Farmstead ruins could be illicit whisky distilleries

1st October, 2019 by Amy Hopkins

Archaeologists surveying two ruined farmsteads in Scotland believe the sites may have been used for illicit distilling in the early 19th century.

The buildings fell into ruin in the 1860s

Based in the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, the Wee Bruach Caoruinn and Big Bruach Caoruinn ruins have lain hidden in Loch Ard Forest until they were uncovered by a laser scan of the area earlier this year.

Experts from Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) are now investigating their potential use as illicit distilleries, which were rife in the Scottish Highlands in the late 18th and early 19th centuries as local producers sought to escape new taxation laws.

Excise officers were given powers to search for illegal whisky stills and confiscate the equipment and whisky they found. Highland whisky production therefore went underground and stills were hidden in remote places.

“The farmsteads of Bruach Caoruinn were flagged up by the local history society as being of interest – the surviving narrow buildings are unusually long, and are associated with two large corn drying kilns,” said FLS archaeologist Matt Ritchie.

“Set in a relatively inaccessible area yet close to Glasgow, in close proximity to water and with strong associations with a number of the important families in the district, it is possible that the site was a hidden distillery, producing illicit whisky in the early 19th century.”

Ritchie added that the structures of the ruins means it is possible they produced whisky “on an industrial scale”. The steadings themselves were abandoned in the 1840s and by the 1860s, had fallen into ruin.

The FLS will now endeavour to fell the surrounding trees without damaging the remains, and create a 3D digital model using laser scanning techniques.

Artist’s impression of Wee Bruach Caoruinn

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