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Glenlivet dig uncovers floor of original distillery


By Alistair Whitfield

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The floor of the original Glenlivet distillery has been uncovered by archaeologists about a kilometre uphill from the modern site.

Derek Alexander and Alan Winchester at the dig site. Photo: Alison White.
Derek Alexander and Alan Winchester at the dig site. Photo: Alison White.

George Smith, the distillery's founder, risked both his life and liberty to produce his single malt whisky at Upper Drumin.

Smith became the first illicit producer to get his licence after the 1823 Excise Act.

Before then, however, he along with many others made the spirit illegally and smuggled his produce to customers.

Derek Alexander is in charge of the investigations which began on Monday and have also seen the discovery of fragments of bottle glass and ceramics uncovered.

The National Trust for Scotland’s head of archaeology, Derek has a long association with the location having conducted a survey there in the 1990s.

He said: "This site is such a powerful part of our national story and identity.

"It's where the illicit production of whisky and the transition towards larger scale industrial production meet.

"It played a formative part of the whisky industry becoming one of Scotland’s biggest and most successful.

"Returning here after nearly 25 years to finally uncover the remains of this special place is really inspiring.

"Brushing dirt from the flagstones where George Smith, one of the lead figures of Scotland’s whisky industry, stood was just incredible.

The dig is taking place as part of the Pioneering Spirit project – a partnership between conservation charity the National Trust for Scotland and the Glenlivet.

Alan Winchester, the Glenlivet’s master distiller, said: "I have always been fascinated by the Glenlivet’s rich history.

"The majority of my career has been spent continuing the legacy of our founder George Smith.

"So it’s really interesting to have the opportunity to uncover even more secrets about our illicit past and tell new stories about the role Scotch has played in defining Scottish culture."

Volunteers including Glenlivet staff and members of the local community are taking part in the dig, with the support of the Crown Estate Scotland Ranger Service.

A public drop-in day for anyone interested in learning more about the finds is taking place on Saturday from 10am – 4pm.

Use the Glenlivet car park and come prepared for an uphill walk.


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