Annandale Distillery, Annan, Dumfriesshire.
AFTER resting and refreshing ourselves at Dumfries, we resumed our journey southwards, and made our next stoppage at Annan, the capital of Annandale. It stands on the high road from Dumfries to Carlisle, is a royal burgh, and one of the cleanest and pleasantest towns we have seen in the Lowlands.
Annandale, from whence the distillery takes its name, is really the valley of the river Annan, commonly called the How of Annandale, and one of the most garden-like districts in Scotland. The soft bright landscape of luxuriant green, of clustering foliage, of rich verdant pastures, gives to this valley the appearance of English scenery. The river Annan, which rises in the Hartfell mountains, runs a course of thirty miles through this valley into the Solway Firth. We drove 1½ miles from the hotel to the Distillery, along a pretty country road, from which we diverged down a private carriage-way, crossing a bridge over the Annan Burn, and found ourselves at the gates of the works.
The Distillery is a short distance from the Annan, and is picturesquely situated, being embosomed by trees. It is built in a solid square, with a small central court, and entered by a pair of sliding gates. The firm derives its supply of water for distilling purposes from the Middleby Burn, high amongst the hills, which is the property of the town of Annan; but the water used for driving the turbine wheel, &c., comes from a swiftly-flowing stream above the works.
The Distillery was formerly in the occupation of Mr. George Donald, an excise officer, who built it in the year 1830, and resided there for forty years. In 1883, Mr. J. S. Gardner, of Liverpool, leased the property, cleared the buildings of all the old-fashioned machinery, and then re-arranged the whole place, putting in new plant, and all modern appliances used in distilling.
Mr. Gardner is the son of a former Mayor of Liverpool. At his father’s death he retired from business with ample means, but, being a man of active mind and untiring industry all through life, he found he could not be happy without employment, and when the Distillery and property of Warmanbie were in the market, he leased them and found just the occupation to suit him.
We spent a pleasant afternoon on this little estate. Mr. Gardner himself was our guide, and conducted us first of all over the farm buildings at the back of the works, higher up on the stores of the hill. It is quite a model farmstead, the cowsheds, piggeries, and stables being ranged round a square yard; and we saw upwards of twenty fine head of cattle almost ready for the butcher, and a considerable number of pigs, all fed from the draff or grains from the Distillery. Here also are superior stables for harness horses, carriage and harness house, &c.
On the hill just above the work is the residence of Mr. Gardner, standing in its own grounds, and in close proximity to the works. Passing into the Distillery, we were first taken to the Maltings for storing barley, and two withering floors underneath, with a steep at each end. These buildings are of solid stone.
The malt is raised by elevators to the Kiln at the end of the Maltings, which is floored with wire cloth and heated with peat. We next ascended a stair to the top story of the adjoining building, which forms the Mill Room, and contains a pair of malt rollers, underneath which is the Grist Loft - a floor some five feet above the level of the Mash Tun, in the adjoining house. En route to the Mashing department, we passed two copper heating-tanks, with open furnaces facing the yard. A spout or enclosed wooden trough conveys the pulverized malt into the Mash Tun - a circular iron vessel, holding 3,200 gallons. The house in which it is placed is spacious, well-lighted, and of superior construction. The worts are drained off from the Tun, and the liquid is pumped into the Worts Receiver.
The Underback is, as usual, placed on the ground of this building. The Distillery proper is a large house, arranged on three terraces or steps on the side of the hill, all under one roof. The top terrace is devoted to the Washbacks - new vessels four in number, each holding 3,600 gallons. On the next terrace is placed the Wash Charger - a fine vessel holding 2,800 gallons, also the various Receivers, &c., and on the lowest floor are the Stills, all of the old pot kind.
In the Still House is placed the safe, where the running safe is exposed to view in a glass case, kept locked by the excise, and under certain conditions it can be tested. The spirit flows through this safe into the Receiver in the Still House, and from thence it is pumped into the spirit vat in the Spirit Store.
We noticed three old-fashioned worm tubs outside the Still House, and adjoining the latter building an engine-house, wherein is a capital little 12 h.p. engine to supplement the water power if necessary.
Opposite the Distillery, over the stream, are two bonded Warehouses.
The whisky is pure Malt, and the annual output is 28,000 gallons.