January 20th 2023
A History of Scotch Whisky: Distilled
A 500-year journey that has shaped our nation’s history, the evolution of Scotch Whisky tells us a lot about its status today. Celebrate its success with our 46-year-old double matured Blended Scotch, The Spirit of Scotland.
“Eight bolls of malt to Friar John Cor wherewith to make aqua vitae.”
These words, taken from the Exchequer Rolls in 1494, represent the first known reference to whisky production in history.
From here, the distillation of aqua vitae (water of life) was refined and perfected over generations – becoming a central foundation of Scotland’s social, political, and cultural history.
It wasn’t until 1644 that the first taxes were introduced by the Scottish Parliament to capture some of the revenue being made from these ever-popular spirits.
This move in turn led to much of the nascent Scotch whisky industry being forced underground – bought and sold on the black market, out of sight of the taxman.
By the early 19th century, over half the whisky being enjoyed across Scotland was untaxed, with up to 14,000 illegal stills confiscated each year.
It seemed that despite government efforts, the current system wasn’t working.
A History of Scotch Whisky – The Excise Act
This all changed in 1823 when the Excise Act was passed, allowing for distillers to continue producing whisky for a £10 licence fee and predefined payment per gallon of proof spirit.
With the introduction of the Excise Act, this black market became unprofitable almost overnight – with official and legitimate points of sale now the preferred choice for distillers.
Over the remainder of the century, Scotch whisky became the spirit of choice across Great Britain – and with the expansion of the Empire, trade of the spirit boomed as export routes provided a significantly expanded, global market.
Scotland had not only found a spirit loved across the world, a point of pride and differentiation - but also a major source of revenue.
Scotland had not only found a spirit loved across the world, a point of pride and differentiation – but also a major source of revenue.
Defined in UK law in 1933 and subject to increasing export targets, Scotch Whisky has now become synonymous with cultural craft, heritage, and quality on a global scale.
500 years after its first mention in the Exchequer Scrolls, Scotch Whisky exports surpassed £2 billion in 1994. A true statement of its enduring and widely shared appeal.
For us, this anniversary was a momentous milestone to celebrate and, fittingly, a fine scotch whisky was the best way to do so.
The Spirit of Scotland, our 46-year-old double matured blended Scotch Whisky, is our commemoration of whisky’s history, our celebration of its cultural significance, and our confidence in its future.
First blended in 1994 to mark the 500-year anniversary, the spirit has lain in cask for a further 28 years – developing into a fully unified, sophisticated Blended Scotch.
Bright gold in colour, The Spirit of Scotland is the perfect showcase for the wonderful complexity and richness of Scotch whisky.
Warming syrup and honey are initially evident on the nose, with an undertone of antiquity – a testament to the whisky’s age and significance. The palate introduces bright notes of citrus alongside a flair of light smokiness – concluding in a long-lasting and smooth finish.
A fine representation of the industry’s progress over 500 years and the perfect commemoration of whisky’s starring role in Scottish history.