Archaeologists have discovered the floor of an illicit whisky distillery which dates back to the 1800s in a recent dig.

The excavations happened at the former site of The Glenlivet Distillery, in Moray, where whisky production took place illegally almost 200 years ago.

The newly discovered site is where Glenlivet’s founder, George Smith, risked his life to produce single malt whisky in 1824.

The dig at the site of Upper Drumin, about one kilometre from the current distillery, also uncovered fragments of bottle glass and ceramics believed to have been used in whisky production. 

Mr Smith became the first illicit producer to get his licence, and Glenlivet was one of Scotland’s first whisky distilleries to become licensed after the 1823 Excise Act – which sanctioned the distilling of whisky in return for a licence fee of £10. 

The old site was originally a farm, converted to a whisky production site by Mr Smith in response to the 1823 Act.

Before then, Mr Smith, like many others in communities across Scotland – including Speyside and the Highlands – made the spirit illegally, smuggling their produce to customers.

Apart from the remains of two of the old mill dams, nothing else remains from the former site.

Derek Alexander, the National Trust for Scotland’s head of archaeology, has a long association with the location and conducted a survey of the distillery remains in the 1990s.

He said: “Returning to this place after nearly 25 years to finally uncover the remains of this special place is really inspiring.

“Brushing dirt from the flagstones where George Smith, one of the lead figures of Scotland’s whisky industry, stood was incredible.

“What’s really interesting is that this is where the illicit production of whisky, which is what we find evidence of on our National Trust for Scotland sites, and the transition towards larger scale industrial production meet; a formative part of the whisky industry becoming one of Scotland’s biggest and most successful.

“It’s such a powerful part of our national story and identity, which is loved and recognised, at home and around the globe.”

Alan Winchester, The Glenlivet’s Master Distiller said: “I have always been fascinated by The Glenlivet’s rich history, so to be entering the second year of our partnership with the National Trust for Scotland is a delight.

“The majority of my career has been spent continuing the legacy of our founder George Smith, so it’s really interesting to have the opportunity to uncover even more secrets about our illicit past and tell new stories about the role Scotch has played in defining Scottish culture.”

The site, which is on Crown Estate Scotland land, is marked by an inscribed monument marking its role in whisky history.

The dig is being carried out as part of the Pioneering Spirit project – a partnership between conservation charity the National Trust for Scotland and The Glenlivet.

Investigations at the site began on October 4 and will run until October 9.