↑ Return to About Whisky

A short history of scotch

Ancient Still

Ancient Still

1494 – The first documented record of distilling in Scotland, when an entry in the Exchequer Rolls listed “Eight bolls of malt to Friar John Cor wherewith to make aqua vitae” (water of life).

1644 – The first taxation measures are introduced by the Scottish Parliament with the introduction of a Malt Tax. The legislation was very unpopular and the tax proved to be very difficult to collect. This period saw the advent of the illicit still in Scotland.

1707 – Scotland is joined with England in the Act of Union. Ever increasing rates of taxation on Scotch Whisky and the creation of the Excisemen hardens the resolve of the illicit stillmen.

1784 – The Wash Act establishes a precise, geographical “Highland Line’ separating the Lowlands from the Highlands for purposes of differential excise levels. Single malt whiskies are still categorised using this ‘Highland Line’.

1823 – The Excise Act sanctions the distilling of whisky in return for a license fee of £10 and a set of payments per gallon of proof spirit. This dramatically reduces the number of illicit stills operating in Scotland.

Coffey Still

Coffey Still

1831 – Aeneas Coffey invents the Coffey or Patent Still, enabling a continuous process of distillation to take place and leading to the production of grain whisky – a less intense spirit than malt whisky.

1853 – Andrew Usher initiates the blending revolution by combining malt and grain whisky together for the first time. It produces a lighter flavoured and consistent whisky – Usher’s Old Vatted Glenlivet.

1880s – The phylloxera beetle devastates the vineyards of France. As a result, wine and brandy virtually disappear from cellars across the world. Scotch Whisky quickly replaces brandy as the preferred spirit of choice.

SS Politician

SS Politician

1941 – The SS Politician bound for America with a cargo of whisky founders off North West Scotland. Her “liberation” provides the natives of war rationed Eriskay with a welcome tonic.

2003 – Scotch Whisky is Scotland’s biggest indigenous industry supporting many local communities. It is the world’s leading international sprit and is exported to over 200 countries worldwide.

More details:

1494 – First written record of whisky
1505 – Guild of Surgeon Barbers, Edinburgh granted charter to sell whisky
1577 – Raphael Holinshead writes his Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland and extols the value of uisge beatha
1590 – First recorded export of whisky to Ireland
1608 – License granted to produce whiskey at Bushmills Distillery, Northern Ireland
1627 – Robert Haig establishes his distillery
1644 – First duty on whisky introduced by Act of Scottish Parliament
1675 – Robert Boyle describes his new hydrometer
1688 – First duty on alcoholic strength of whisky
1689 – Ferintosh Distillery burnt down by supporters of James ll
1751 – Gilcomston Distillery, Aberdeen founded
1757 – Kilbeggan Distillery, reputedly built in Ireland
1775 – Glenturret Distillery founded
1779 – Justerini & Justerini sell whisky in London.
1779 – Bowmore Distillery founded.
1784 – John Jameson started distilling in Dublin
1786 – Strathisla Distillery founded
1794 – Bridge of Don Distillery completed
1795 – Tobermory Distillery on Mull founded
1798 – Highland Park, Ardbeg and Glen Garioch start distilling
1810 – Glenburgie Distillery founded
1816 – Sikes hydrometer adopted.
1816 – Laphroaig Distillery founded.
1817 – Teaninich, Duntocher and Lagavulin Distilleries open
1823 – Licensing of Distilleries
1824 – Glenlivet takes out license
1825 – Edradour, Scotland’s smallest distillery founded
1826 – First patent for a continuous still awarded to Robert Stein.
1826 – James Allardes of Glendronach takes out a license.

William Teacher is awarded a 'license for consumption' and opens the first famous 'Dram Shop'.

William Teacher is awarded a ‘license for consumption’ and opens the first famous ‘Dram Shop’.

1830 – William Teacher opens his first grocers shop
1837 – Lagg Distillery, Arran founded
1839 – The Chivas dynasty founded
1844 – Glenfarclas Distillery opens
1851 – Dailuaine Distillery founded
1789 – Black Bottle is introduced
1882 – VAT 69 is launched by Sanderson
1886 – Glenfiddich Distillery founded
1892 – Balvenie Distillery opens
1894 – Famous Grouse Whisky appears for the first time
1896 – Dufftown Distillery opens
1897 – Tomatin and Dalwhinnie founded
1898 – Pattisons blending company goes bankrupt and many distilleries forced to close

Johnny Walker - Red Label

Johnny Walker – Red Label

1909 – Johnny Walker Red Label launched
1913 – Teacher’s introduce their new cork
1936 – Ballantine’s is bought by Hiram Walker
1941 – SS Politician is lost with a cargo of whisky of the Isle of Eriskay
1949 – Tullibardine Distillery is rebuilt
1959 – Tormore, the first new distillery to be built in the 20th century in Scotland.
1959 – Whisky rationing in the UK ceases.
1966 – Deanston Distillery opens in an old cotton mill designed by Richard Arkwright
1990 – Drumguish Distillery produced its first spirit
1994 – 500th anniversary of whisky production in Scotland.
1994 – Arran Distillery founded.