New project to uncover Scotland’s illicit distilling history
Glenlivet Distillery and National Trust for Scotland will bring together the results of archival research and archaeological digs across Scotland to illuminate the stories of Scotland’s illegal whisky making past and its people in the new Pioneering Spirit project.
Glenlivet’s founder George Smith was among those who risked life and liberty to produce illicit whisky at his farm at Upper Drummin. After the Excise Act was passed in 1823, he was the first person in Scotland to apply for a licence to legally produce spirit. It is said the decision was wholly unpopular with other farmers making whisky on their land, with Smith given two pistols to protect his family and his new legal distillery.
The real stories
Derek Alexander, Head of Archaeology, National Trust for Scotland, said the project would help uncover the real stories behind Scotland’s national drink. “With the goal of uncovering and sharing the stories behind Scotland’s illicit whisky industry, it’s only fitting we partner with a name that is so firmly part of this story. We’re looking forward to working closely with The Glenlivet to carry out this ground-breaking conservation project and uncovering new and interesting stories for everyone who loves Scotland.”
Interest in Scotland’s illicit distilling history has grown in recent years. Blackmidden has an interesting anecdote relating to the trade. Blackmiddens was producing litres of illegal alcohol during the 18th Century with tales of whisky being smuggled into Aberdeen in coffins by gangs of freebooters. A horse-drawn hearse was hired by the smugglers with the coffin filled with whisky. As it made it way past excise officials, locals would take off their hats as a sign of respect, with the whisky allowed on its way.