Archaeologists uncover site of illicit whisky distillery from 1824

Excavations near Glenlivet Distillery have uncovered the floor of an old site where single malt whisky was produced illegally in 1824.

Archaeologists uncover site of illicit whisky distillery from 1824 Alison White via SWNS

Archaeologists have uncovered the site of an illicit whisky distillery – dating back nearly 200 years.

Excavations near Glenlivet Distillery have uncovered the floor of the old site where single malt whisky was produced illegally in 1824.

Fragments of bottle glass and ceramics involved in whisky production were also found at Upper Drumin, Speyside – just a kilometre from the modern distillery.

Glenlivet Distillery’s founder, George Smith, risked his life to make the illicit booze at the site 197 years ago before smuggling his produce to customers.

Smith was the first illicit producer to get his licence after the 1823 Excise Act, and Glenlivet Distillery became one of Scotland’s first whisky distilleries to be licensed.

The old site was originally a farm, converted to whisky production site by Smith in response to the 1823 Act, which made licenced production of whisky possible.

Nothing survives above ground of the distillery apart from the remains of two of the old mill dams.

The site, which is on Crown Estate Scotland land, is marked by an inscribed monument marking its important role in whisky history.

Derek Alexander, the National Trust for Scotland’s Head of Archaeology, has a long 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.”

Alan Winchester, The Glenlivet’s Master Distiller 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.”

Investigations at the site began on October 4 and run until October 9.

The dig is being carried out as part of the Pioneering Spirit project – a partnership between conservation charity the National Trust for Scotland and The Glenlivet.

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