Two researchers have been appointed to investigate the history of whisky distilling and smuggling in the Cabrach, which is said by some to be one of the birthplaces of Scotland’s national drink and was certainly the heartland of early farm distilling in Speyside.
Historians, Gregor Adamson and Dr Kieran German will undertake a two-month project to research local whisky distilling methods employed in the Cabrach in the 18th and 19th-century.
The findings will be used to shape plans by the Cabrach Trust to transform the existing Inverharroch Farm into an authentic farm distillery operating on historical methods.
Dr Kieran German says, ‘This innovative project will perform a vital role in securing the heritage of the Scotch whisky industry. It is of immense historical importance and the Cabrach is the perfect destination to tell the story of the origins and emergence of distilling in Scotland.
In the late 18th and early 19th-century, the Cabrach was ‘a legendary haunt of distillers’, with local inhabitants mixed farming and illicit distilling with great skill, using the difficult to access landscape to create a well organised underground network of illicit stills and a distribution system designed to evade customs and excise.
In 1823, after a number of attempts by Government to put an end to illicit distilling and smuggling, a new Act of Parliament heralded in the era of commercial distilling.
As a result, licenses were issued in the 1820s for five new distilleries in the Cabrach – Lesmurdie, Cabrach, Tomnaven, Buck and Blackmiddens.
Sue Savege, executive director of The Cabrach Trust, said ‘Our early research points to Inverharroch as being the possible site of one of these early distilleries, which is very exiting for us. The Cabrach and its people played a very important role in the pre-history of whisky and the establishment of the industry in Speyside and we are very keen to unravel this story. What we find out will be be integral to our plans.’
“We are pleased to welcome Gregor Adamson and Dr Kieran German to the team and look forward to the result of their work, which will directly influence the plans for the distillery.
“The aim of the research is to provide us with real insight into the way the five historical distilleries operated, including drawings or images, information on the production methods and details of how the whisky was stored, matured and transported.
“Of course we need to comply with modern health and safety legislation, but our objective is to incorporate historical methods as far as possible so it’s vital we understand exactly what those were and how we can recreate them.”
Gregor Adamson says, this research will help create a blueprint for the recreation of an early distillery at Inverharroch and will underpin the development of a successful cultural heritage programme in the Cabrach.