Blair Athol Distillery, Pitlochrie.
FROM Perth to Pitlochrie is a railway journey not excelled, if equalled in Scotland for variety and beauty of scenery. We passed Birnam woods and other scenes made famous by Shakespeare in the tragedy of “Macbeth,” and with bonnie Dunkeld on our right we fairly entered the vale of Athole. Sir Walter Scott has described the county of Perth as the most varied and beautiful province in Scotland, and the vale of Athole is undoubtedly one of the loveliest portions of it.
We put up for the night at the splendid hotel owned by Mr. Fisher, capable of entertaining 150 guests, and which in summer is crowded to overflowing. The next morning we drove to the Blair Athol Distillery, which is situated on the main road at the south end of the village of Pitlochrie, where we were received by the polite manager, Mr. Thompson, who conducted us over the works.
This Distillery was established in 1826 by Mr. Conachar, said to be one of the descendants of the chivalrous young Conachar, who was the early companion and admirer of Catherine Glover, the Fair Maid of Perth. Be that as it may, Mr. Conachar and his family carried on the Distillery until it was taken over by Messrs. P. Mackenzie & Co. a few years ago, since which time it has been considerably enlarged and improved. The works now cover about two and a half acres, and consist of two large Granaries, each with concrete Steeps, two Malt floors, and Kiln, all adjoining and arranged on the principle of saving labour. The machinery and plant in the Still House are of the most modern and approved description, consisting of copper Stills, iron Mash-tun and Underback, Refrigerator, Washbacks, Spirit Receiver, &c., all nearly new, and capable of turning out 1,500 gallons of Whisky per week. The Bonded Warehouses are five in number, and are capable of storing from 80,000 to 100,000 gallons.
The manager informed us that Messrs. Mackenzie buy none but the finest quality of barley, and the malt is dried with peat brought from Orkney. The water used comes direct from Ben Vrackie, and is of the purest description, sparkling and clear as crystal.
The Whisky produced in the vale of Athole has been famous from time immemorial, and Pitlochrie was celebrated for its Usquebaugh long before Excise locks and bars were ever heard of. Doubtless it was the mellow barley tree from the caverns of Ben Vrackie that warmed the hearts and strengthened the arms of the Highlanders at Killiecrankie, and which enabled them to rout the Southerners from the pass.
The make is Highland Malt, which is sold principally in Scotland and North of England. The annual output is about 60,000 gallons.