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Scotland's secret whisky heritage to be uncovered

Published:  27 August, 2020

National Trust Scotland has partnered with Glenlivet to uncover the lost history of Scotland’s illicit stills.

The project, named Pioneering Spirit, will see archaeological digs at around 30 still and bothy sites on the NTS estates dating back to the early 1800s. Planned dig locations include Torridon, Kintail, Grey Mare’s Tail and the Mar Lodge Estate.

Under the 1788 Excise Act, stills producing less than 450 litres were outlawed, although it is estimated that around half of all Scotch drunk in the period was illicit.

Both NTS visitors and local residents will be invited to help with the project as it progresses, deepening understanding of the role that secretly distilling and transporting whisky played in Scottish history and culture.

The initiative, which is currently expected to run for a year, is being led by NTS head of archaeology Derek Alexander and The Glenlivet’s archivist, Chris Brousseau.

Alexander said: “Our charity is always searching for new ways to tell Scotland’s stories, and this project will help us shed light on a really fascinating era in Scotland’s history, which has shaped our culture and our landscapes too.

“We’re looking forward to working closely with The Glenlivet to carry out this ground-breaking conservation project and uncovering new and interesting stories for everyone who loves Scotland!”

Miriam Eceolaza, global marketing director of The Glenlivet, said: “We are proud to be supporting the National Trust for Scotland and the amazing work they do to protect, and celebrate, what makes Scotland unique.

As a brand that holds so much history in the distilling of Scotch whisky, we are looking forward to learning more about the illicit trade that our founder was involved in, as well as the lasting impact it has had on the country’s rich heritage.”