25 Interesting Historical Facts about Scotch Whisky


Scotch Whisky has been evolving through the centuries with the help of human innovation, natural disasters, wars and government regulations. We have selected 25 milestones of the Scotch Whisky History to share with you:



1. The first reference about whisky is considered an entry in the tax records (Exchequer Rolls) of 1494 declaring a purchase of "eight bolls (1.200kg) of malt from Friar John Cor (a monk from Lindores Abey) by the order of the King (King James IV of Scotland) wherewith to make acqua vitae". This entry provides for the first time evidence for distillation using barley as a raw material.

2. The whisky was first taxed by the Scottish Parliament in 1644.

3. The licensed whisky production was banned from 1757 to 1760 due to poor harvest.

4. In 1774, the regulated volume for the wash and liquor stills was increased to 480 and 120 gallons respectively, which was the first victory of the tax-paying producers over the home distillers. In 1781, home distilling was banned.

5. The Wash Act of 1784 divided Scotland into two areas, Highlands and Lowlands with an imaginative line from Greenock to Dundee.

6. The Small Stills Act of 1816 abolished the distinction between the industries in the Highlands and the Lowlands. In addition the Act legalized stills holding 48 gallons and above, as well as a weaker wash. This Act, allowed the smaller producers to operate legally and increase the number of the legal distilleries from 36 in 1816 to 125 three years later.

7. The Excise Act of 1823 which gave a lot of incentives like tax-free warehousing and free export, multiplied the legal distilleries and reduced the illegal trade. By the end of 1825, the licensed distilleries under the new Act were doubled from 111 to 263.

8. The first license under the new law was obtained by Captain George Smith, the founder of The Glenlivet Distillery.

9. In 1826, Robert Stein invented a basic column still.

10. In 1830, the irishman Aeneas Coffey, a former Inspector General of Excise, patented his improved column still. The efficiency of the technique and the smooth characteristics of the grain whisky have changed the drinking map of the world during the next centuries. 

11. Around 1850, London based Andrew Usher & Co began to sell a blended whisky called "Old vatted Glenlivet whisky", which was a mixture of Glenlivet whisky with other malt whiskies. The idea came from Usher wife, Margaret Balmer who was a talented blender of drinks.

12. Around 1860, the world's first blended whisky which was a mixture of malt and grain whisky was produced under the name Green Stripe.

13. Due to the vine aphid called phylloxera, which had destroyed most of France's vineyards during the period 1870-1890, production of Cognac fell by two thirds and whisky consumption gain a massive boost.

14. The magic formula which helped the whisky to conquer the british elite and the world in the following years was the blending of the rougher malt whiskies with the softer grain whiskies and prolonging the maturation process.

15. The first companies which was the pioneers of this change were John Walker, John Haig, John Dewars, James Buchanan with Black & White and James L. Mackie with White Horse.

16. Some of the key players of the whisky industry nowadays used to be whisky dealers and wine merchants back in 19th century like Chivas Brothers with Chivas Regal and Matthew Gloag & Sons with Famous Grouse.

17. In 1877, The Distillers Company (DCL), a company which played an important role in the evolution of the whisky industry was formed by a group of Scottish column still distillers. DCL is now part of Diageo.

18. In 1898, Pattison, Elder & Co, a blending company which had penetrated the whisky market for almost a decade with aggressive marketing and financing, filed bankruptcy. This fact created financial problems to a lot of distilleries which used to be their suppliers and created a crash in the whisky industry.

19. In 1916, the British Government introduce measures to reduce the whisky production including the reduction of the regulated alcohol content for domestic sales from 43% to 40% and the increase of the minimum maturation period for at least 3 years.

20. In 1917, during World War I, malt whisky production was forced to shut down due to shortage in the supply of grains.

21. During the 1920s, the alcohol prohibition in the United States and the Great Depression led to decline of production and increase in illegal alcohol trading.

22. On December 5, 1933, president Roosevelt ended the alcohol prohibition with the legendary phrase: "What America needs now is a drink"!

23. Britain's involvement in World War II, played significant role for spreading the whisky in Europe, America and Asia.

24. In 1957, the Glen Keith Distillery was build. It was the first new distillery since 1900.

25. In 1962, Grants decide to start selling the 8 Year Old Glenfiddich "straight malt" which was the pioneer for the rebranding of Single Malt Whisky.


 Off course, whisky was not only evolved with help of politics and war. Whisky had an active role in forming politics and war as well!

"Haven't you learned yet that I put something more than Whisky into my speeches?" Winston Churchill

Dram it up!

Written by:

Aristides Trimindis

Co-Founder of www.singlemaltlodge.com





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