Dalmore Distillery, Alness.
WE took leave of Tain early in the morning, and proceeded on our way by the rail as far as the village of Alness, where there are two Distilleries - Dalmore and Teaninich. After leaving the highly cultivated district of Logie, the track runs through the stately policies of Balnagown Castle, and crosses the river by a very elegant bridge of 50 feet span. The banks of the Balnagown river, which are clothed on either side with the richest woods, have been reclaimed, and converted into a flower garden on a scale of magnificence unequalled in the north; whilst the castle, one of the most imposing and stately edifices in the district, combines all the appurtenance of feudal greatness with modern comfort.
We next came to Invergorden, an important town, pleasantly situated on the Cromarty Firth, which possesses a good harbour and a ferry across the Firth to the Black Isle. After this for some distance the railway skirts the grounds of Invergorden Castle, which are beautifully planted with American, Australian, and other choice shrubs, but the dense foliage prevents the castle being seen from the line. A few minutes afterwards the train slackened speed, and we arrived at the little station of Alness. Ten minutes’ walk brought us to the thickly wooded hill overlooking the Dalmore Distillery, from whence we were struck with the beauty of the Cromarty Firth, which we had frequently noticed at a distance during our journey. On the other side of the Firth are to be seen hills covered with rich verdure; on this, wide-spreading woods and well cultivated lands. Although it was summer time, a pretty strong breeze was blowing, which gave the waters a lively and sparkling appearance. From this position we had a good view of the Distillery lying at our feet. It is favourably situated, having a branch line from the railway running into the premises, and sea communication almost at its doors; added to this, it is placed in the centre of a good barley-growing district, and there is an abundant supply of fine peats in the district. The Distillery has sole command of the river Alness, which issues from the beautiful Loch of Gildermory, close to Ben Wyvis, and which is of the finest quality for distilling purposes.
This establishment, which is about half a mile from the station, is mostly enclosed, and built in the form of a double quadrangle on the slope of a hill. On one side are the Malting Floors and Granaries, on the other is a long range of high buildings, and at a lower elevation a smaller row, which includes Offices, Warehouses, and Bonded Stores.
Dalmore was established in the year 1839, and since that time has been frequently enlarged to meet the growing demand for the Whisky therein manufactured. We entered the establishment by the large gates which face the sea, and then proceeded up some stone steps on the left to the public offices, where we were received by Mr. Mackenzie, who showed us over the Distillery. In the first courtyard we noticed several buildings, which included, besides the Distillery and Excise Offices, Racking and Bottling Stores, &c. From this place we passed through an opening into a second and larger yard, on the right hand of which is a Spirit Store and an office for the Manager, and on the left the Distillery proper. Proceeding up an incline we came to the Malting Barns, a stone building three stories high, 120 feet long, and 22 feet broad, the two top floors being used for storing barley, the bottom for malting, where is a Steep capable of wetting 50 quarters at one time.
In front of this building, and at a somewhat lower elevation, is another Malting House of larger dimensions, consisting of two floors, both being used for malting, and each possessing a Steep of the same capacity. At right angles there is a third house of four stories, three of which are used for storing barley and ground malt, and the remaining one is a Malting Floor, possessing a Steep which will wet 52 quarters at one time.
There is a lofty Kiln, 40 feet by 30 feet, floored with wire cloth, and heated by peats, capable of drying 50 quarters every 48 hours, which commands all the malt floors. In close proximity is the Malt Deposit, with two discharge shoots on to a lower floor. We next visited the Mill, which contains a pair of Malt Rollers, driven by a water-wheel. The malt is carried in sacks across to the Mill, which is over the Mash-tun.
Following our guide we now commenced our explorations of No. 1 Still and Mash House. This building is the largest of the range, and is of an old-fashioned type. Placed at the eastern end is the Mash Tun, a vessel 16½ feet in diameter by 5½ feet deep, holding 2,700 gallons, with the patent stirring gear enclosed therein driven by a water-wheel; also two copper heating tanks, one holding 3,000 gallons and the other 2,000 gallons. There is a large Underback below the Mash Tun, from whence the Worts are pumped up to the old-fashioned Coolers which have the revolving fans and a horizontal Refrigerator. Leaving this house for a short time, we proceeded to the two Tun Rooms adjoining, in which are placed eight Washbacks of a capacity of 5,000 gallons each. The Wash Charger, which holds 4,500 gallons, is placed near the top of the Stills. We then returned to the Still House and inspected the two Stills, one of them, the Wash Still, holds 3,500 gallons, and the other, a Spirit Still, 1,800 gallons. To reach the No. 2 Still House we passed through an archway underneath the burn. This Still house, like the other, is nearly 30 feet square, and also contains two old Pot Stills and a Wash Charger, of same dimensions as those described. We then crossed a gangway to the Receiving House, wherein is the Low-wines and Feints Charger holding 2,000 gallons, a Safe, Spirit Receiver holding 1,200 gallons, and two Low-wines and Feints Receivers. The Spirit Store, which adjoins the Cooperage contains two Vats holding 860 gallons each, and the usual casking apparatus. Distributed about the premises are six large Bonded Warehouses.
The Whisky is pure Highland Malt, and the annual output is 80,000 gallons.
Messrs. Mackenzie Bros. farm a considerable extent of arable land, and grow large quantities of barley, besides breeding some noted Aberdeen Angus Polled cattle, and pedigreed Clydesdale horses.