Whisky Boys, Back to School – Week 4

The Scotch Whisky Trail Certificate 2011 – City of Glasgow College (week 4)

This is week four of our eight week Whisky Trail 2011 course and guess what Jim and Scott were early once again this evening.

Tonight’s subject was the History of Whisky up to 1850:

From the first written record of distillation in Scotland in 1494 up until 1850 appeared to be a very confusing time for everyone involved.

Not only were the farmers and land owners involved on one way or another in the art of distillation but the government whether city, regional or national were bringing out acts to ensure that they got their share of the monies generated by this aqua vitae. The Scottish Parliament were the first in the world to impose a duty on spirits in 1644, and that was the equivalent of around 13 pence ( per pint ) today.

In 1777 it is said that there were at least 400 illicit stills in Edinburgh with only 8 legal/licensed stills.

So there were many an illicit still in Scotland and very few recognised or licensed stills and in 1781 private distillation was banned.

Now it was not only the farmers and city people that were running illegal stills and defrauding the Treasury of income but some of their Excise men were up to no good as well. Take for example one Malcolm Gillespie who in 1799 at the ripe old age of 20 began his career with the Customs and Excise and over the course of his many years, he was responsible for the seizure over 14,000 gallons of spirit, over 6,500 gallons of Whisky, over 400 stills, 85 carts and over 62,000 gallons of wash.  For his efforts he was wounded at least 42 times whilst carrying out his duty. Now Malcolm had a lifestyle to live up to and and his salary was not up to that, so he began to forge treasury bills and was caught, sent to court found guilty and hanged on the 16th November 1827.

Our lecturer John D Lamond went into some detail about the history of Scotch Whisky and the process of distillation and how it got better and better as the years passed by. The students were also very interactive on this topic and it was a well structured lecture, enjoyed by all.

Now, as usual the last part of the lecture involved the tasting of some special drams, and we had a wee bit of catching up to do, so our tastings tonight were :-

Dewar’s 12 Year Old, Double Aged Blended Scotch Whisky, 40% Alc/vol. Excellent every day dram.

Aberfeldy 12 Year Old, Highland Single Malt Whisky, 40% Alc/vol. Very clean with more than a touch of Honey, the heart of the above Blend.

Glen Grant 10 Year Old, Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky, 40% Alc/vol. World wide best seller especially in Italy.


Glenfiddich 12 Year Old, Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky, 40% Alc/vol. World famous dram, a smooth, clean and easily sipped Speyside.

Macallan 10 year Old, Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Sherry Oak, 40% Alc/vol. Too sweet and too much sherry barrel, this was a dram from last week that we missed.

Macallan 18 year Old, Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Sherry Oak, 43% Alc/vol. Now this is a nice sherry wood dram, bears no relation to the 10 Year Old, this was another dram from last week that we missed.


Glenfarclas 15 Year Old, Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky, 46% Alc/vol. Grand dram with a long, long finish.

Bruichladdich 14 Year Old, Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Sassicaia French Oak, 46% Alc/vol. A really fabulous dram from one of Jim’s favourite distilleries, this one is finished in Italian Wine Casks, this dram ended it’s maturation in the Sassicaia’s traditional French Oak Casks.

Ardbeg 10 Year Old, Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky, 46% Alc/vol. An Islay Classic, a must for all peat lovers.


Now this was a tasting session, John did bring in some fabulous drams, and there was one in there to suit everyone’s taste, as far as Jim was concerned the Islay drams won hands down, Scott thought that his favourite was indeed the Bruichladdich 14 Year Old.

Week five is not too far away and it covers the History of Whisky from 1850 up to the present, and we are sure that John will again have some fantastic drams for the students to get their taste buds around.

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1 Response

  1. Mark C says:

    Aye, great drams that night. The Glenfarclas isn’t lasting long on my shelf at all.

    Now, if I can only get you lot to vote for Strathclyde…

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