Arran Smugglers’ Series Vol. I ‘The Illicit Stills’

Arran Smugglers

A treatise on the History of Scotch Whisky Distillation on the Isle of Arran by Illicit means in days of old. “Spirit to fire the imagination of the drouthy”. Limited edition of 8,700 bottles. The first in a series of Three Volumes.

The Isle of Arran was infamous for the production and smuggling of illicit whisky during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Improved agricultural methods in this period increased barley yields but the poor condition of the roads on the island made it difficult to bring the growing crop to market. Illicit distillation was viewed as a profitable method of using up excess barley and raising revenue to meet rising rent costs which were also a feature of this time. Indeed the practice was actively encouraged by landowners seeking to ensure payment would be made. The occupation was regarded locally as an honourable one demonstrating skill and heroism in the individual and an anti-establishment zeal.

An elaborate smuggling network developed on the island to ensure production took place in secret and casks were transported to the mainland under cover of darkness to avoid the watchful eye of the dreaded Excisemen. The Arran ‘water trade’, as it was known, rapidly expanded and by 1793 there were three licensed Distilleries on Arran but more than fifty illicit stills in operation in the south of the island alone. The contraband nectar of Arran, renowned for its quality, was actively sought out in the taverns of Ayrshire and Glasgow but many illicit Distillers paid heavily for their labours and some made the ultimate sacrifice. In March 1817 a vicious battle at the south-end of the island witnessed two men and a woman shot and killed whilst attempting to retrieve precious spirit which had been seized by Officers of the Revenue.

The 1823 Excise Act and subsequent cut in alcohol duty led to a dramatic reduction in illicit distillation across Scotland and the birth of the modern Scotch Whisky industry. The last legal Distillery of the era on Arran at Torrylinn closed in 1837 although stories of secret stills and true contraband whisky abounded for many years thereafter and the role of the smuggler was forever enshrined in island folklore.

The association of Arran and whisky was finally reawakened with the opening of the Isle of Arran Distillery in Lochranza in 1995. With the Smuggler’s Series Vol 1 we pay homage to our forebears with an Arran dram of robust body and a heavier peat influence more redolent of the whisky produced on the island in days gone by. It should be noted that all due taxes have been paid on this Cask Strength Arran Single Malt which can thus be savoured without fear of stain on your character…

With the Smugglers’ Series Vol. I ‘The Illicit Stills’ they pay homage to their forebears with an Arran dram of robust body and a heavier peat influence more redolent of the whisky produced on the island in days gone by. The presence of the heavily peated Arran is perfectly balanced by the sweetness of older Bourbon barrels. In the background the rich and fruity influence of Port Pipes has resulted in a fresh, full bodied and complex dram evocative of their independent character.


Arran Single Malt – Un-peated stock………… Matured in 600L Port Pipes

Arran Single Malt – Un-peated stock………….Matured in 250L Sherry Hogsheads

Arran Single Malt – Un-peated stock………….Matured in 200L Barrels

Arran Single Malt – Peated stock (50ppm)…Matured in 200L Barrels

Arran Single Malt – Peated stock (14ppm)…Matured in 200L Barrels


Colour: Rusting iron barrel chime rings.

Nose: Subtle peat reek rising from a distant fire hints at a robust character to come. Floral notes bring elegance, sweetness is shown in the form of fresh madeira cake with a maritime oiliness promising rich mouthfeel.

Palate: Juicy plums, spiced with white pepper. Wood smoke of freshly sawn pine. The palate develops with gripping tannin as white grapes begin to show. Pink wafer biscuits and a blast of spicy ginger appear before the finish.

Finish: The flavour of dried apricots fades before salty, maritime notes take over – the dying embers of smugglers’ signal fires on windswept beaches. An Arran dram of true unbridled character, reminiscent of the illicit makes which gave rise to the illustrious reputation of “the Arran water”.


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