Smugglers of the Glen


The wilds of the Scottish Highlands hid more illegal, unlicensed distilleries and pumped out more whisky in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries than any of the licensed distilleries could match. The rocky Scottish hills were rife with hidden coves, corners, and nooks that were ideal for creating a “bothy,” or camouflaged still operation. Landholders and local crofters were complicit in much of this activity, which made catching and prosecuting guilty parties all the more difficult. Canny Highland smugglers outwitted the authorities at every turn. At one point, the Government offered a reward to anyone who reported the whereabouts of an illicit still. When the copper of their stills wore out, the smugglers dismantled their still, took what they needed and left the worn out copper and other bits to show that the still had been there. Then, one of the smugglers would report that he had discovered an illegal still and receive the reward. The smugglers would then use that money to buy new copper and set up their still and new bothy in another glen. Suffice it to say, smuggling had become the primary means of transporting whisky across Scotland until the Excise Act of 1823, which allowed illegal distillers to operate in the open as fully legal concerns.

View the score for “Smugglers of the Glen.”

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About the author

Whisky Tunes is the first online, bagpipe music tune book presented in a serial format. Tunes are collected and arranged by Vince Janoski. Vince is the former editor and publisher of The Voice, the magazine of the EUSPBA and publisher and writer for Pipehacker.com.