The Argyll and Isles Tourism Cooperative has launched a new Whisky Year Zero commemoration to mark the 200th anniversary of the 1823 Excise Act, which was published on 18 July 1823. The act, which sanctioned the distilling of whisky in return for a licence fee, played a key role in shaping Argyll and the Isles as Scotland’s Whisky Coast – an area which encompasses four of Scotland’s recognised whisky regions – Campbeltown, Islay, Highlands (Oban and Loch Lomond) and Islands (Jura and Tobermory).
Recognising the significance of the year, particularly to Argyll’s one-time ‘Whisky Capital of the World’, Whisky Year Zero celebrates the destination’s distinct whisky heritage by showcasing the wide range of sites, festivals and experiences for whisky lovers in Argyll and the Isles from July 2023 to June 2024. This includes brand new distillery openings, such as the reopening of the historic Port Ellen Distillery on Islay, more than 35 years after it was closed and almost 200 years since it first opened in 1824 as one of the first distilleries to be licensed after the 1823 Excise Act.
Launching the commemoration, Cathy Craig, CEO of the Argyll and Isles Tourism Cooperative said, “We’re delighted to launch Whisky Year Zero to celebrate the rich whisky, or uisge beatha, heritage that has shaped communities and culture throughout Argyll and the Isles.
“Known as Scotland’s Whisky Coast due the high volume of world-class distilleries dotted along our coastline, there are so many ways in which visitors to the area can learn more about our significant whisky history and why our destination, with its abundance of fertile landscapes, produces some of Scotland’s finest food and drink.”
Throughout Whisky Year Zero, Glen Scotia, one of three distilleries remaining in Campbeltown, is offering immersive whisky experiences that take visitors behind the scenes and back in time, to discover more the history of their whisky, including how the Excise Act led to their hometown town being proclaimed the one-time Whisky Capital of the World.
Hannah Young, Visitor Centre Manager at Glen Scotia said, “Our historical distillery still maintains much of its original design dating from the 1830s, including our Dunnage Warehouse, so our celebrated heritage and history still influence the award-winning whisky produced here. The 1823 Excise Act played a key role in our formation and those who come on one of our distillery tours can learn all about the impact it made on our town.”
Explaining the significance of the act on Argyll and the Isles, renowned Whisky Writer and Master of the Quaich Charles Maclean said: “The 1823 Excise Act laid the foundations for the Scotch whisky industry by fixing the method of Scotch whisky distillation as we know it today. The Argyll and Isles Tourism Cooperative is to be congratulated for celebrating this significant piece of legislation, which made it possible for Campbeltown to become ’the world whisky capital’ in the late 19th Century and for Islay to become the world’s leading pilgrimage destination for whisky lovers today. Before the Act, distilling in the region was mainly illicit; today it is burgeoning.”
The commemoration showcases 14 world-class whisky distilleries, a myriad of whisky experiences, festivals and distillery openings across the destination.