National Trust for Scotland and The Glenlivet partner for two-week long dig in illicit whisky quest

National Trust for Scotland and The Glenlivet partner for two-week long dig in illicit whisky quest

The dig is part of a plan to uncover the history and scale of illicit whisky production in Scotland

News | 30 Jun 2022

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A two-week log archaeological dig is underway at the site of Upper Drumin in Speyside (just 1km away from the modern Glenlivet distillery) with the aim to uncover illicit stills and forgotten bothies among other objectives.

The Glenlivet have partnered with The National Trust for Scotland as part of the Pioneering Spirit project. Digging begun earlier this week and will last until July 9, with two Saturday open days – July 2nd and July 9th – to give members of the public a chance to watch the experts and have conversations over their findings.

Success is said to have been found at events similar to this, with last year’s dig at the site of the old Glenlivet Distillery uncovering part of the footprint of the old building, as well as a whole collection of artefacts and features connected to whisky production.

Commenting on the event, Head of Archaeology for the National Trust Scotland, Derek Alexander, said: “We can’t wait to see what we uncover next through our exploration into the history of illicit whisky production in Scotland in partnership with The Glenlivet, a distillery steeped in history which saw its founder George Smith become the first illicit producer to secure a licence. With the help of our team and volunteers we hope this year’s Big Dig will help us discover more about how people went about the clandestine production of Scotland’s most famous drink and we can’t wait to share our findings.”

Map of 1869 Glenlivet Distillery


The Pioneering Spirit project begun in 2020, with aim of the Trust to shed light on particular eras in Scottish history which has shaped the country’s future, nature and heritage.

It’s estimated by The National Trust for Scotland that there are a minimum of 30 illicit stills across its 129 sites, with projects ongoing at various places in hope to dive deeper into the stories of these lands.

Chivas Brothers archivist Robert Athol added: “Founder of The Glenlivet George Smith risked life and liberty to turn what was originally a farm into a site to produce his single malt whisky legally. His courage and conviction not only defined the path for The Glenlivet but was also influential on the development of Scotch whisky in general. I’m looking forward to discovering more about The Glenlivet’s past in collaboration with the National Trust for Scotland alongside volunteers at the dig”.

More information on the Pioneering Campaign, including this dig, can be found here.
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