The Moonshine Maker of Islay

Scotland, home of the uisge beatha, is shrouded in a rich heritage of legend and folklore. There were illicit whisky brewers who distilled their whisky by night, and the whisky was called “moonshine” as it was made under the light of the moon. There were smugglers who smuggled this whisky across the water, setting sail from smuggler coves, which are still known as “smugglers’ coves” all along the eastern coast. Scotch whisky is the child of the days of adventure, daring, romanticism and the Highland spirit of entrepreneurship.

There was once an Ileach moonshine maker who got tired of endlessly dodging the gaugers (people who went on the chase of illegal brewers and charged them duty), and decided to put an end to his trade. His brewery was in a cave deep down in the heart of the hills in which the Glen Road is, on the southeastern side of the island. From there, armed with his last keg of whisky, he made his way over the hills and onto the highway. A carriage loomed up on him. He knew at once that he was going to be accosted by the excise officer who was inside, for he knew one when he saw one, and decided to put up a bold front.

When the excise officer asked him where he was going with a keg of whisky under his arm, he told him that he had been a whisky brewer who was giving up his still in the hills as the new distilling laws had come out. He summoned up his wits to say that he was on his way to the village of Bowmore where he would hand over his last keg of whisky to the excise officer at his station, and be over with it, once and for all.

The excise officer of Bowmore, for indeed it was him, informed the Ileach that he was in fact the officer he was going to see. The officer was pleased with his brave honesty, and gave him a handsome tip. The Ileach pretended to be greatly taken aback and was about hand over the keg to the officer, when the officer said that since he was on his way to Bowmore, he could go over to his house there, meet his wife, and place the keg under his bed, and collect the keg which was there. The Ileach agreed.

When he reached the home of the excise officer of Bowmore, he went up to the front door, and knocked on the door. “Rat a tat tat!” rapped the knocker, whereupon the good lady received him. He narrated the night’s events to her, and she bade him go up to the bedroom and put the keg of his excellent moonshine there. He collected the other bottle to sell, and while getting out of the door, was handed another handsome sum of money as a tip for his troubles. Such was his great good luck.

Without much ado, he sold that second keg of whisky, and made his way back into the cave he had come from, and was gone without a trace, never to be seen again.

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