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Whisky and Beer

Very Fou

Scotland claims a distinctive manufacture in whisky. By 1771 large quantities of spirits were already being consigned to the English market. The legal manufacture of whisky was greatly checked in the earlier part of the 19th century by occasional advances in the duty, but after a duty reduction in 1823, the number of licensed distillers rapidly increased, to the discouragement of smuggling and illicit distillation.

In 1824 the number of gallons made amounted to 5,108,373, by 1855 this had more than doubled; in 1884 it was 20,164,962; in 1900 it reached 31,798,465; and in 1904 it had receded to 27,110,977.

More than four-fifths of the distilleries at work in the United Kingdom are situated in Scotland. The leading distilling counties are Argyll, Banff, Elgin, Inverness and Aberdeen, Perth and Ross and Cromarty, while the industry is found in seventeen other shires.

In 1894 the total net duty received for home-made spirits amounted to £5,461,198 and in 1904 to £7,276,125. The production had attained to colossal dimensions. In 1894 the quantity of proof gallons in bond was 61,275,754, and in 1904 it amounted to 121,397,951, the production having practically doubled itself within ten years.

Ale was a common beverage as early as the 12th century, one or more breweries being attached to every religious house and barony. So general was its use even in the beginning of the 18th century that the threatened imposition of a tax on malt in 1725 provoked serious riots in Glasgow and clamour for repeal of the Union; and sixty years afterwards Robert Burns in certain poems voiced the popular sentiment concerning the “curst restrictions” proposed by the Excise on beer and whisky.

Though ale has been superseded by whisky as the national beverage, brewing is extensively carried on in Edinburgh, whose ales are in high repute, Leith, Alloa and elsewhere. In 1885 the number of barrels of beer, duty-paid, amounted to 1,237,323; in 1894 to 1,733,407; and in 1904 to 1,877,978. In 1894 the duty yielded £473,311 and in 1904 £649,080.

After 1894, when the number of brewers licensed to brew for sale numbered 149, there was a steady fall to 100 in 1903—1904, alleged by the Inland Revenue Commissioners to be due to the disappearance of the small brewer. The practice of private brewing exhibits a still greater decline, from 272 to 84 in the years named. Notwithstanding the enormous turnover and output and the large capital invested, neither distilling nor brewing gave employment to many hands, the figures for 1901 being 1330 maltsters, 2052 brewers and 1970 distillers.

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