The industrial revolution in the Lowlands
New developments in the case Scotch whisky producers vs Gin producers
The industrial development of Scotland quickened during the 1780's. The textile industry became very important, and some very great cotton mills were build in those days. One of them was the Deanstoncotton mill which was active for about 200 years before closing in 1960. A few years later it was converted in a whisky distillery. The building of those great plants required machinery, and encouraged the iron founding and engineering industry, which in turn need coal, helping development of coal mining.
At that time, the whisky industry was important to the Scottish industry, especially in the Lowlands (see history before 1787), but was loosing the price war against the London gin producers.
Very bad news for the Scottish distilleries was the promulgation of the Lowland Licence Act, which required a 12 months from the distilleries working for the English market. This meant that the Lowlands distilleries just must cease trading for one year, which had catastrophic consequences on the Scottish industry.
In addition, the distilleries were required to word from wash stills of at least 200 gallons and spirit stills of at least 50 gallons. And the duty on spirits exported to England rose.
The consequences of all those measures did not only affect the distilleries, but also the agriculture which was recently geared to produce barley for the distilleries and relied on draff to feed their cattle.
Consequences of the new measures
Amongst the first victims of this new measures, Sandeman & Graham, the London agents of the great Kilbagie distillery, belonging to James Stein. The 5 most important distilleries in those days ceased trading: Kennetpans, Kincaple, Hattonburn, Lochrin and Canonmills (all of them were related to the Stein or Haig families). This 5 distilleries were responsible for about 50% of the Lowlands production. Their debts approach 700.000£ (about 20.000.000£ at 2000 prices) and had consequences on the Scottish banks, creditors of the distillers.
Those 5 distilleries were not the only ones to cease trading. Many other followed, amongst them: Underwood near Falkirk, Anderston in Glasgow, Cunningham Park in Ayr, Ailnamuir, Ferintosh and Doghillock.
Reaction of the industry
Those difficulties did not drive the Stein and Haigs out of the whisky-making history. Their creditors realized the problems were largely due to changes in the law and accepted to help them to re-enter the trade. First of all, both families ceased supplying the English market and registered for Scottish market.
One of the consequences of this next strategy of both families was a flood of cheap and harsh whisky on the Scottish market.
New taxes, intended to help financing the war against the revolutionary France, were introduced. And again the reaction of the industry was an increase of the produced quantity and a decrease of its quality. The tax was on the still capacity, and distilleries decided to produce more with the same stills, e.g. produce faster. Stills were charged up to 25 times a day (against 1 or 2 in the traditional process).
But this massive production made some technical improvements necessary. One of the changes in the making process was the pre-heating of the wash. Very large stills, designed for massive production were installed.
The cheap whisky produced that way overrunning Scotland led to a great increase of the whisky consumption in the country.
Taxes rose again to finance war against Spain and France, and the making process of whisky continued its evolution until the end of the 18th century, with still the same decrease in the quality as a consequence. Stills were charged up to 90 times a day in those days in Lowlands. Lowland distilleries produced about 90% of the whisky in Scotland.