Our History

Spey Whisky and U.S. Prohibition

Spey Whisky and U.S. Prohibition


In May 1922, the Londonderry family auctioned off the contents of Seaham Hall and left the property uninhabited. This provoked a rather unusual chapter in the house's history - it became the secret bottling and distribution centre for Scotch whisky.

At the centre of this astonishing new role for the house was Sunderland man Alec Harvey, a descendant of John and Robert Harvey who had started distilleries in Glasgow in the 1770's. Having served in the Great War he had now established himself as something of a local entrepreneur, trading in livestock, household goods and significantly, Scotch whisky.

Knowing Seaham Hall was now completely unoccupied and had an extensive network of cellars, Harvey quickly spotted a commercial opportunity and, because of his family connections in Scotland began using the empty house to both store and bottle Spey whisky.

In the dead of night, he would smuggle the whisky down to Seaham Harbour and load it on ships bound for the Bahamas, from where it was redirected to New York and Chicago during the height of US prohibition. Harvey would later claim his customers included renowned bootlegger George Remus and gangster Al Capone. He also exported Spey whisky to the Far East, effectively establishing the brand worldwide and making himself a small fortune.

Interestingly Spey whisky already enjoyed a long association with Seaham Hall - to celebrate his wedding to Annabella Milbanke in 1815, Lord Byron had sent a bottle of this rare single malt to his good friend King George III.

Distilled under license of the Historic Royal Palaces at Aviemore in the Scottish Highlands, the exclusive and highly sought after Spey Royal Choice Whisky is now available at six specific venues in the UK - the tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Banqueting House, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace and (thanks to Alex Harvey's celebrated exploits) the Seaham Hall Hotel.