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HOW MUCH did a freshly-made whisky cost in Victorian Britain? What types of whiskies were being made? And how do these prices compare with the present day?

For the first time, these questions can now be answered by using WhiskyInvestDirect‘s new interactive database, writes Leon Kuebler.

Between 1899 and 1970, the Wine & Spirit Trade Record published an annual chart of active distilleries in the United Kingdom and Ireland, the type of whisky produced and, up to 1939, their owners. In most cases, the price of each distillery’s new make whisky is also given.

The level of detail given by the Wine & Spirit Trade Record (WSTR) and the length of time over which they were published make these charts a rich source of historic information on the Scotch whisky industry.

Now, all seven decades-worth of information can be accessed in one place, thanks to our interactive database. [Those using mobile devices may need to rotate.]

 

This database  includes:

  • All distilleries listed as active in the United Kingdom in those years;
  • The type(s) of whisky they were making;
  • How much they were charging for new fillings (in shillings per proof gallon, which I’ve rebased to current £/LPA to remove inflation)
  • The owners of the distilleries (pre-WWII – post-1953 owners taken from other sources).

This database gives a vivid insight into the changing nature of the whisky industry in Scotland.

In big picture terms, whisky gradually became cheaper to produce during the 20th century. Over time, this was made possible by reductions in the cost of utilities, transportation and raw materials and rising economies of scale in major Scottish distilleries.

Our database ends in 1970 – but this trend has continued to the present day. In 1899, a Litre of Pure Alcohol (LPA, modern industry standard unit) of the cheapest Scottish new make grain whisky would have cost the equivalent of around £2.70 today; the cheapest new make malt, £5.02.

On today’s date (April 13, 2017), by contrast, one LPA of new make grain can currently be traded at around £1.12, while new make malt can be bought at £2.18.

The database also gives an insight into the impact of warfare on the whisky industry. Aside from 1937, which appears to be missing, the WSTR only did not publish this chart in the last two years of the First World War, the Second World War and the years of post-war rationing (1945-1952). In these years, distillation was either banned or severely restricted.

The impact of wartime grain and fuel shortages was keenly felt in Britain. In 1916, the last year that whisky distillation was allowed during wartime, the average price of new make malt whisky was twice that of 1914. Indeed, the all-time record price for new make whisky was set in this year, when a proof gallon of either Glenlivet or Lochindaal cost 10 shillings – the equivalent of £15.11 today!

Beyond the raw numbers, however, the database illuminates just how much the whisky map of the United Kingdom (not just Scotland, but England and Wales too) and Ireland has altered.

All in all, 232 different whisky distilleries were listed as active at some point between 1899 and 1970: 192 in Scotland, 29 in Ireland, 10 in England and 1 in Wales. Only 97 of these remain active today, with all but two of these located in Scotland.

In the current era of ‘world’ whisky it is easy to forget that, until the 1930s, there were many distilleries located outside of Scotland. Irish whiskey is, of course, justly famous in its own right, and the full range of Irish distilleries making malt, grain and Irish Pot Still whisky was included by the WSTR until 1939 (and intermittently thereafter). But England also had several active distilleries until the Second World War – and Wales also had one distillery, which made Pot Still whisky.

While many more distilleries survived in Scotland, there were big changes in the types of whisky which they made. Cameronbridge, for example, sent several years simultaneously producing three types of whisky – grain, Irish-style Pot Still, and an unspecified ‘malt’ whisky. Nearby Caledonian was also making both grain and Pot Still whisky in the years 1906-1913. Auchtertool produced both ‘peated’ and ‘unpeated’ Lowland malt for most of the pre-WWI years – an unusual distinction, given that most distilleries at this time used peat.

Some types of whisky were more esoteric still. Kirkliston produced Lowland whisky under the name of Glenforth, along with malt whisky distilled in a patent still (now banned by the Scotch Whisky Association, but revived by Nikka in Japan) and a mysterious ‘plain’ malt whisky. In Ireland, Phoenix Park (owned by The Distiller’s Company, Ltd., the forerunner of Diageo) spent 1906 producing two types of grain – one ‘Irish Style’, one ‘Scottish Style’. And in England, Bristol distillery made grain, Pot Still and ‘Blended’ whisky.

Unsurprisingly, as in many other aspects of life, the Great War was the great watershed in whisky production. While distilleries had closed in the depressed conditions of the 1900s, the pace quickened rapidly after 1918. Most Lowland and Campbeltown distilleries disappeared, along with the oddities of the Victorian whisky world – the multi-product distilleries, the malt distilleries using patent stills and the like.

At the same time, as ownership consolidated in the hands of an ever-smaller number of companies (particularly The Distiller’s Company, Ltd. and Scottish Malt Distillers, its malt-producing subsidiary), prices began to homogenize.

If the Victorian whisky era seems quaint, then that of 1953 onwards is instantly recognisable, dominated as it is by Scottish malt and grain distilleries. It is only in recent years, with the rebirth of ‘world’ whisky, that the picture has altered once again.

Full table of distilleries featured:

Country Distillery Whisky produced Active today?
Scotland Aberfeldy Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Aberlour Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Adelphi (Loch Katrine) Grain | Malt (Type unspecified) No
Scotland Albyn Campbeltown Malt No
Scotland Annandale Lowland Malt No
Scotland Ardbeg Islay Malt Yes
Scotland Ardgowan Grain No
Scotland Ardlussa Campbeltown Malt No
Scotland Ardmore Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Argyll Campbeltown Malt No
Scotland Auchentoshan Highland Malt | Lowland Malt Yes
Scotland Auchinblae Highland Malt No
Scotland Auchtermuchty (Stratheden) Lowland Malt No
Scotland Auchtertool Lowland Malt No
Scotland Aultmore Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Balblair Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Ballechin Highland Malt No
Scotland Balmenach Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Balvenie Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Banff Speyside Malt No
Scotland Bankier Lowland Malt No
Scotland Ben Morven (Gerston) Highland Malt No
Scotland Ben Nevis Grain | Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Ben Wyvis (Invergordon) Highland Malt No
Scotland Benachie (Jericho) Highland Malt No
Scotland Benmore Campbeltown Malt No
Scotland Benriach Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Benrinnes Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Benromach Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Bladnoch Lowland Malt Yes
Scotland Blair Athol Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Bo’ness Grain No
Scotland Bowmore Islay Malt Yes
Scotland Brackla Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Bruichladdich Islay Malt Yes
Scotland Bunnahabhain Islay Malt Yes
Scotland Burnside Campbeltown Malt No
Scotland Caledonian Grain | Pot Still No
Scotland Cambus Grain No
Scotland Cameronbridge Grain | Pot Still | Malt (Type unspecified) Yes
Scotland Campbeltown Campbeltown Malt No
Scotland Caol Ila Islay Malt Yes
Scotland Caperdonich Speyside Malt No
Scotland Cardhu Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Carsebridge Grain No
Scotland Clydesdale Lowland Malt No
Scotland Clynelish Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Coleburn Speyside Malt No
Scotland Convalmore Speyside Malt No
Scotland Cragganmore Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Craigellachie Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Dailuaine Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Dalaruan Campbeltown Malt No
Scotland Dalintober Campbeltown Malt No
Scotland Dallas Dhu Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Dalmore Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Dalwhinnie (Strathspey) Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Dean Lowland Malt No
Scotland Deanston Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Devanha Highland Malt No
Scotland Drumcaldie Lowland Malt No
Scotland Dufftown Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Dumbarton Grain No
Scotland Dundashill Grain | Lowland Malt No
Scotland Edinburgh Lowland Malt No
Scotland Edradour Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Esk (Hillside, Montrose) Grain | Highland Malt No
Scotland Ferintosh (Ben Wyvis) Highland Malt No
Scotland Fettercairn Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Forres Highland Malt No
Scotland Gartloch Grain No
Scotland Girvan Grain Yes
Scotland Glen Albyn Highland Malt No
Scotland Glen Coull Highland Malt No
Scotland Glen Elgin Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Glen Grant Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Glen Keith Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Glen Mhor Highland Malt No
Scotland Glen Moray Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Glen Nevis Campbeltown Malt No
Scotland Glen Rothes Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Glen Scotia (Scotia) Campbeltown Malt | West Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Glen Spey Speyside Malt | Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Glenaden Speyside Malt No
Scotland Glenallachie Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Glenburgie Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Glencadam Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Glencawdor Speyside Malt No
Scotland Glencraig Highland Malt No
Scotland Glendronach Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Glendullan Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Glenfarclas Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Glenfiddich Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Glenfoyle Lowland Malt No
Scotland Glenfyne (Glendarroch) Highland Malt No
Scotland Glengarioch Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Glenglassaugh Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Glengoyne Highland Malt | Lowland Malt Yes
Scotland Glengyle Campbeltown Malt No
Scotland Glenkinchie Lowland Malt Yes
Scotland Glenlivet Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Glenlochy Highland Malt No
Scotland Glenlossie Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Glenmavis Lowland Malt No
Scotland Glenmorangie Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Glenochil Grain No
Scotland Glenside Campbeltown Malt No
Scotland Glenskiach Highland Malt No
Scotland Glentarras Lowland Malt No
Scotland Glentauchers Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Glenturret Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Glenugie Highland Malt No
Scotland Glenury Highland Malt No
Scotland Grandtully Highland Malt No
Scotland Grange Lowland Malt No
Scotland Greenock Highland Malt No
Scotland Hazelburn Campbeltown Malt No
Scotland Highland Park Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Imperial Speyside Malt No
Scotland Inchgower Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Invergordon Grain Yes
Scotland Inverleven Lowland Malt | Malt (Type unspecified) No
Scotland Isla (Tay) Highland Malt No
Scotland Jura (Isle of Jura) Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Kinclaith Highland Malt | Lowland Malt No
Scotland Kinloch Campbeltown Malt No
Scotland Kintyre Campbeltown Malt No
Scotland Kirkliston (Glenforth) Lowland Malt | Malt (Plain) | Malt (Patent Still) No
Scotland Knockando Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Knockdhu Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Ladyburn Lowland Malt No
Scotland Lagavulin Islay Malt Yes
Scotland Langholm Lowland Malt No
Scotland Laphroaig Islay Malt Yes
Scotland Linkwood Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Littlemill Lowland Malt No
Scotland Loch Katrine (Camlachie) Lowland Malt No
Scotland Loch Lomond Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Lochhead Campbeltown Malt No
Scotland Lochindaal Islay Malt No
Scotland Lochnagar Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Lochruan Campbeltown Malt No
Scotland Lochside Grain | Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Lomond Highland Malt No
Scotland Longmorn Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Macallan Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Macduff Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Malt Mill Islay Malt No
Scotland Millburn Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Milton Duff Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Mortlach Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Mosstowie Highland Malt No
Scotland North British Grain Yes
Scotland North of Scotland (Bon Accord) Highland Malt No
Scotland North of Scotland (Strathmore) Grain | Lowland Malt No
Scotland North Port (Brechin) Highland Malt No
Scotland Oban Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Ord Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Parkmore Speyside Malt No
Scotland Pollo Highland Malt No
Scotland Port Dundas Grain No
Scotland Port Ellen Islay Malt No
Scotland Provanmill Lowland Malt No
Scotland Pulteney Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Rieclachan Campbeltown Malt No
Scotland Rosebank Lowland Malt Yes
Scotland Saucel Grain | Lowland Malt No
Scotland Scapa Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Speyburn Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Speyside Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Springbank Campbeltown Malt | West Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Springside Campbeltown Malt No
Scotland St. Magdalene (Linlithgow) Lowland Malt No
Scotland Strathclyde Grain Yes
Scotland Strathdee Highland Malt No
Scotland Strathisla (Milton) Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Strathmill Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Stromness Highland Malt No
Scotland Stronachie Highland Malt No
Scotland Talisker Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Tambowie Lowland Malt No
Scotland Tamdhu Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Tamnavulin Speyside Malt No
Scotland Teaninich Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Tobermory Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Tomatin Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Tomintoul Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Tormore Speyside Malt Yes
Scotland Towiemore Speyside Malt No
Scotland Tullibardine Highland Malt Yes
Scotland Tullymet Highland Malt No
Scotland Yoker Grain | Silent Malt | Malt (Type unspecified) No
Ireland Abbey Street (Londonderry) Grain No
Ireland Avoniel Grain | Pot Still No
Ireland Bandon Pot Still No
Ireland Bishopswater Pot Still No
Ireland Bow Street Malt | Pot Still No
Ireland Bushmills Malt Yes
Ireland Coleraine Grain | Malt No
Ireland Comber (2) Pot Still No
Ireland Connswater Grain | Pot Still No
Ireland Cromac Pot Still No
Ireland D.W.D. [Jones Road] Pot Still No
Ireland Dublin City Distillery Grain | Pot Still No
Ireland Dundalk Grain | Pot Still No
Ireland Glen Distillery Pot Still No
Ireland John’s Lane Malt | Pot Still No
Ireland Kilbeggan (Brusna) Pot Still No
Ireland Killowen (Springmount) Grain | Malt | Pot Still No
Ireland Limavady Pot Still No
Ireland Limerick Pot Still No
Ireland Marrowbone Lane Grain | Pot Still No
Ireland Midleton (Cork Distilleries (2)) Pot Still Yes
Ireland Monasterevan Grain | Pot Still No
Ireland Nun’s Island Pot Still No
Ireland Phoenix Park Grain | Grain (Irish Style) | Grain (Scottish style) | Pot Still No
Ireland Royal Irish Grain | Pot Still No
Ireland Thomas St. (Geo. Roe & Co) Pot Still No
Ireland Tullamore Pot Still No
Ireland Waterside Pot Still No
Ireland West of Ireland (Banagher) Malt No
England Bankhall (Bankhill) Grain No
England Bristol Blended | Grain | Pot Still No
England Derby Grain No
England Hammersmith Grain No
England Lea Valley Grain No
England Thames Bank Grain No
England Three Mills Grain No
England Vauxhall Grain No
England Wandsworth Grain No
England West Ham Grain No
Wales Welsh Whisky Distillery Pot Still No

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