24th August 2022

Whisky Timeline

  • 1494 While whisky was widely being made in Scotland, the first written account of whisky distilling is attributed to Friar John Cor who is given malt by the Scottish Exchequer
  • 1506 King James IV of Scotland grants Edinburgh’s Guild of Surgeon Barbers the sole rights to distil whisky in the city
  • 1536-1541 Henry VIII has a bit of trouble with the ladies so dissolves the Monasteries. This takes whisky making out of monastic control and places it in the hands of layman
  • 1690 England bans French imports such as wine and brandy. The Scots step in and fill the void with whisky…
  • 1725 Crippling whisky taxes introduced by the English. The Scots dodge the duty by making illicit versions under the cover of darkness – hence the term “moonshine”.
  • 1786 Robert Burns writes “Scotch Drink” as part of his first, and most famous, book of poems
  • 1816 Laphroaig Distillery founded
  • 1820 Shop owner John Walker begins to make his eponymous whisky – now the most famous and popular in the world
  • 1823 Excise Act calls amnesty on illegal distilling, offering distilling licences for £10 and a duty of 12p per bottle
  • 1823-1828 Over 200 new distilleries open and annual production almost quadruples to 45m litres a year
  • 1824 Glenlivet is founded
  • 1827 Robert Stein invents the ‘continuous still”
  • 1831 The “Coffey Still” is patented by Aeneas Coffey. It’s a slightly better version of Stein’s still.
  • 1830 William Teacher opens his first grocers shop
  • 1839 Balvenie Distillery founded
  • 1850 The first blend whisky is introduced by Andrew Usher, blending whiskies made from Coffey’s still and those taken from more traditional pot stills
  • 1853 A change in laws allow whisky of different ages to be blended ‘in bond’ at the same distillery
  • 1870 Alexander Walker, son of Johnnie, introduces a square bottle which allows him to pack more bottles in a case and save money – all very Scottish.
  • 1883 Tommy Dewar pioneers Scotch Whisky advertising using stereotypical Scottish images such as kilts, bagpipes and tartan etc..
  • 1887 Glenfiddich Distillery is opened
  • 1894 The ‘Rob Roy’ cocktail is invented at The Waldorf Astoria in New York
  • 1941 Carrying thousands of bottles of whisky, SS Politician (Polly) crashes into rocks off the island of Eriskay. Hundreds of islanders help themselves.
  • 1949 An Ealing comedy telling the tale is released called Whisky Galore.
  • 1957 Glenfiddich unveils its iconic triangular bottle
  • 1973 Whisky is usurped by vodka as the biggest selling spirit in the world
  • 1994 500th anniversary of the whisky production in Scotland. People celebrate by drinking whisky.
  • 2003 Diageo cause controversy by replacing its Cardhu single malt with a blended labelled as “Pure Malt”. Consumer and industry outrage forces them to change the label
  • 2003 American spy surveillance mistakes the Bruichladich Distillery for a factory making weapons of mass destruction
  • 2008 Islay residents outraged by high petrol prices turn to whisky to fuel their cars. Teetotaller Donnie MacKinnon tips a full gallon of Lagavullan whisky into his 1978 Rolls-Royce and, while a little smoky, it runs smoothly
  • 2014 The most expensive bottle of whisky in the world is sold in Hong Kong for $628,205; a six litre crystal decanter filled with Macallan ‘M’, a blend of seven incredibly rare casks.
  • 2020 Scotch Whisky distillers support the fight against COVID-19 by making hand-sanitiser – making more than 1.4m litres of ethanol a week – enough to produce over 12m x 500ml bottles of hand sanitiser a month.
  • 2022 Each second, 44 bottles of Scotch are shipped from Scotland across the globe, helping to support tens of thousands of jobs in Scotland and ensuring that millions of consumers can enjoy a dram.

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