Since then, our national drink has gone from being made in illicit stills, to getting the royal seal of approval and weathering huge boom and bust times. Each distillery has its own fascinating history, some stretching back hundreds of years.
One of the oldest heritages in the industry comes from Loch Lomond Whiskies and Loch Lomond Distillery, which can trace its roots back to Littlemill Distillery. It was established in 1772 and claims to be the oldest licensed distillery in the world. Its current malt and grain distilleries in Alexandria, Dunbartonshire, close to the banks of Loch Lomond, were commissioned in 1964, with first distillation in 1966. As the only distillery in Scotland to use straight-neck pot stills, Loch Lomond Whiskies is truly unique in its craftsmanship, using innovative techniques to explore flavour in a distinctive way.
Debate has carried on for years about which distillery is the oldest in Scotland, with Littlemill and Glenturret being the two main names keen to hold the accolade. In 2019, Littlemill, which last produced whisky in the early 1990s, put forward evidence to prove it’s officially the oldest licensed whisky distillery in Scotland.
Located at Bowling on the banks of the River Clyde near Glasgow, the distillery was said to have originally been built nearly 250 years ago, with a date stone on the gable end of one of the distillery’s warehouses carved with the date 1772, offering the best suggestion as to the age of the original production site.
Until 2019, there had been no documentary or legal proof this was the case until the discovery of the local Justice of the Peace’s records for Dumbarton, dated November 2, 1773. These read “Robert Muir of Littlemiln” was granted the first ever licence by the Government of King George III to “retail ale, beer and other excisable Liquors”.
Glenturret has been making whisky since 1775 and is not only still open and producing spirit, but is home to a Michelin Star restaurant. At Littlemill, whisky production continued until the distillery fell silent in 1994 and was subsequently destroyed by fire in 2004, never to produce a drop again.