Tuesday 23 July 2019

Less whisky

Of course, beer wasn't the only drink made from malt. In Scotland, considerable quantities were used in the making of whisky.

Like brewers, distillers were allocated a ration of raw materials, based on their pre-wart production. Though they were never allocated enough to reach anything like the pre-war level of production. By 1942, distillers were only allowed to produce a tiny percentage of their peacetime output.

Further Cut in Production

A further cut of 10 per cent. in the production of malt whisky will be made during 1942. Licences for malt distillers to purchase enough Scottish barley to produce their quotas — one third, less a tenth, of their output in the year ended September 30, 1939 — will be issued shortly. No grant of licences for production of grain whisky will be made at present.

A cut of about 15 per cent. in whisky supplies last August following a reduction of 35 per cent. in March brought the total reduction up to 50 per cent. of pre-war figures.

Last week ihe Brewers' Society announced that the specific gravity of beer was to be reduced by 5 per cent. from January 1.

Difficulty in Finding Staffs
The information that there will be licences to purchase barley for the making of whisky this season, even on a restricted scale, is welcomed in the North of Scotland, which is the chief producing area.

"Hope of a restart had almost been given up," stated a Speyside distiller last night. "Although we are to be allowed only to make 10 per cent. less than last season's quota, which was one-third of the output for the year ended September 30, 1939, it is welcome as — on account of heavy exports — a shortage would soon have been apparent."

The chief difficulty will be in finding staffs, but that will be overcome by reengaging men who have been on the retired list."
The Scotsman - Wednesday 07 January 1942, page 3.

I'm not quite sure why no grain whisky was allowed to be produced. It seems counterintuitive to me.

Because of the time lag between distilling and selling of whisky - a minimum of three years - the effect of cuts in production would only just have been starting to bite in 1942. And the shortage must have last well into peacetime. Whereas with beer the effects were much more immediate.

Average OG fell from 1038.51 in 1941 to 1035.53 in 1942. Which is closer to 8% than 5%.


Billy Abbott said...

Grain whisky uses unmalted barley and is/was both produced in much larger quantities than malt and has a much longer startup/shutdown cycle. I assume the lack of licenses was due to the larger amounts of barley it would take to run the grain distilleries rather than the malt producers, who have more flexibity in the amount they could produce on a lower end.

Andy said...

Its possible the grain distilleries were engaged producing industrial alcohol for the war effort.

Ron Pattinson said...


I seem to remember reading somewher about acetone production in distilleries. Just did a quick search. Definitely happened in WW I. Not found anything yet about WW II.