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University of Glasgow Archive Services

Brewing & Distilling

Brewing and distilling are both industries which have ancient origins and produce products that have been indulged in by the highest to lowest ranks of society for hundreds of years.

The earliest documented record of distilling in Scotland dates from 1494. However it wasn't until the 1823 Excise Act was passed, sanctioning the distilling of whisky, that the foundations were laid for the successful Scotch Whisky industry as we know it today.

One of the earliest signs of a professional brewing industry was the establishment of the Edinburgh Society of Brewers in 1596 to control the quality and price of beer. In the 18th century many famous brewing firms we know today such as Hugh & Robert Tennent in Glasgow were established and the industry flourished with 280 breweries by 1840.

Both products were popular domestically but they are also excellent examples of the impact of Scottish brands internationally. From early on beer was exported to England and the Americas and by the 19th century to India, Australia and the Far East. Similarly whisky has been one of Scotland’s best known exports and by 2010, 34 bottles of whisky were shipped worldwide every second.

Scots at Work

The Scots at Work exhibition ran from April to June 2013 at General Register House, National Records of Scotland. Vistors had the opportunity to view the following items which were on display in the 'Brewing & Distilling' case:

  • John Walker & Sons price list, 1912 - Diageo Archives  
  • Peter Dickson recipe book, 1828-40 - University of Glasgow Archive Services, J G Thomson & Co Ltd
  • McEwan’s beer can, c.1930s - University of Glasgow Archive Services
  • Image of McEwan's workers in the maltings, Edinburgh - University of Glasgow Archive Services
  • Bottling label for Helm Blend, National Records of Scotland
Brewing & Distilling Records in Scotland

There are over 300 archive collections relating to Brewing & Distilling in Scotland.  They feature some of our nation's best known brands and can be found in the Scottish Brewing Archive at the University of Glasgow or in corporate archives such as Diageo Archive which holds the records of 1,500 brands covering over 400 years of history.