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December 4th 1795

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The Perthshire Drink Dilemma

By the end of the 18th Century whisky was widely produced in many Perthshire villages. In Logierait, for instance, some 1,000 bolls (1 boll is about 140 lb.) were actually brought into the village to be processed into whisky “for the use of the Low Country.” 

In Muthill there were “five or six stills of 40 gallons each for making whisky,”  Moulin had two stills of 39 gallons, Crieff had two using between them some 750 bolls of barley.

For a commercial distillery two things were needed, a plentiful supply of pure water and a cheap source of fuel. Fuel in particular tended to be a limiting factor especially for those areas distant from the coal mines of the Alloa district. In addition to the legal distilleries illicit distilling was widely carried out and a large smuggling trade developed between the Highlands and areas to the south not only in Scotland but to many places in England.

The attitudes towards whisky among the ministers writing in the First Statistical Account varied, but on the whole were surprisingly liberal. The minister of Moulin could state: “It cannot be said that the people are addicted to drinking. Even at weddings and on holidays instances of persons drinking to excess are few. It is somewhat remarkable, that among people who hardly know how to make a bargain, or pay a debt, except over a dram of whisky, moderation should be so generally observed; particularly when it is considered that at the fairs every house, hut and shed in the respective villages is converted into a dram shop.” 

In Fortingall, “The consumption of this spirit is not half what it was.”  In Crieff there was more concern about the increased consumption of tea. “Bewitched by the mollifying influence of an enfeebling potion, the very poorest classes begin to regard it as one of the necessities of life.” 

However in Dunblane, with 41 houses where ale and spirits were sold and Blairgowrie where there were 19 dram shops there was an understandable antagonism. But it was the minister of Callender who really put the boot in. “The number of dram houses is out of bounds too great. These haunts of the idle, of the prodigal and profane, contaminate the morals of the lower classes of the people beyond description.” 

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