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Elphinstone Kist   Folk-History, Work

The Life o The Exciseman     by: Duff, Andrew

The daily darg o exceiseman (or gaugers as they were kennt at ae time) wis nivver humdrum fan it hid tae dae wi stills - distilleries.

First, there wis the process o makkin fusky tae be keepit under control, as weel as the wye the antrin vessels, vats an sic like, wis made. Nae orra pipes allooed throw the taps o the vats fur fear a body wid be able tae syphon oot some o 'the craitur'.

The stert o the process, the brewin, is fin barley is mautet oan the fleer (modern weys hiv it dane automatically in revolvin drums) then soakit till it sproots tae a certain legnth. Efter at, e growth's kill't aff, then the mautet barley grist is bilet up i' the mash tun tae takk the sugars oot fer the yeast tae work oan.

The next stage is fer the liquid, the worts, tae be drained fae the mash tun tae the wash backs. There, the worts hiv the yeast added fin the temperature o the worts is at 75% fahrenheit oan the aul temperature scale (25 degrees centigrade) an the mixter allooooed tae ferment till the yeast his exhaustit itsel, fan the temperature o it'll be aroon 90 degress fahrenheit (33 degrees centigrade). This is noo caad wash. (the grains left in the mash tun is caad draff, an is files fed tae the nowt- rare feedin stuff it is an aa.

The wash back is noo teemed an the wash taen tae the first set o stills, the wash stills, far the wash is bilet up an the vapour comin aff is condensed intae weak an impure spirit. Filies, if the wash is bubblin ower sair i the stills, a bit o washin soap wid be added throwe a speecial soap box tae quaten doon the wash.

The weak speerit we've noo goat'll be bilet up again i the secunt set o stills, the low wines or speerit stills, till the speerit et comes aff as strang eneuch an pure eneuch tae collect. The plain British speerits as it's caad is noo wattert doon till, in aul language, 11 degrees ower proof (63.4 degrees alcohol noo) an tankert awa er filled intae casks fer stowin in warehooses, biggit tae excise specifications, fae farit canna be legally drucken er it's ower 3 year aul.

The warehoose maun be secure, gin it wid be a sair temptation fer onybody tae get their hauns on the drink or their moos. There's an auld sayin et ye can trust a Scotman wi yer siller, maybe even wi yer wife, bit dinna trust im wi yer fusky.

Some o the young fusky (plain British speerits) or e'en the auler stuff micht be taen bi road or rail under bond fer storin et some ither placie, an again the lorries an waggons wid be built tae secure standard an double-lockit wi a trader's lock an an Excise wan.

Lang syne, workers et the still were allooed drams et organised times, es a soart o bribe tae keep them fae nippin roon coarners an helpin themsels. This drammin his stoppit noo, or is supposed tae be stoppit, bit there'll ay be the antrin drooth that canna get eneuch. Tae anither sayin aboot drams - fer somefowk ane's plenty, twa's ower muckle, an three's nae eneuch.

The gauger's job is important fin ye hear tell o pipes bein dreelt an rivets popped i the holes tae be taen oot i the wee smaa oors fer speerit tae be nickit, fin deicent excisemen are aa happit up in their caff secks.

Hopefully, nae ower muckle o at gyans oan, gin the Chancellor o the Exchequer widna be ower suitit et lossin the siller in duty an tax oan the ill-gotten stuff gyan doon the smugglers' thrapples.

The Excise nooadays has a worthy predecessor in Robert Burns, the official records es: 'The poet does pretty well,'' so he did weel in's joab es a gauger, er weel es bein cut oot tae be the nation's favourite bard. We maun forgie im fer referrin tae "thae cursed horse-leeches o the Excise" in his poem 'Scotch Drink', unfortunately the devil, mentioned in is 'Deil's awa wi Exciseman' micht hae taen a bit pairt in's early death.

And tae sum up the product o the Exciseman guards, let James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, give his verdict on the produce o te aulest licensed stell:
'Gie me the real Glenlivet, and I weel believe I could mak drinking toddy oot o sea-water. The human mind never tires o Glenlivet, ony mair than o caller air. If a body could just find oot the exac proportion and quantity that oiught to be drunk every day, and keep to that, I verily trow that he might leeve for ever, without dying at a, and that doctors and kirkyards would go oot o fashion."



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