Cragganmore Distillery, Glenlivet, by Ballindaloch.
WE next set out for Cragganmore, leaving Carron soon after breakfast. For two hours our road lay through varied scenery under a changeful sky, and it was not until we reached the far-famed grounds of Ballindalloch that the sun shone out brightly. About two miles from Cragganmore we diverged from the main road and began to descend into the valley; we passed the palatial entrance to the castle of Ballindalloch, and immediately afterwards crossed the bridge over the river Aven, a fine stream, which takes rank as the third in Scotland, for salmon fishing. We then drove past the quiet rustic village and grand policies of Ballindalloch. From this point we descended a steep hill which leads to the Distillery. Cragganmore is situated in the heart of a mountain district, and close by the river Spey. The beauty of the Spey valley is enhanced by the contrast it offers to the wild and rugged scenery around it. The surrounding slopes are adorned with graceful birches, and the irregularities of the hills give endless variety to the scene and enhance its grandeur. At the foot of the hill we passed the Ballindalloch railway station, then crossed the bridge, rather a dangerous one, over the burn, and in ten minutes arrived at our destination. The Cragganmore Distillery was built in the year 1869, by Mr. John Smith, and covers three acres of ground. It faces the river Spey; and the hill of Cragganmore, 1,600 feet above the sea-level, rises at the back. The water supply is from the Craggan Burn, which flows through the property, and drives both waterwheels. The establishment consists of a series of outlying old-fashioned buildings, and are none of them enclosed.
Mr. William Smith, the son of the proprietor, is the manager of the works, and showed us over the place. We commenced our inspection at the Granaries, which are situated on the slope of the hill. The No. 1 Granary is a two-decker building, 300 feet long, the top is used as a Barley Barn, and will hold 3,000 quarters of grain. The bottom floor, which is concreted, is for malting, and has a metal Steep which will wet 36 quarters at one time. At the right angle is another Granary, exactly similar, but a few feet smaller, holding 2,500 quarters of grain, and the Steep in this malting is of the same size and capacity as No. 1. We then crossed a grass plot to a smaller Barley Barn, underneath which is a Bonded Warehouse, and from these we were conducted to the Malt Kiln, placed at the apex of the two Granaries, It is a stone building, 30 feet square, floored with perforated iron plates, and heated with peat in open furnaces; the malt is lifted to the floor of the Kiln by elevators. At this point our guide took us to see the peat stacks and sheds, the latter 100 feet long, where were stored some hundreds of tons of this valuable fuel. He informed us that the peats are left to dry for a year on the peat moss, and are afterwards carted a distance of three miles to the Distillery, where they are stored for three years before being used. Adjoining the Kiln, but at a lower level, is the Malt Deposit, and underneath it the Mill, the latter contains a pair of metal cylinders driven by steam and water The pulverised malt is measured into bags, and tipped over into the Mash-tun which is on the ground level a few feet from the doorway. The Still House and Mash House form one building, and are at the south side of the quadrangle adjoining the kiln and mill building. Here is placed the metal Mash-tun, 16 feet by 4½ feet, and possessing the usual stirring gear, driven by steam; underneath is the Underback, 10 feet in diameter and 5 feet deep. From this receptacle the worts are pumped up to the Morton’s Refrigerator, and from thence run into the Backs. The Tun Room, a dark and old-fashioned apartment, contains six Washbacks, each holding 2,500 gallons, switched with props in the ancient style. From these fermenting Backs the wash is pumped into the Wash Charger in the Still House, a circular timber vessel, supported oil iron columns. On the opposite side of the wall, and facing this Charger, are placed two old Pot Stills, one of them a Wash Still, holding 2,000 gallons, and the other a Spirit Still, holding 1,250 gallons. We then passed from the Still House into the Receiving and Ball Room, which contains a Low-wines and Feints Receiver holding 800 gallons, the Safe, Sampling Safe, &c. This Ball Room is a low Pitched chamber, and is the remaining and only portion of a smuggling bothy, which was not demolished when the Distillery was built. Mr. Smith informed us that a few years previous to the erection of this Distillery, there were as many as 200 illicit Distilleries at work in the Glenlivet district.
We next retraced our steps to the inner court and visited the Spirit Store, which adjoins the Distillery and Excise Offices. The Spirit Vat therein contains 1,448 gallons. Distributed round this yard, and in the roadway, are eight Bonded Warehouses. One of them has been recently erected, and is constructed to hold 2,000 casks. It is a two-decker building, fitted up with hoisting apparatus and well ventilated. The others, although very old buildings, are exceptionally dry, and the whole eight warehouses contained 234,000 gallons of Whisky at the time of our visit.
Adjoining the No. 1 Warehouse there is a large Cooperage and Store Sheds, and on the rising ground at the back of some (about 50 yards distant) stands the detached residence of the proprietor, and from his garden is obtained a bird’s-eye view of the whole work. In close proximity there is a pretty villa, erected by the proprietor for the occupation of Mr. M. Gill, the principal Excise officer. Mr. Wm. Smith, in addition to his appointment of Manager, rents the adjoining Lagmore farm, of 125 acres, and his father, the proprietor of the works, rents other two farms, together 336 acres, and is noted for his breed of cattle.
The Whisky is pure Highland Malt, and the annual output is 90,000 gallons, all purchased by Messrs. James Watson & Co., Scotch Whisky Merchants, Dundee, ever, since the Distillery has been established. They first introduced it to the market, and to them its success is mainly owing.
It is with regret that we have to add that, since the above report was written, Mr. John Smith has died. His son, in connection with his uncle, is now carrying on the business.