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Issue 13 - A pioneer of the spirit

Whisky Magazine Issue 13
December 2000

 

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A pioneer of the spirit

Stewart Mcbain praises the contribution of Charles Cree Doig an unsung hero of the Scotch whisky industry

The Scotch whisky distilling industry has a romantic history stretching back 1,000 years. Throughout that time many people have contributed much technical ingenuity, as well as serendipity, leading to the industry's continued growth.

Many of these people are now nameless, their identities and contributions lost in the draff of whisky history. However there are those who will never be forgotten: the technical pioneers who were outstanding in their contribution to the industry. One such man is Charles Cree Doig – architect and distillery engineer.

Making whisky is simple (though making a good dram is very difficult) and as a result it is practised the world over. However, Scotch whisky, as you know, can only be made in Scotland by law. Take 6lbs of barley and convert that to 4lbs of malted barley: mash, ferment and distill it in a two gallon pot still and in time you will have two bottles of whisky.

However, Government Spirit Acts taxed distillers on the amount of whisky they were capable of producing. As soon as a new spirit Act came out either an enterprising engineer or coppersmith found a way around it in order to minimise the payment of duty. For
example, in 1788 a Leith coppersmith manufactured a still with a legal capacity of 40 gallons that could have a diameter of one foot and seven inches or four feet. The difference between the differing diameters? One still could produce five times the amount of spirit that the other could in the same time. Ag...

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