Carsebridge Distillery, Alloa.
LONG night’s rest in our comfortable quarters at the Bridge of Allan and a delightful drive of some eight miles through a splendid country, greatly refreshed us after our toil and fatigue on the previous day at the Cambus Distillery. Our route lay through charmingly diversified scenery; Dunmyat, a grand projecting mass of the Ochils, 1,350 feet above sea level, overhangs the road, and here and there we caught sight of the waters of the Forth creeping serpent-like towards the sea. We stopped a short time at Alloa to see that busy “brewing town,” and visit the celebrated Alloa Tower embedded in trees, and which marks the residence of the ancient family of Mar. The old Castle was built in 1300, but the whole of it, with exception of the tower, was burnt down in the year 1800. The walls of this old relic of the past are 11 feet thick, and from its summit, although standing in the plaid, nine counties can be seen. In the distance appear the gigantic Benledi and Ben Lomond lifting their heads to the sky; nearer, Stirling with its Castle, and Wallace’s Monument; Whilst beneath is the gradually expanding Forth. All around is a panorama of changing beauty, and one is lost in wonder and admiration at the beauties of nature thus spread out before them.
The Carsebridge Distillery is about a mile from Alloa, and was originally, built as a Malt Distillery about the year 1799, by John Bald, of Carsebridge, who gave it over to his eldest son, Robert Bald. He, in the year 1845, disposed of it to his brother, the late John Bald, for several years resident at Monzie Castle, Perthshire. The name of the firm previous to the transfer to the Distillers’ Company, Limited, was John Bald & Co., the partners being the above-mentioned John Bald, and his nephew, Colonel Bald Harvey, of Tormaukin, Perthshire, now Director-Manager. About thirty-five years ago the Distillery was changed into one for raw Grain, and has since been gradually enlarged to its present size. Strange to say, at the time of its transfer, as though to mark the event, a colony of rooks came and set up an establishment in the big trees which adorn and overhang the Distillery, and there built up a rookery of considerable dimensions. At the time of our visit they were very busy, and holding a noisy parliament. The odours of whisky in the air had evidently loosened their tongues, and done them “much good.” The works are very extensive, and cover altogether ten acres of ground. They have a frontage of 800 feet on either side of the roadway, and the buildings are admirably constructed to facilitate each consecutive process in the manufacture of Whisky.
The grain is shipped to Alloa Harbour, where on the wharf, the Company have two powerful portable steam cranes, which hoist it from the ships into covered carts or boxes. The grain is weighed at the ship’s side and deposited into these boxes, which are carefully locked before starting them off to the Distillery. Arrived there the corn clerk unlocks them with his duplicate key and the grain is then discharged into hoppers. Each of these carts holds five quarters of grain.
We were first conducted to the south side of the works to the two Granaries, fine two-storied buildings, 200 feet long and 60 feet wide, containing at the time of our visit 7,000 quarters of grain. Adjacent there is a similar building of somewhat smaller dimensions, capable of holding 5,000 quarters. The lower floors of these buildings are devoted to malting purposes, and there is a Kiln attached to each building for drying the malt. They are spacious apartments, floored with wire cloth and perforated plates, and heated by open furnaces and hot air. On the north side again is another Grain Store, 100 feet long and 40 feet broad, and a Barley Loft of same dimensions, to which are attached two Dry Corn Kilns, floored with steel plates and heated with hot air. In addition, and on the same side of the works, there is a patent Kiln by Armstrong, of Belfast, enclosed in a building of handsome architectural proportions 70 feet high.
We were next conducted to the three Mill buildings, which contain thirteen pairs of stones. Here the maize and other grain is pulverized, weighed into bags of 168 lbs., and placed on an outside covered gallery convenient to the Mash-tuns. Through a doorway and down a few steps, the Mash House, a large and conveniently arranged place, is reached. It contains six fine brewing tanks, some of which are square and composed of iron, the others, circular, are of wood. Two have a capacity 20,000, two 15,000, and the other two 10,000 gallons. In this department there are also three Maize Mash-tuns and three Grain Mash-tuns; the former being circular timber vessels all enclosed; the latter circular Iron vessels 27 feet in diameter and 8 feet deep, all possessing the double-action revolving stirring gear. Among the latest additions to this department is a fine Cast-iron Mash Tun, 26 feet in diameter and 8¼ feet deep. It is made of larger sized plates than usual, and the seating consists of seven malleable iron-rolled girders, set on substantial stone walls; the space between the latter being wide enough to allow of the free admission of carts to receive the draff. The false bottom is closely fitted, and being placed farther above the bottom than usual, a very free and clean drain is obtained. The stirring-gear, which is of the usual description, is driven from an overhead shaft. The maker of the Tun is Mr. R. G. Abercrombie, Broad Street Engine Works, Alloa.
We then proceeded to the next department, and on our way passed through a place which put us in mind of the stage well at a theatre, so closely was it intersected with pipes, sluices, and a network of machinery. The Tun Room is divided into three sections. In it are ranged, like opposing armies, twenty fine Washbacks, of imposing size and capacity, as the following figures will testify. One will contain 40,000, four 20,000, seven 30,000, and thirteen 10,000 gallons, each with the usual switching apparatus.
We next crossed the yard and proceeded to the Distillery proper. The two Still Houses comprise a tower of handsome elevation, which, roofed with a water cistern in case of fire below, rears its head far above all the other buildings. In it are two elegant Coffey’s patent Stills, each shut off from the other by means of iron doors. The Wash Charger in No. 1 Still House is sunk into the ground, and same idea of its size may be gathered from the fact that it covers the whole floor of the building, which is eighty feet square. On a gallery above are four circular refrigerators, and beneath this is a fine horizontal engine for driving two sets of three-throw pumps, to pump the wash to the Stills, and a double-action plunger pump used for the same purpose. Adjoining the Stills and parted off with an iron door is a small fire-proof house, containing three upright copper vessels for the reception and retention of the fusel oil, which is sold to manufacturing chemists, who, by rectification, and a patent process, obtain from it a valuable product used in the manufacture of a patent quinine.
We were next conducted to the Engine Department, an important feature of this Distillery. It contains a fine compound beam engine of 100 indicated horse power, which drives eight pairs of mill-stones; a second which drives the elevators; a third for pumping water into the boilers, and several others for the pumps and other various work. Altogether in and about the premises there are 14 engines, combining in all 400-horse power. The eight boilers have double flues, and are 25 feet long by eight feet in diameter; and in addition to those already described there are two other sets of three-throw pumps.
The two chimney stacks are 140 and 100 feet high respectively, the former, which has a Starling Box attached half-way up, being quite a landmark in the district. Near the gateway, on the north side of the works, is the Spirit Store, a spacious building which contains four Spirit Vats, having a capacity of 12,000, 5,494, 3,262, and 2,164 gallons respectively. Here also are two Water Vats of purest water for reducing purposes, and a patent cooling apparatus, wherein the spirit runs by gravitation from the vats through zig-zag worms, and is quickly rendered cold.
On the opposite side of the court-yard is the Cooperage, wherein six men are constantly employed, and which contains a fine circular saw, driven by steam power; adjoining are engineers’ and carpenters’ shops and stores.
The arrangements for contending against fire are most complete in this Distillery; the tanks over the Still Houses we have already referred to. There are, further, no less than 44 water plugs, with huge fittings, a Shand and Mason’s fire engine, and a trained fire brigade of 40 men, each having his special duty and post assigned to him.
We next crossed the roadway to the south side of the establishment; here there is a large Malt Store, Cart Sheds, Stabling for 13 horses, Loose Boxes and other buildings; also a fine range of offices, consisting of sampling room, private rooms for the Managing Director and the Sub-Manager, Clerks’ Offices. Lavatories, &c. Distributed about the premises are twelve large bonded Warehouses. The total grain storage on the premises is 25,000 quarters. One hundred and fifty men are employed, for some of whom dwellings have been provided by the Company.
The water used comes from the Gartmorn Dam, a large artificial reservoir of about one mile in diameter, situated about a mile distant from the Distillery. The Whisky made is pure Grain, and the annual output varies from 1,400,000 to 1,700,000 gallons.