In 1896 the company acquired the Brora distillery in the Highlands and rebuilt it, expanding both warehouse and production facilities. Following financial difficulties, James Ainslie & Co. was dissolved in 1912. James Ainslie and his brother Thomas retired from the business.
The remaining partner, John Risk, transferred the Ainslie brothers’ shares to the Distillery Co. Ltd. In 1913 the remains of the company were amalgamated with Walter Baillie & Sons, Robertson Bros and John Gillon & Co. to form Ainslie, Baillie & Co. Ltd. James Ainslie’s son Robert was partner in the firm.
Following the retirement of Robert Ainslie in 1921, the company passed into the control of Sir James Calder who had also acquired another whisky company called David Heilbron & Son. The two companies were merged to become Ainslie & Heilbron Ltd.
The following year Ainslie & Heilbron purchased the Argyll distillery which had been founded in 1844 by Colvill, Greenlees & Stirk.
Ainslie & Heilbron’s best known whisky brand was King’s Liquer Old Special, which dates back to at least the 1930s. In 1934 the company’s King William IV brand was the first scotch whisky to be landed in New York following the repeal of prohibition in the United States.
By 1980 Ainslie & Heilbron was listed as an active part of the Distillers Co. Ltd. Distillers were acquired by Guiness in 1986, forming United Distillers and the majority of its assets are now part of Diageo.