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Issue 12 - By Royal Warrant

Whisky Magazine Issue 12
November 2000

 

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By Royal Warrant

In our modern world of television, internet and persuasive advertising products appear, are accepted, flourish or even disappear merely to be replaced by a similar product. However this was not alway the case, writes Malcom Greenwood.

In the Victorian era, the approval of products was a much longer process often requiring a cultural shift or gradual, mental realignment by the consumer. These changes were of course influenced by many factors but often they could be encouraged by the subtle actions of a few.

Is it not, then, remarkable that whisky could be transformed from being an illicit spirit drunkby relatively few people to a respectable and
acceptable drink consumed even by royalty, over a period of seventy years.

In early 19th century Britain, gin was the preferred tipple of the populous, while brandy and claret were favoured by the wealthy. Whisky, as yet, had limited appeal and was largely illicit (in 1810 over 400 illicit stills were confiscated in Speyside alone). However, it was recorded that when Sir Walter Scott visited King George IV on his royal yacht in Leith in 1822 his majesty called for a bottle of Highland malt whisky to toast their health. An unusual request, but perhaps, a sign of things to come.

The young Victoria, the King's niece, who was shortly to become Queen, followed in his footsteps with her love of Scotland and her appreciation of fine malt whisky. The whisky industry at this time was experiencing a metamorphosis on the back of the Distilling Excise Act of 1823: by Victoria's coronation in 1837 a host of ‘legal' distilleries were mushrooming throughout Scotland. The first royal warrant of appointment was granted to Brackla distillery, near Cawdor, by King William IV in ...

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