Glenlivet Distillery manager Robert Arthur enjoys a little quality control - by tasting a dram of whisky.

Scottish distilleries: 22 pictures from the 1950s and 1960s of whisky making - including Highland Park, Jura and Glenlivet

It’s one of Scotland’s most famous exports and whisky producers were hard at work making sure there was no shortage of a dram over half a century ago.

Tuesday, 15th March 2022, 3:25 pm

Whisky, whose name comes from the Gaelic ‘uisge beatha’ meaning ‘water of life’, has been distilled in Scotland for centuries.

The earliest written reference to whisky production dates back to the Scottish Exchequer Rolls of 1494, with the recording of a sale of malt to a Friar John Cor to make ‘aquavitae’ – the Latin for ‘water of life’.

When King James IV visited Inverness 1506 he made two orders for ‘aquavitae to the King’, showing the growing popularity of the intoxicating drink.

The first reference to a distillery was made in the Acts of the Scottish Parliament in 1690, with a mention of the Ferintosh distillery owned by Duncan Forbes of Culloden.

The production of spirits was first taxed by in 1644, leading to a large number of illicit stills being set up, with up to half of all whisky made in illegal operations in the Highlands.

This continued until 1823 when Parliament eased restrictions on licensed distilleries while making it harder for the illegal stills to operate, ushering in the modern era of whisky production.

In the 19th century a combination of new technology (in particular the column still) and a shortage of French wine and brandy caused by a parasitic insect destroying vines led to an explosion in the popularity of whisky.

By the 1890s, almost 40 new distilleries had opened in Scotland, including some of the famous names still known around the world.

Today an amazing 44 bottles of Scotch Whisky are shipped from Scotland to around 180 markets around the world every second – over 1.3 billion bottles a year that are worth around £4.5 billion to the Scottish economy.

Here are 22 pictures to take you back to whisky production over half a century ago.

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