Impressed and incised to the neck are the words A Clarke Kennetpans while to the base is incised Mr Alexander Clark Kennetpans and the indistinct date August 16th, 18(??).
Kennetpans has a special place in the story of Scotch. The picturesque and intriguing ruin which survives today represents the most complete surviving 18th century distillery. The site was designated as a scheduled monument in 1991.
A distillery was founded here in the early 18th century by the brothers John and James Stein and by the 1730s it was the largest in Scotland.
It is said that the tax paid on the produce (mainly spirit created in bulk for the London gin trade) was greater than all of Scotland’s land tax – wealth that funded the first wagonway in Scotland, one of the first canals and the purchase in 1786 of Scotland’s first Boulton and Watt rotative steam engine.
It was only a change in the duty laws that brought it all down. Bankrupted in 1788, Kennetpans did reopen in 1795 but production finally ceased in 1825 as the distillery failed to compete in the era of cheap mass-produced whisky.
Dating from the first quarter of the 19th century, this 9in (23cm) saltglaze flask applied with a typical array of relief moulded motifs, doubtless reflects the last years of production at Kennetpans. It appears to be an extremely rare and very tangible reminder of the ‘birthplace of commercial whisky distilling’.
It emerged for sale at a March 3 Collectors Auction at Greenslade Taylor Hunt in Taunton. A town much better known for its cider, it nonetheless sold way above the £100-150 estimate for £3200 (plus 19.5% buyer’s premium).