What is it about?

Highland Scotland's early malt whisky distilleries were often small businesses. Some were distillery enterprises in their own right, others were by-products of agrarian economies. But did they emerge from the region's long-established illicit manufactory and network of smugglers?

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Why is it important?

We show that the the establishment of legal distilleries represented a shift in how whisky was made, and who was making it. In tandem with broader demographic and industrial changes in Highland Scotland, the economy of making whisky, traditionally dominated illegally by smugglers, was appropriated by landowners and an emerging agricultural class.


This was an enjoyable article to research and write. I have long found it a little strange that the history of Scotch whisky has not attracted more academic attention. I particularly enjoyed drawing links between illicit whisky-making, Jacobitism and the Highland clearances.

Kieran German
University of Dundee

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This page is a summary of: Distilling in the Cabrach, c. 1800–1850: The Illicit Origins of the Scotch Whisky Industry, Journal of Scottish Historical Studies, November 2019, Edinburgh University Press, DOI: 10.3366/jshs.2019.0274.
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