The Dangerous History of Loch Lomond Whisky

The story of Loch Lomond whisky

Scotland is famous for quite a few things. Tartan; haggis; Sean Connery and not getting to the finals of football tournaments. But if there’s one thing that our country is synonymous with, it must be whisky, and Loch Lomond whisky has a particularly interesting story. 

Image provided by Forestry and Land Scotland

Whisky has been getting made – and drunk – in Scotland since at least the 1400s. Whether it was discovered first by monks, or by farmers finding out about the magic that happens with their surplus barley, we don’t know. However it originated, it very quickly became a popular drink, and today there are over 100 whisky distilleries throughout Scotland. 

There are plenty of distilleries near Loch Lomond, including our own local, Glengoyne. They are a great distillery to visit when you stay with us. Whisky holidays in Scotland, however, were not always such an easy to come by pleasure…

Illicit Whisky around Loch Lomond

In the 1600s, the Scottish Parliament had spotted great potential in making money from whisky production and sales. By throwing a heavy tax on the drink and its ingredients, they sent much of the production underground. Illicit stills and distilleries started to pop up around the country, and lots of whisky smuggling happened around the Loch Lomond area.

Just as excise officers found and shut one down, another popped up elsewhere in its place. These would often be in secluded areas, but within travelling distance to large towns and cities so they could be sold. And the best part was that these illegal distilleries used better ingredients than legal ones, meaning they tasted better and so could fetch a higher price than legally-distilled whisky! Smugglers were into a profitable business with their Scotch whisky.

Records showing where illicit distilleries were are, unsurprisingly, hard to come by. In 2019, however, a fascinating discovery was made near Loch Lomond which may offer insights into this dark age of Scotch whisky in Loch Lomond.

Big and Wee Bruach Caoruinn

Image provided by Forestry and Land Scotland

Deep in a forest in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, not too far from Loch Lomond Waterfront, archaeologists have made a fascinating discovery. They found two buildings that were probably once used to illegally make whisky in the 18th century. Wee Bruach Caoruinn and Big Bruach Caoruinn, headquarters of the operation, are ruined farmsteads. Their shape and location make experts think they would be perfect for making the drink. 

Using laser scanning techniques, researchers were able to view the buildings in 3D from many angles. This gave them unique views on how the area may have looked hundreds of years ago, and perhaps what it was used for. From the length of the buildings, and their association with two large corn drying kilns, it seems likely whisky was made here.

The farms were abandoned in the 1840s. Then, by the 1860s they had fallen into ruin. Luckily, the forest has protected them so that they remain well preserved. To find out more about these buildings, visit the Forestry and Land Scotland website.

Legitimate Whisky in Loch Lomond

Fortunately, we don’t need to worry about illegal whisky anymore! After the 1823 Excise Act was passed, whisky could be distilled legally for a small fee. Smuggling died out very quickly. This means we have a great selection to enjoy today!

Why not bring your favourite tipple (or tipples) along with you to enjoy the stunning views from our lodges? Take a break and relax with a dram in the stunning scenery here at Loch Lomond Waterfront. And as you do, take a moment to remember the history and dangers that used to roam these hills and forests in the search for the perfect Loch Lomond whisky.

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