Happy New Year. I hope unlike me you’re not suffering from Social Jetlag.

Whisky and Hogmanay go hand in hand. Now, you may have sworn off the hard stuff for January to balance it all out and don’t need reminding. But hear me out.

There is an army of people out there, on your door step, quietly working hard to replace that which was consumed over the festive period. There are many craft distillers* dotted about dedicated to creating the very best for you to imbibe and more popping up every day. Although craft distilling has had a resurgence over the last few years, it has a long and venerable tradition in Scotland.

The history of craft distilling and brewing in Scotland goes a long way back, with the earliest documented record of distilling in Scotland dating from 1494.  Although some of it, sometimes most of it, was not legal. Originally the preserve of the monasteries, following the Reformation a number of monks found themselves out of a job, so to speak and the logical step was to use this skill to set up their own small businesses and the knowledge spread out into the wider world from there. Due to the popularity of their product, the Scottish Parliament introduced the first taxes on malt whisky in late 1700 and then increased them following the 1707 Act of the Union. This drove many distillers underground.  The business model of smuggling was almost the standard for 150 years. In 1775 in Edinburgh alone there were 8 licenced stills but it is thought to be having been close to 400 unregistered ones.

In the face of this strong illegal trade in 1823 the Excise Act was passed, sanctioning the distilling for a licence fee and a set payment per gallon of proof spirit. This bought the majority of distillers back into the legal fold. Many fell by the wayside due the- ahem- quality of their product and others became many of the names recognisable today.

Although famous for whisky, Scotland also produced alongside it grain spirit and gin particularly in Leith, the port being ideally located to provide access to ingredients of fine spices and sugar central to production as well as the original gin,  Genaver,  imported from the Netherlands.  Today’s distillers are following this tradition producing uniquely Scottish Gin and Vodka.

The Scottish Association for Craft Distillers (SACD) was formed last year in association with our friends Interface Food and Drink with the aim to encourage the growth of craft distilling in Scotland by assisting the development of member companies. Through our conversations with the SACD we collaborated with E4tech to investigate the renewable energy options for craft distillers.  The report reviewed not only biofuels but the potential for solar, air and ground heat pumps and biomass boilers and can be read here.

*Producers are considered craft distillers and brewers if they produce approx. 20,000 to 100,0000 litres per annum.

Marketing & Information Officer

Stella is the Marketing and Information officer for the Scottish Biofuel Programme. Her background is in Creative Industries and Higher Edinburgh. She holds a degree in Fine Art.

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