Dail-Uaine Distillery, Carron, Strathspey, Glenlivet District.
WE arrived early in the morning at the Speyside Junction, so as to have a long day at Dail-Uaine. The carriage which we had ordered from Stuart, by wire, was waiting our arrival, and the weather was simply the perfection of a summer’s day. The drive to Carron takes us round a considerable stretch of the noble river Spey, and, as anticipated, we found much enjoyment in the journey. Our horse was a good one, and we started on the swing of a good round trot. Proceeding along, we catch exquisite glimpses of the river; now it is hidden by hillocks, anon by thickets of foliage. How the road winds! What hills we ascend and descend, what peeps amid the trees of the tortuous course of the beautiful stream, with its banks strewn with boulders, or in other places lawns sloping to the water’s edge. Gazing from this Eden-like valley to the horizon, we see, on all sides, picturesque outsteppings of mountains and hills; most conspicuous of them all being Benrinnes, along whose broad base we drive all the way to Dail-Uaine. As we leave Aberlour the road begins to ascend, and presently we gain the level of the first height, which overlooks one of the most beautiful reaches of the Spey. Continuing our progress up the acclivity, we come to one spot where we would fain have lingered for hours. Here the whole glory of the scenery below suddenly burst upon us, and new points of beauty presented themselves. Words can convey but a feeble idea of the enchanting loveliness of Strathspey as it is now opened before us enclosed in its frame of hanging woods. As we diverge from the main road leaving towards the Glenlivet Distillery, we get our first glimpse of Dail-Uaine, nestling in one of the most beautiful little glens in Scotland. We now begin to descend into the valley through some of the beauties we have already described. Never was there such a soft, bright landscape of luxuriant green, of clustering foliage, and verdant banks of wild flowers, ferns and grasses. The whole scene is dainty enough for a fairy’s palace, and we do not wonder at the choice of the ancient Queen, who, during the wars between the Danes and Scotch, selected Dail-Uaine as a resting place, and pitched her tents there as she journeyed to join her husband after the battle of Mortlach. As we continue our descent beneath trees whose tops meet, and pass glades and nooks, brilliant in a glory of gorse, our driver points out on the opposite hill, above the Distillery, an old-fashioned mansion, the residence of the proprietor of the Distillery. Here dwelt for a time the celebrated Mrs. Grant, of Carron, the authoress of “Roy’s Wife of Aldivalloch,” which was composed in that very house. It was in this locality that James Grant, known as James-an-Tuan, or “James of the hills” the noted freebooter and outlaw had his principal stronghold, and engaged in many a fierce conflict with the lairds of Ballindalloch.
A short distance up the glen, by the side of one of the burns, there dwelt in olden times a nest of bold smugglers, and the ruins of one of their so-called bothies was pointed out to us on the Distillery premises. A popular legend has it that the midnight wanderer may yet see evidences of their craft, and that the darker the night and the wilder the weather the more likely is he to stumble across the haunted bothy, which is situated in a rocky cave in a ravine through which rushes one of the Dail-Uaine Burns. There the Still-fires are seen weirdly sparkling like eyes of diamonds, and the ghosts of the departed smugglers busy at their ancient avocations. This discovery was made one winter’s night by a shepherd, who took shelter in a cleft of the rock from the bleak winds and drifting snow, but he declined to say if he tasted the ghostly spirit. Some are rude enough to hint that a stiff glass of Dail-Uaine inspired the vision; far, however, be it from us to doubt the worthy shepherd.
Reaching the root of the hill, the first building that attracts our attention is the pretty double-fronted villa occupied by Mr. Parrott, the chief Excise Officer in the Distillery. It is built of stone and is a charming little bijou place, with its garden sloping down to the water’s edge. In close proximity there is a handsome range of newly-built Bonded Warehouses, separated from the establishment by the Carron Burn. As we drive over the bridge and get a view into the Distillery, what a sudden contrast presents itself to our view. Outside all is quiet and the stillness of death reigns; inside it is all life, bustle, and activity, and the establishment a little world of industry in itself. In this retired spot, far removed from noisy cities and prying eyes, surrounded by all that is beautiful and lovely in nature, is carried on the mystery of John Barleycorn, his death, burial, and resurrection. No wonder with these surroundings that the pure spirit emerging from such an Eden should be appreciated by mortals all the world over.
Dail-Uaine, is built on the banks of the Carron Burn, a stream which is fed from three other rivulets, all emanating from the heights of Benrinnes, and falling over the mossy uplands of that mountain. One of these burns was our companion for some distance and was brawling and gurgling all the way down the hill. The establishment is situated at the top of the glen at the head of a wooded ravine, and quite protected from harsh winds by the surrounding mountains. The private road through the Distillery skirts a steep acclivity wooded to its very top, and on the opposite side of the valley rise lofty hills covered with birches and backed by Benrinnes, whose massive projections intrude themselves into the Distillery grounds. As we proceed we pass successively the newly-built Warehouses, Excise Offices, a Maltlng Stores, after which our driver pulls up at the office door, where we receive a hearty welcome from the proprietor in the good old Highland style. Unfortunately for us, Mr. Mackenzie is just starting for London. However, before bidding us good-bye, he introduces us to Mr. John Lorimer, his manager, who from that moment takes us in tow and pilots us through the buildings.
The Distillery, which is three miles from Aberlour, covers five acres of ground, and attached to it there is a farm of a hundred acres. The work was founded early in the present century, and during that time has been the property of the family of one of the present proprietors. Within the last few years nearly the whole of the Distillery has been rebuilt on a larger and more modern style, and the work now contains all the latest improvements in the art of distilling. The main buildings form a quadrangle, and there are three outer sections, all built of solid granite, and of handsome elevation. We were first taken to the No. 1 Malt Barns, which form a wing of the central building. It is two stories high, 183 feet long and 40 feet wide. The top floor is used for barley, and will hold 2,000 quarters, and the lower for malting purposes. It has a concreted floor, and contains two metal Steeps, each of which is capable of wetting 50 quarters of barley at one time. From here we were conducted to another building, designated the Old Malting, at the back of the new Granaries in course of construction. It is built in the form of the letter L, and is 160 feet long and 18 feet broad. The barley, which is grown in Morayshire, is delivered at the Granaries in carts, and dropped into the hoppers, at the bottom of which there is a continuous screw, which delivers the grain to the elevators, depositing it at any part of the buildings required. We may here remark that one of the new patent screening machines is in use at this Distillery. We were surprised to learn that even home-grown barley sometimes contains foreign objects, such as small stones, bits of metal, seeds &c., which, without the use of this machine, would remain with the barley and spoil the flavour of the Whisky. The malt, when properly grown, is lifted from the floors to the Kiln by an elevator, and dropped onto the drying floor; a double set of swing iron doors give admittance, and we found ourselves in a building some 30 feet square, with an open roof and floored with perforated iron plates. Under this floor are two open furnaces, where peat only is used for drying the malt; between them and the drying floor there is a space of twenty-five feet. From the drying floor the walls rise eight feet, and then the roof, which is of the steepest pitch in Scotland, rises to a height of thirty feet. This gives the Kiln its tower-like appearance. It is considered that height is of great advantage where peats are used solely, as it gives the malt a delicate aroma, without having to use coke to prevent the flavour being too pronounced. We were taken to the peat sheds, where we saw two thousand yards of two-year-old peats ready for immediate use. One shed is situated on a height above the Distillery, connected with those below by means of a large enclosed timber shoot, through which the peats are discharged as required.
Returning to the second landing of the Maltings, we come to the Malt Deposit, running at right angles with the two Malt Barns. This department, which is 60 feet long and 24 feet broad, is divided off into a number of large bins, and malt is conveyed from the Kiln to these bins by a continuous band. Descending a few steps we come to a second Malt Store, similarly binned, and containing an automatic machine for weighing the malt before it goes to the Mill Hopper. This machine also registers the quantity passing through it; and our guide here drew attention to a suspended machine, through which, on passing from the elevators, the malt is relieved of the “cummins” and all extraneous matter, so that nothing passes on to the Mill except the malt pure and simple.
Through a batch-door our side suddenly disappears, but at our exclamation as quickly reappears. He is for taking a short cut to the Mill, and now produces a light to guide our steps. Emerging from the gloom of this passage we find ourselves in the Mill building. The Mill, which contains a set of Malt Cylinders, is here fixed on the ground, in order that the machinery may be quite firm and steady, thus grinding the malt better. This building is 40 feet high, and the pulverized malt is lifted by elevators to a stage in the roof, in front of an opening in the wall of the next building, wherein are four of the largest Grist Hoppers we have seen in the north of Scotland. In order to inspect them, we ascend two long flights of stairs and cross a plank bridge stretching over their yawning mouths. Depending from the wall is a moveable and jointed sluice, which is attached to the spout of the elevator, and diverts the grist into whichever Hopper required; each of these Hoppers holds 500 bushels of grist. We now followed our guide down another staircase, which brings us to the Distillery proper. It is the main central building, 80 feet square, well lighted and stone paved. Here, at the cast end, we come across our old friends, the Grist Hoppers, looking like inverted pyramids, connected with a Steel’s Mashing Machine, which, unlike others we have seen, is composed of solid brass. The ground malt, on passing through this machine, becomes well mixed with hot water before it falls into the Mash Tun below. This latter dish is a circular iron vessel 17 feet in diameter and 6 feet deep, with a small root gallery placed round it. The interior contains the usual stirring gear, which is driven by either steam or water power. In connection with this vessel there is an Underback, an open circular concrete tank, the top of which is level with the paved floor. On a projecting shelf, in close proximity to the Tun, are the two Heating Tanks, which supply it with hot water. They contain together 8,000 gallons. From the Underback the Worts are pumped into a Worts Receiver holding 3,000 gallons, placed on a loft over the water-wheel, from which vessel they run through a Morton’s Refrigerator in an adjoining department. We may here remark that the brewer takes great pride in the cleanliness of this Distillery, and informed us that every part is sluiced down twice a day. To enable this to be done effectually, an iron water-pipe is fixed all round the Mash House, Tun Room, and Distillery, and on every side there are two-inch water hose depending therefrom.
We now leave the Still House for a short time to follow the process, and pass through a stone archway to the Tun Room, a triangular building adjoining. It contains eight Washbacks, each with a capacity of 5,000 gallons, and all switched by water-power. As we retrace our steps to the Still House we notice a square metal vessel, supported on iron pillars, which we are informed is the Wash Charger, and contains 8,000 gallons, and is the receptacle to which the liquor, after due fermentation, is pumped from the Washbacks. At the north end of this building are three old Pot Stills, all heated with furnaces and of the following capacities: the Wash Still, 1,500 gallons, and the two Spirit Stills, each 700 gallons. Messrs. Mackenzie prefer small Stills to large ones, being convinced from long experience that they make better whisky; the old smuggler’s motto being “the smaller the still, the finer the product.” Outside, and on the western side of the building, there are three Worm Tubs, constructed of timber, and, when compared to their near relatives the Stills, of large size, but necessarily, as everything depends upon the spirit being properly condensed. In order to follow the product into its happy hunting-grounds we now passed on to the Ball or running-room at one corner of the Still House. Here we observed a handsome brass safe with plate-glass sides, some ten feet long, which we were informed was designed by the resident partner. Through this machine the spirit runs from the Worms into the Spirit Receivers, and we should here note that it has a false bottom, in which are enclosed filters for the low wines and feints, which pass through it. At this end of the Still House we observed on a raised floor the Low-wines and Feints Receiver holding 1,000 gallons, and the Spirit Receiver of same capacity, this latter being a handsome dish constructed of solid oak, and polished. Returning to the main court we take a peep into the Spirit Store, where there are vats holding 1,300 and 1,600 gallons respectively, and the usual scales and appliances for casking the Whisky under the supervision of the Excise. Distributed about the premises are seven Bonded Warehouses, all built of solid granite, and one of them measuring 180 feet long by 66 feet wide and three stories high. They are capable of storing 6,000 casks.
The Cooperage and Cask Sheds, which cover nearly a quarter of an acre, are well arranged, and three men are constantly employed therein. Adjoining, are the Carpenter’s and Painter’s shops and the Smithy.
Our guide now led the way to the engine department, which contains a horizontal engine of 10-horse power, a steam boiler 20 feet long and 6 in diameter, a centrifugal pump for wash, and an auxiliary one in case of a breakdown, also a Worts and Spirit and Low-wines Pump. We noticed also a neat little contrivance whereby the waste water from the Worm Tub is made to drive the Low-wines and Spirit Pumps, also the rummagers in the Wash Still and Wash Charger.
The arrangements for extinguishing fire on the premises are very complete a moveable iron drum, some 3 feet in diameter with 50 feet of hose, is kept in the principal building, and in a few moments is attached to the numerous plugs in the walls or roadway, and the pressure is so great that the water reaches the highest building. In addition to this there are the hose depending from the walls, already referred to.
There is telephonic communication between the Distillery office and Carron Station, and arrangements are now being made to bring a tramway into the Distillery premises from a siding on the Great North of Scotland Railway, which passes within a few hundred yards of the Distillery.
The Whisky made at Dail-Uaine is pure Highland Malt, and is sold principally England and abroad. The annual output is 160,000 gallons.
Before taking our departure, at the suggestion of the Manager, we ascended an eminence, from which can be seen, almost in a circle, no less than seven other Distilleries: - The Glenlivet, Glenfarclas, Cragganmore, Cardow, Benrinnes, Aberlour and Macallan, forming most of the celebrated Speyside Distilleries, Glen Rothes, Glen Spey, Glen Grant and Mortlach being hidden from our view by hills and woods.
On returning we find our coachman impatient and anxious, so, after quaffing a drop of the nectar, for which the Distillery is famous, we trot merrily back in the cool of the evening to Craiggellachie and arrive just in time to catch our tram.
“Here’s a health to the land of the mountain and glen,To the land of the lake and the river,Where the wild thistle grows in her rode rocky den,Proud Freedom’s stem emblem for ever!The land of the Claymore, the Kilt, and the Plaid,The Bagpipe, the Bonnet, and Feather,Let’s join heart and hand upstanding in pride,Here’s the land of the bright blooming heather.”