We have added a rather unimpressive looking pamphlet to our collections. The distillery of Scotland a national benefit (AB.2.215.06) was published in Aberdeen in 1755 and is in the form of two letters to a friend. The anonymous author discusses whisky production of in Scotland in relation to its annual use of 50,000 bolls of barley. He also looks at the production of other alcoholic spirits in England, Europe and the colonies, analysing the costs of the ingredients and profit margins of exports and imports.
Our letter writer argues that cheap imports of foreign spirits are harming the production of locally-produced whisky, which is suffering from high levels of taxation. Tax on spirits had been raised in particular after the Act of Union of 1707, and the imposition of an English malt tax in 1725.
I have no doubt that the author’s concerns stem from the fact that in Scotland there were very few licensed distilleries prepared to pay the taxes, but hundreds of illicit stills supplying the domestic market.