Dundashill

The below is taken from The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom by Alfred Barnard first published in 1887.

Dundashill Distillery, Glasgow.

The next morning we drove to Dundashill Distillery, situated about a quarter of a mile from the work described in the previous chapter. It is built on the side of a steep hill, the extensive buildings and premises covering five acres of ground. Some of the buildings in connection with the distillery are of a great height, the top of one of them forming the highest point in Glasgow, and from which a splendid view can be obtained. Immediately below lies spread out the City of Glasgow, giving one a good idea of the magnitude of the commercial Metropolis of Scotland, and claimed to be the second City of the Empire; a city which, unlike many others, has a history to boast of, dating from the remotest times, when elsewhere trade was unknown.

We were informed that on a clear day a magnificent panorama of hills can be seen to the west and north, including Goatfell in Arran, Ben Lomond, Ben Ledi, and Ben Lawers. Ben An and Ben Venue are also visible, whose base rises from Loch Katrine, the lake from which is obtained the splendid supply of water for Glasgow; also the beautiful wooded valley bounded by the Kilpatrick and Campsie Hills, by which route, as described by Sir Walter Scott in “Rob Roy,” Baillie Nicol Jarvie and his companion passed through on their way from Glasgow to the Clachan of Aberfoyle, in order to keep their appointment with the famous outlaw chief. But to return to the Distillery, the subject of our sketch.

The business was founded in the year 1770 by John Harvey (grandfather of the present proprietors), who was one of the first three licensed Distillers in Scotland, and we think we are safe in saying that Dundashill may claim to be one of the very first distilleries established in Glasgow.

We commenced our tour of inspection at the Granaries, of which there are several, and at the time of our visit they were all filled to overflowing, containing upwards of 20,000 quarters of fine barley. The barley is elevated from the level of the wharves and railway sidings in front of the Distillery, a height of about sixty feet, and from there distributed to the various Granaries, which are all arranged in the most convenient manner. The Steeps, which are four in number, are situated immediately below the Granaries, and are each capable of wetting 1,600 bushels of barley per week. The barley is run into them from the Granaries by means of iron shoots, and the Malt-barns being constructed on lower levels than the Steeps, the entire malting process is conducted by gravitation, thus saving an immense amount of labour.

These Barns are four in number, varying in extent from 1,200 to 1,600 square yards, and some idea of their enormous size may be estimated when we mention that they cover a total area of close on 6,000 square yards, and give ample floor room for the 6,400 bushels of barley malted weekly. Attached to the Barns are four Kilns, covering over 900 square yards; one of them is a plate floored Kim, and the other three wire cloth. The malt is dried with peat or coke according to the flavour required. Immediately adjoining the Kilns are sheds capable of stowing 1000 tons of peat, and as the season previous to our visit was specially favorable for the cutting and securing of peats, not only were the sheds filled quite full, but we noticed several large stacks in addition, erected throughout the yard, containing, we should think, half as much again. The peats used are all of the best quality that can be procured, and come from various parts of the Highlands.

The Malt-deposits immediately adjoin the Kilns, and command the Mill-hopper, which is situated above a very powerful set of rollers, from which the crushed malt is conveyed by an elevator to the grist 10ft situated in the Mash House. This was the first building we entered more particularly connected with the manufacture of the Whisky, and at first sight the multiplicity of pipes, pumps, brewing tanks, mash tuns and refrigerators are somewhat confusing, but on further inspection we found that they are admirably arranged for the purposes for which they are intended. The Mash Tuns are two in number, one being 23 feet in diameter, the other 20 feet, their total capacity being 30,000 gallons, and are fitted with the usual revolving stirring machine, only in this case by a clever arrangement the driving power comes from below, which gives the whole apparatus a light and neat appearance, thus doing away with cumbrous beams and shafting, so prominent where the power is got from above.

The grist and the hot water used for mashing meet in the mashing machines, and run in a stream into the Mash Tuns. This not only avoids loss, but prevents the spread of the dust all over the Mash House, a source of discomfort, as well as risk of danger from fire. After more hot liquor has been added, and the whole has been mashed Of mixed up by the revolving stirring machine before mentioned, it is allowed to settle for some time, so that the saccharine may be thoroughly extracted from the malt, the liquor (technically termed wort) is then drained off through the strainers, or false bottoms in the Mash Tuns, into the Worts receiver, and the grain thus left behind is called “draff” in Scotland, but known in England as grains. The system of gravitation so largely adopted in this distillery, and which is greatly facilitated by its situation on the side of a hill, is most advantageously utilised in the removal of the draff, or grains, from the Mash Tuns, which vessels are supported on massive stone arches forming the roof of a spacious Draff house, which, being directly underneath, allows the draff to he quickly and expeditiously removed through the openings in the bottom of the Mash Tuns. The draff is sold to farmers and cowfeeders in the neighbourhood of Glasgow.

From the Worts Receiver the liquor immediately passes through two Morton’s Refrigerators, and without loss of time is pumped into the Wash-backs in the Tun room which adjoins the Mash-house; these vessels are nine in number, and vary in capacity from 16,000 to 24,000 gallons. A certain quantity of yeast having been added, the process of fermentation commences, which occupies about two days, converting the saccharine matter in the worts, into alcohol. Notwithstanding the ample capacity of the tuns, or backs, the fermentation from the pure malt is so brisk that what are called switchers, are required to prevent loss by the overflow; these switchers are driven by an engine situated in the Tun-room. Overhead are still in existence the old air coolers used before the introduction of the Morton’s Refrigerators, and it is from this point that the magnificent view before referred to, can be obtained. In the Tun-room what is called - the brewing process terminates, and immediately thereafter, the distilling part of the manufacture begins. On the fermentation being completed the fermented liquor, now termed “wash” is run down from the tuns or wash backs to the wash chargers in the Still houses, which are situated on a lower level than the Tun-room.

We were next conducted to the Still houses, two in number, the first house containing two very large Wash-stills, with a capacity of 6,500 gallons each, and the other, ten smaller Stills, their sizes averaging from 600 to 1200 gallons each. In both houses all the Stills are of the old Pot Still pattern, same as those in use at the Highland Distilleries, but so arranged that Whisky is produced, either on the two or three distillation principle. The first process gives a spirit with greater flavour and body; the latter a more highly rectified and silent spirit. The ancient process of heating the stills by fire is used in this Distillery, and the vapour as it rises from the stills, is entirely condensed in the old fashioned copper worms, one being attached to each still. Though this may not appear the most scientific mode either of boiling or condensing the spirit, the all but unanimous opinion among Scotch malt distillers seems still to be in favour of this old process.

The condensed spirit is run from the twelve worms into what are termed safes, being copper boxes with plate glass lids, secured with the Inland Revenue locks. Immediately adjoining are most elaborate-looking sampling boxes, for the testing of the strength and quality of the spirit produced, and the men in charge, called ballmen, by a neat arrangement in the safes, can run the liquid, either into the Spirit-receiver as finished Whisky, or into the other Receivers of which there are several, to be subjected to a further distillation. When from three to five thousand gallons has been collected in the Receiver it is removed to large vats in the Spirit-store, the next building visited. The vats have ample capacity for reducing five thousand gallons at a time, and from them, the Whisky is filled off into puncheons, hogsheads or quarter-casks as may be required. The contents of the casks are ascertained by weight and by means of the indication or specific gravity of the spirit, which is taken by the Inland Revenue Officers and checked by one of Messrs. Harvey’s clerks. After being filled off the Whisky is generally allowed to remain in the Spirit-store for forty-eight hours; the strength is then carefully tested by the excise officers, checked again by the clerk, and thereafter the casks are filled full to the bung, and removed to the bonded Warehouses. These Warehouses are seven in number and very extensive we first visited the No. 2 bond, a fine vaulted building immediately below the No. 5, which latter is a very large warehouse comprising five flats, the others are all on the ground floor. These Bonds vary in size from 138 feet in length by 51 feet in width to 216 feet by 76 feet, and same conception of their enormous storing capacity may be formed, when we mention that in all they cover an area of 72,000 square feet, or 8,000 square yards, and at the time of our visit there were stored over 7,000 casks of all sizes containing upwards of 600,000 gallons, and there was room for at least another thousand casks. We were informed that almost all the Whisky in these warehouses is sold and lies to the order of customers, and the whole of it was of course manufactured at Dundas Hill, as by the Excise Regulations no other spirit can he introduced.

The Warehouses are mostly stone buildings with slated roofs, every bond being separated from each other by means of fire proof walls, which run up through the roofs, and all are detached from the manufacturing parts of the premises as a safeguard against fire. We may here mention that the means of extinguishing fire are very complete throughout the Distillery. The Loch Katrine water is led through all the premises, and there is a plentiful supply of fire extincteurs as well as other appliances kept at convenient places. Further, the Distillery is in telephonic communication with the Glasgow fire brigade one of the finest in the kingdom, and in the event of fire, the engines can be in the work within a few minutes after the alarm is given. Regarding the water used in this Distillery, after the introduction of Loch Katrine water into the city of Glasgow, more than thirty years ago, it was exclusively used in the manufacture of Whisky at Dundashill, but the proprietors are now convinced that after an exhaustive trial, a superior quality of Whisky can he produced from the canal water immediately adjoining the Distillery. It is rather a remarkable fact that almost all the famous and successful distilleries in the Lowlands of Scotland are situated on the canal system and use this water in their manufacture. The Loch Katrine water is of course used for reducing the Whisky. There is a fifty horse power engine, besides several smaller ones, for driving the machinery, in connection with the Distillery, and for the purpose of pumping the water to a large reservoir (270 feet in length by 65 feet in width and is feet in depth,) situated at the back of the work so as to command the various barley steeps and brewing tanks. Besides the usual industries, such as engineers, joiners and masons’ shops, etc., there is a large cooperage, with all the usual facilities for steaming and seasoning new casks, and where the immense stock of casks, over 12,000, are overhauled and repaired as they are returned. Regarding the means of transit, as already indicated, the Forth and Clyde Canal is situated close to the Distillery, and there is a railway siding into the works from the Caledonian Railway. The Distillery is also situated within a short distance of all the great railway systems, and the Broomielaw on the river Clyde, the one connecting with all parts of England, and the other with the shipping, trading to all parts of the world: so that both for the receiving of barley and coals, as well as for forwarding the Whisky, it has exceptionally favourable facilities of transit by rail, canal, and sea. In addition to the large and spacious distillery offices, there is a Manager’s office, in which is fitted up a neat little model still, with connections for experimental purposes. The Excise department have also a comfortable and commodious office in which are six Inland Revenue Officers. Seventy-five persons are employed in this Distillery when at full work. The Brewer and Manager of the Distillery department comes from the Speyside where he had charge of one of the famous Glenlivet Distilleries for some years. The Manager in charge of the maltings is also a Highland man and previous to coming to this Distillery, he had charge of one of the Distilleries in Islay. As will be seen from the foregoing, this is a very extensive work, and considered to be the largest Pure Malt Distillery in Scotland, and being the first of its kind we had visited, we have entered somewhat fully into details. The Whisky produced from the Malt dried with peat is known as “Highland Malt,” and that from the Malt dried without peat as “Old Still Malt,” These Whiskies are largely sold for blending purposes, as well as for single Whiskies, the principal market being in England; they are also largely consumed in Scotland, Ireland, and the Colonies.

The output from November to May will average about 10,000 gallons per week, thereafter a slight reduction is made, the annual quantity manufactured from 320,000 to 360,000 gallons.

In connection with the Distillery the firm have several large Dairy farms, in which are kept over four hundred milk cows. In this way a very large quantity of the draff, i.e. grains, is consumed. The late Mr. Robert Harvey uncle of the present proprietor, had at one time as many as a thousand cow in milk, but since his death the stock has been reduced to its present dimensions.

Images of Dundashill