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Scotland's Secret History: The Illicit Distilling and Smuggling of Whisky

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Illicit distilling in Scotland was seen as a ‘right of man’ at the end of the 17th century. Attempts to enforce excise duty on the spirit were therefore met with resistance, ranging from riots to more and more ingenious ways of avoiding paying tax. In this book Charles MacLean and Daniel MacCannell give a fascinating insight into the day-to-day struggles that led to the inc Illicit distilling in Scotland was seen as a ‘right of man’ at the end of the 17th century. Attempts to enforce excise duty on the spirit were therefore met with resistance, ranging from riots to more and more ingenious ways of avoiding paying tax. In this book Charles MacLean and Daniel MacCannell give a fascinating insight into the day-to-day struggles that led to the increase in illicit distilling from the mid-1600s, then to its eventual demise in the early twentieth century. The Cabrach, a wild and sparsely populated part of Aberdeenshire, became renowned for its production of illicit whisky. Local inhabitants mixed farming and distilling with great skill, creating a network of stills and distribution to evade customs. Using new research, first-hand historical accounts, and official records, the authors show how spirits from this small parish were made and travelled far and wide, across the border to England and across the North Sea to France, firing up revolution and lending solidarity to the struggles of the Jacobites. Features: Making Whisky (Dennis McBain), The Jacobite Legacy (Murray Pittock), The Bard and the Bottle (David Purdie), The Dram In Folklore (Tom McKean), A Smuggler’s Paradise (David Ferguson); Banff – The Smuggler’s Royal Burgh (Jay Wilson), Scotland’s Lost Distilleries (Brian Townsend).


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Illicit distilling in Scotland was seen as a ‘right of man’ at the end of the 17th century. Attempts to enforce excise duty on the spirit were therefore met with resistance, ranging from riots to more and more ingenious ways of avoiding paying tax. In this book Charles MacLean and Daniel MacCannell give a fascinating insight into the day-to-day struggles that led to the inc Illicit distilling in Scotland was seen as a ‘right of man’ at the end of the 17th century. Attempts to enforce excise duty on the spirit were therefore met with resistance, ranging from riots to more and more ingenious ways of avoiding paying tax. In this book Charles MacLean and Daniel MacCannell give a fascinating insight into the day-to-day struggles that led to the increase in illicit distilling from the mid-1600s, then to its eventual demise in the early twentieth century. The Cabrach, a wild and sparsely populated part of Aberdeenshire, became renowned for its production of illicit whisky. Local inhabitants mixed farming and distilling with great skill, creating a network of stills and distribution to evade customs. Using new research, first-hand historical accounts, and official records, the authors show how spirits from this small parish were made and travelled far and wide, across the border to England and across the North Sea to France, firing up revolution and lending solidarity to the struggles of the Jacobites. Features: Making Whisky (Dennis McBain), The Jacobite Legacy (Murray Pittock), The Bard and the Bottle (David Purdie), The Dram In Folklore (Tom McKean), A Smuggler’s Paradise (David Ferguson); Banff – The Smuggler’s Royal Burgh (Jay Wilson), Scotland’s Lost Distilleries (Brian Townsend).

16 review for Scotland's Secret History: The Illicit Distilling and Smuggling of Whisky

  1. 5 out of 5

    Stuart

    Illicit Stills, Smugglers, Jacobites and Excise Men: Whisky Was Scotland's Symbol of Defiance Against English Political and Economic Tyranny If you're a hug fan of Scotch whisky, as I am, and have read several books on the subject, including Spirit of Place: Whisky Distilleries of Scotland, or remember the whisky expert in Ken Loachs' classic film The Angel's Share, then you'll already know Charles Maclean, and he has teamed up with Daniel MacCannell, an honorary research fellow from University o Illicit Stills, Smugglers, Jacobites and Excise Men: Whisky Was Scotland's Symbol of Defiance Against English Political and Economic Tyranny If you're a hug fan of Scotch whisky, as I am, and have read several books on the subject, including Spirit of Place: Whisky Distilleries of Scotland, or remember the whisky expert in Ken Loachs' classic film The Angel's Share, then you'll already know Charles Maclean, and he has teamed up with Daniel MacCannell, an honorary research fellow from University of Aberdeen, who clearly has provided the copious research that made this book possible. Marc Ellington has also compiled and edited a great deal of material for the book. When I ordered this book I hadn't seen inside and was very pleased to discover it is absolutely packed with glossy color images depicting the history of illicit Scottish distilling and smuggling, much of it romantic-style paintings of the intrepid and defiant smugglers defying the greedy and tyrannical English excisemen, though other paintings take the opposite position. The book covers the history of distilling in Scotland, and the economic struggles of the country over the centuries, particularly the Highlands where farmers struggled to survive on agriculture alone. The most profitable enterprise was distilling the excess barley in small portable stills, and the safest place to do this without interference was in the remote glens of the Highlands, especially the Cabrach. Over time England decided that this burgeoning shadow economy needed taxation, especially when it needed to raise money for its various wars. Thus became a centuries' long struggle between English excise men, also know as 'gaugers', and Scottish illegal distillers, aka smugglers, and the vast distribution networks that were involved delivering the precious golden liquid, usually by sea, to markets in England, the European continent, and distant America as well. The history of the Jacobite movement to restore the House of Stuart to the English throne and the divided loyalties this created among Roman Catholics and Jacobites in both England and Scotland shows just how complex the political factors were, and as illicit whisky was such a profitable trade, it because a key source of the economic livelihood of a poverty-stricken Scotland but also was seen by England as an insufferable defiance of English laws and lost revenues for the Crown. So it was inevitable that it would become the center of a tug-of-war between the two countries, and that most of the Scottish people who were involved in it would see it as a symbol of their independence and defiance, and the English excise men as the visible symbol of England's economic and political tyranny. It's a fascinating story and shows just how complex and divisive the illicit whisky trade was. Highly recommended for all fans of Scotch whisky and its turbulent history.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Alec Morgan

  3. 5 out of 5

    Msllt

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jason Powell

  5. 5 out of 5

    Caron Richmond

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

  7. 4 out of 5

    Rilla Sigler

  8. 4 out of 5

    Eric

  9. 4 out of 5

    Roxanne

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sonya

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ivica

  12. 4 out of 5

    Scott

  13. 5 out of 5

    jennet wheatstonelllsl

  14. 4 out of 5

    Gavin Tavendale

  15. 5 out of 5

    Aleksa

  16. 4 out of 5

    Todd

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