Illicit Whisky Distillery From 1824 Uncovered

During excavations near Glenlivet Distillery, archaeologists discovered the site of an illicit whisky distillery from 1824.

Glenlivet Distillery’s founder, George Smith, made illicit single malt whisky at the site 197 years ago. He then smuggled the alcohol to his customers.

Smith gained his license after the 1823 Excise Act which enabled the licensed production of whisky. Smith then converted the old site, which began life as a farm into a whisky production site. Glenlivet Distillery became one of the first Scottish whisky distilleries to be licensed.

Above ground, the only surviving feature of Glenlivet distillery is two of the old mill dams. An inscribed monument situated on Crown Estate Scotland marks the site’s prominence within whisky history.

The National Trust for Scotland’s Head of Archaeology, Derek Alexander, conducted a survey of the distillery remains in the 1990s.

He said: “Returning to this place after nearly 25 years to finally uncover the remains of this special place is really inspiring.”

“Brushing dirt from the flagstones where George Smith, one of the lead figures of Scotland’s whisky industry, stood was incredible.”

“What’s really interesting is that this is where the illicit production of whisky, which is what we find evidence of on our National Trust for Scotland sites, and the transition towards larger scale industrial production meet; a formative part of the whisky industry becoming one of Scotland’s biggest and most successful.”

“It’s such a powerful part of our national story and identity, which is loved and recognised, at home and around the globe.”

The Glenlivet’s Master Distiller Alan Winchester said: “I have always been fascinated by The Glenlivet’s rich history, so to be entering the second year of our partnership with the National Trust for Scotland is a delight.”

“The majority of my career has been spent continuing the legacy of our founder George Smith, so it’s really interesting to have the opportunity to uncover even more secrets about our illicit past and tell new stories about the role Scotch has played in defining Scottish culture.”

The dig is part of the Pioneering Spirit project, a partnership between the National Trust for Scotland and The Glenlivet.

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