The below is taken from The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom by Alfred Barnard first published in 1887.
Auchtermuchty Distillery, Auchtermuchty.
TO reach this queerly named place, we crossed over to Burntisland by the early boat, and from thence journeyed by rail to Auchtermuchty. Our course lay along the coast, which here rises from the water’s edge to lofty rugged rocks, here and there broken by side gulfs and miniature bars. After we passed Kirkcaldy we lost sight of the beautiful and busy waters of the Forth, and the country began to assume a character that bespoke a fertile soil and a high state of cultivation. The country slopes gently down from the Ochils to the River Eden, but the East Lomond forms the finest object in the surrounding landscape. It is a regular and beautiful mountain, 1,650 feet high, with a cairn on the top. As we proceed along we see in the distance Falkland Palace, where the Royal Family of Scotland resided up to the time of Charles II. It was this palace that the famous Rob Roy garrisoned in 1615 with a party of Macgregors, when he laid the whole district under contribution. As we diverge from the main line the track is through a rich and well-cultivated plain, but towards the north it rises to hills which are covered with heath, and through this plaid runs the Eden-
“Where flows the cool, unsullied stream,Deep sheltered from the scorching beam.”
The Ochil and Lomond Hills were in former times the resort of smugglers, both male and female, and Mr. Bonthrone’s brother, as late as the year 1828, supplied them with malt, which was carted by night to the foot of the hills, and fetched away by the smugglers under cover of the darkness. The celebrated “Lady Miller,” a most daring and masculine woman also kept an illicit still in these hills, and for a great many years evaded the law. Mr. Bonthrone was well acquainted with her, and told us some stirring tales of her doings. Auchtermuchty is 15 miles north of Kirkcaldy, and is a quaint, picturesque little town. The following humorous lines have been ascribed to James V.:-
“In Auchtermuchty dwelt a man-An husband, as I heard it tauld-Quha weil could tipple out a can,And nowther luvit hunger nor cauld.”
The Distillery, which was founded in the year 1829, is situated in the small town of Auchtermuchty, about half a mile from the railway station. It is built in the solid rock in front of a tributary of the river Eden, which stream comes from Lochmill and runs through the town. It took nearly two years to blast and cut out the rock, and 3,000 loads of stone were removed by the excavators. With the exception of the Distillery proper, the buildings, more especially the Maltings, are somewhat scattered, and cover about 2½ acres. The Distillery has been in the hands of the Bonthrones, father and son, for nearly a century. The present proprietor is reputed to be the oldest distiller in Scotland, and, although well advanced in years, he was, at the time of our visit, both hale and vigorous, and able to attend to his business. It was in the year 1829 that he first began to make whisky, and made about 3,000 gallons the first year, since which time the output has greatly increased and many additions have been made to the works.
Mr. Bonthrone is assisted in the Distillery by his two sons, who have been trained to the business, and understand the art of distilling in all its branches.
In connection with the water supply, we noticed a very ingenious contrivance. Mr. Bonthrone has tapped the celebrated Lovers’ Pool, just above the Distillery, and had it conveyed through an aqueduct along a ledge of the rock at the back of the Distillery at such an elevation as to command the water vessels. It is splendid water, and as pure and sparkling as crystal.
Mr. Bonthrone, jun., was our guide, and took us first of all to the four Barley Lofts which are scattered about the property, the largest measuring 90 feet by 28 feet, and holding together 1,000 quarters of barley. The four Malt Floors are of brick and concrete, and each possesses a stone Steep and Kiln, the latter floored with old-fashioned plates and heated with Orkney peats. One of the Malt Barns is several feet below the roadway, and the floor is on the solid rock; it can, therefore, be worked all the year round. We then crossed the roadway to the Mill, which is contiguous to the Malt Deposit, and underneath which there is a large water-wheel several feet below the burn, which drives the Mill and mashing machinery. There is also a second wheel, not quite so large, which drives the worts from the Mash Tun to the Coolers, pumps the wash from the Backs to the Charger, sends the low-wines and feints from the Receiver to the Still, and drives the fans for cooling the worts. The third wheel is smaller, and is only used for driving the chains in the Wash Still. We may here remark that there is no other motive power used in this Distillery but water, of which there is an unlimited supply. Passing through a passage we found ourselves in the Mash House, which contains a heating Copper holding 2,000 gallons, and a Mash Tun, 11 feet in diameter and 41 feet deep, also, at a lower level, the Underback, of a similar capacity. We then ascended a few steps into the Tun Room, which contains six Washbacks, each with a capacity of 2,000 gallons, and on an elevation above the Tuns, a Wash Charger, holding 2,000 gallons. We then retraced our steps to the Brewing House, at the end of which are placed two old Pot Stills of a medieval pattern, both of great age and in a good state of preservation. The Wash Still, which holds 960 gallons, is nearly a century old, and the Spirit Still contains 460 gallons. This last was purchased from a smuggler 60 years ago. Mr. Bonthrone informed us that he would not exchange these Stills for fifty of the newest patterns each twice the weight and capacity, and that he attributed the quality of the Whisky to the water and these old Stills. The Worm Tub is an iron vessel, 20 feet long and 6 feet deep, which is placed in a recess cut out of the solid rock. In the next building there are the usual Chargers, Receivers, and Sampling Safe, and in close proximity the Spirit Store. The five duty Warehouses are placed on the roadside, and convenient for carting to the station. They contained 600 casks of Whisky of various ages, all of which was sold. Mr. Bonthrone informed us that live merchants take all he makes, and that the annual output is 20,000 gallons.
The Whisky is pure Malt, and is all sold at Leith, London, and Glasgow.