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Malt Whisky - The Glenlivet

The fame of The Glenlivet had already spread far afield before 1823. The fact that it was illicitly distilled made no difference. Even King George IV, who paid a state visit to Scotland in 1822, was presented with some - he reputedly drank nothing else!

Smith's decision to become legal led to great animosity from neighbours who chose to continue smuggling. The very remoteness of his farm became a problem and his regular 3 5-mile journeys to the coast with pack horses made him vulnerable to attack. He recorded: 'The outlook was an ugly one. I was warned that they meant to burn the new distillery to the ground, and me in the heart of it. I had a pair of hair-trigger pistols and they were never out of my belt for years. I got together two or three stout fellows for servants, armed them with pistols and let it be known everywhere that I would fight for my place to the last shot. Through watching by turns every night for years, we contrived to save the distillery from the fate so freely predicted for it.'

For a decade or more, Smith had to contend with threats but at the same time, he prospered. Output rose steadily, his old pack horse trains were changed for matched teams of fine Clydesdales, which in turn were eventually replaced by steam lorries. A railway line went within seven miles of the distillery by 1863, and a year later the first bottle of The Glenlivet was exported.

Other illicit distillers who followed Smith's example and went legal, also prospered. But others persisted in the old way. It is said that the brewer at Cardhu, who had a croft not far away, made illicit whisky there on his own account at the same time that he was distilling for his employer.

Though it may not have appeared so at the time, the age of illicit distilling was coming to an end and a new era was beginning. After the new Act distillers had to provide accommodation for the resident exciseman - the 'enemy' had come to stay. From the scandalous heights of 14,000 discoveries of illicit stills in 1823, there were just six in 1874.

<-- Act of Parliament 1863  



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