“Goldie” is the affectionate name for one of Britain’s most beloved pantry staples, Lyle’s Golden Syrup. A monument to Victorian ingenuity and Britain’s immortal sweet tooth, this sweet spread is not only delicious, it’s the world’s oldest brand.

I was introduced to this delicacy by some fellow Britophiles (who insist that it bears a remarkable resemblance to actor Julian Rhind-Tutt’s voluminous golden hair). My first experience was dribbling the stuff over waffles, and ohthat was marvelous! Since then I’ve gotten a pot of my own to drizzle, and plan to use it in much more creative ways in the future.

But what exactly is golden syrup? It’s not like honey, maple syrup, corn syrup, molasses, or sorghum. It actually didn’t exist until 1883, when a Scottish businessman named Abram Lyle discovered how to refine a by-product of the sugar making process. Thus Goldie was born.

British food in the Victorian era went through nothing short of a revolution, with canned goods and mass-produced items hitting shelves for the first time. It took a while for Lyle’s new spread to catch on, but once it did there was no stopping it. Golden syrup became a national institution. Even World War II couldn’t budge the venerable old factory, though it suffered damage from 67 bombs. Despite harsh rationing, Lyle’s actually reached its record high output during the war, with over 1,000 tons of golden syrup being produced per week.

Lyle’s has its share of loyal followers, from soldiers fighting in the trenches to people with honey allergies. One of its greatest fans was Captain Robert Scott, who brought a tin or two along on his 1910 polar expedition. He wrote to the Lyle family, “Your Golden Syrup has been in daily use in this hut throughout the winter, and has been much appreciated by all members of the expedition.”

The distinctive green and gold packaging is instantly recognizable by about 85% of Brits, and has a home in kitchen cupboards across the world. In 2006 Goldie won the Guinness World Record for oldest brand in the world, as the packaging has remained virtually unchanged since Day One. The recipe hasn’t changed either, and its rich, buttery flavor is still utterly unique.

Tate and Lyle - golden syrup by Believe Creative
Tate and Lyle – golden syrup, a photo by Believe Creative on Flickr.

You may be wondering about the dead lion and bees swarming around on the label. Believe it or not, this is actually a Biblical reference to a story in Judges chapter 14. After seeing that bees had built a honeycomb in the carcass of a lion, Sampson set his companions a riddle, “Out of the eater came forth meat and out of the strong came forth sweetness.” Why Abram Lyle chose this symbol for his yummy new spread, I have no idea, but according to Victorian specialist Dr. Kate Thomas, the logo testifies to “a peculiarly Victorian mix of moralism, industrial drive and budding concern for social welfare.”

So there’s the story on Lyle’s Golden Syrup. You can use it in myriad recipes:

Question for comments: What is your opinion of Goldie? Favorite way to use it?


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Written by Abigail Young

I've had a passion for everything British my entire life, despite being raised as a small-town girl in the American Midwest, After years of dreaming, I got the chance to live and work in England for an entire year. Now I write about my favorite country, and hopefully inspire my fellow Britophiles to get over there and experience it for themselves.

This article has 2 comments

  1. Catherine Reply

    I love this stuff – used it to make Treacle Pudding from Tea and Sympathy’s recipe book. I used to have to search for it in specialty shops, but now they sell it in the Key Food one block from my home! Enablers!

    • Abigail Rogers Reply

      You’ve got to love enablers! It’s rather dangerous having amazing British treats so close to home….

      Thanks for commenting 🙂

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