The world’s most loved distillery mousers
Little attention is paid to the small but significant role cats play in the spirits industry. We attempt to rectify this by naming the world’s most loved distillery mousers.
Throughout history, cats have been recruited by distilleries across the globe to protect precious stocks of barley from pesky rodents, taking on the role of official distillery mousers.
Whether Bourbon distilleries in Kentucky or whisky distilleries in Scotland, mousers have long been valued members of distillery teams, sometimes achieving legendary status in the industry.
While distilleries are no longer permitted to seek official assistance from their feline companions, many are still recruited as an official mascot for the distillery, welcoming swathes of visitors.
From record-breaking mouse catchers, to adorable members of the distillery tour guide team, cats are an integral part of the distillery team.
Click through the following pages to discover some of the world’s most loved distillery mousers, past and present.
Towser, The Glenturret Distillery
Named in the Guinness Book of World Records as “The Most Prolific Mouser of All-Time”, Towser lived in the Glenturrent Distillery for 23 years, during which time she made a record 28,899 kills (an average of 3 mice a day). Towser was still terrorising rodents until her death just before her 24th birthday in 1987. It was rumoured that a dram of whisky was spiked in her milk every evening in order to increase her mousing prowess.
Barley, Highland Park
As the second best mouser in the world, not able to top the mice murder toll of Towser, Barley was as famed for his ill temper as his hunting skills. He could regularly be seen snarling and spitting at guests and frightened distillery workers until he died in a tragic car accident in 2006.
Peat, The Glenturret Distillery
Recently recruited to welcome tourists at the Glenturret distillery was the adorable kitten Peat, taking over from a number of predecessors, including the legendary Towser, as the distillery’s feline mascot. As part of his duties, Peat will greeting 100,000 visitors who tour the distillery every year, reserving his mouse-catching abilities for purely recreational purposes.
Elijah, Woodford Reserve Distillery
Elijah, the distillery cat in residence at Woodford Reserve Distillery in Kentucky called the site’s barrelhouse “home” for two decades – often taking the night shift to keep watch over the barrels, ensuring the angels never took more than their share. Unfortunately Elijah passed away earlier this month.
Bourbon and Rye, Tuthilltown Distillery
Bourbon and Rye are the resident cats at Tuthilltown Distillery in New York, although from these photos taken when SB‘s editor Becky Paskin paid a visit paint them as layabouts, rather than mouse-catchers. However Rye (right) does seem to be doing a great job of protecting the site’s Glencairns.
Hired as an unofficial mouser at the Sazerac group after being found in the company’s Warehouse C, Cat-C was affectionately named after the area he used to protect. However, employment did not last long after one distillery worker took a shine to C-Cat and adopted him.
Dizzy was found rather disheveled after a four week journey from Kentucky in a box of ex-Bourbon barrels at Keith Bond One in Scotland, 1993. Dizzy was renamed Passport due to both his transatlantic travels and the fact that Glenkeith was then home to Passport blended whisky. Passport stayed at Glenkeith until the distillery closed in 1999, when he then traveled to Strathisla. He eventually went to live with a distillery employee.
Smitty, Old Jameson Distillery
Smitty has become legend throughout the mouser trade, rumoured to have caught up to 22 mice per day in his prime. After his death, Smitty was stuffed and placed in his favourite stealth position in the distillery, where he still stares menacingly to this day as a warning to any mouse who dares enter the barley store.
Gordon Grant remembers Tommy the mouser as ‘a beast of a cat with the biggest head on a cat I have ever seen’, while others remember his fearsome temper. Even after injuring himself in a train accident where he lost one of his legs, Tommy stoically refused medical attention and lived out his days quietly.