Edinburgh

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

Edinburgh Distillery, Sciennes Street, Edinburgh.

THE next day we raid a visit to the old town, and were more or less interested in the ancient character of its buildings, churches and fine old castle. After seeing all in that way that we wished and had planned to visit, we at length found our way to Sciennes Street, wherein stands the Distillery, the subject of our sketch. The very name of Sciennes calls to memory the days of Mary Queen of Scots - suggestive of romance and history. In this street, in the year 1512, Lady Jane Seton founded the Dominican Convent of St. Katherine, and her house was the popular resort of all the pious and holy notables of the day. The husband of Lady Jane was slain at the battle of Flodden, as also was his brother, the Earl of Bothwell. Thereafter she remained a widow, and, after her son had attained his majority became the first Prioress of the Convent she had founded. So blameless were the lives of the nuns of St Katherine, that at the Reformation they were excepted from the general denunciation of that time. Lady Seton lived until she was seventy years of age, and was buried in Seton Church, by the side of her husband. Sciennes Hill House is said to be the house where Sir Walter Scott, at the age of seventeen, was introduced to Robbie Burns.

The neighbourhood of the Edinburgh Distillery has always been the location of the malt and brewing business. In 1510, the Burgh Records state that three acres of the Burgh Muir (now the Meadows) were let to build thereon Malt Barns, and that servants were to he hired for the making of malt betwixt the 30th of April and Michaelmas, and failing to do that, the lessees were to pay £40 fine and a penalty of £5 per acre. On the fields adjoining the Distillery James IV., mustered the largest army that ever marched against England, consisting of 100,000 men. These fields, together with the loch, which is now filled up, are called the Meadows or Borough Loch, and are laid out as public gardens and promenades. Opposite, and about one mile from the Distillery, stands the gigantic rock, “Arthur’s Seat,” lifting its rugged head high above all the surroundings. It seems so close that you never lose sight of its crags, cliffs, and buttresses, looking the very embodiment of grandeur and repose. The Distillery was established in 1849. Previous to that it was one of the most celebrated breweries in the old town, and we have seen a tablet in the wall hearing date 1430.

The Granaries and Maltings, &c., are situated at St. Leonards, and consequently the proprietors have the benefit of two lines of railway past the premises. The following are a few particulars of same: - The Granaries contained 2,000 quarters of Barley, and the Malt Barns are of the same capacity, with Steeps of a proportionate size. There are traps in the Steeps through which the barley is dropped on to the Malting Floor, and a very unique contrivance is used for distributing it over the floors. From end to end, and at intervals of 6 or 8 feet, “travellers” are affixed to the roof, on which baskets, holding 15 to 25 bushels of grain, are suspended by iron handles, having a little wheel in the centre. When the baskets are filled, the slightest impetus will start or stop them wherever the grain is required to be distributed. When the malt has passed through the Kiln, which is floored with wire flooring, it is dropped into the Malt Stores by means of a slanting trough, some 6 feet wide, from whence it is carted to the Distillery Malt Stores, and from thence it descends to the Mill and through the Crushing Rollers. From this department a short gangway communicates with the Mash House, a clean building with a concrete floor, unlike any other we have seen in Scotland. The grist is wheeled across the bridge, and dropped direct into the Mash Tun below, a beautifully clean vessel, 18¼ feet in diameter and 5 feet deep, with the patent stirring gear. From here the liquor descends by gravitation into the Underback, a cast metal vessel, 8 feet square and 3½ feet deep. From the Underback a Centrifugal Pump sends the wort into the Cooler, a large vessel, 26 feet long and 6 feet deep, afterwards to a Morton’s Refrigerator. From here the liquor descends to the thirteen Washbacks, each having a capacity of about 2,700 gallons. From these vessels the wort is pumped into the Wash Charger, a wooden vessel, with a capacity of 2,785 gallons, from thence it descends to the Wash Still, holding 3,200 gallons afterwards through the Worm above, and then to No. 1 Low-wines and Feints Receiver, and again from there into the Low-wines Still, holding 2,170 gallons. It may here be remarked as a special feature of this establishment, that all the copper vessels are kept as bright as the fittings on a man-of-war, and the wooden and other vessels are the perfection of cleanliness. From the Low-wines Still the spirit ascends to the Cooler and Refrigerator, thence to the Spirit Vat in the Spirit Store, where the Whisky is weighed and casked, and from here it is carted to the Warehouses at St. Leonards.

There are three Brewing Tanks, square and oval vessels of large capacity. A 20-horse power Engine, and two steam Boilers, each 18 feet long by 8 feet in diameter. At the end of the buildings there is a good Cooperage (where four men are employed) for storage and repairs.

The precautions against fire are very complete, every floor being supplied with water-pipes, hose, and extincteurs.

The Distillery is lighted throughout with the electric light, the second Distillery in Scotland to adopt that method of lighting. There is also telephonic communication with the offices in Nicolson Street and St. Leonards.

Good offices have been provided for the Excise gentlemen and the manager.

The water used in the Distillery comes from the Pentland hills. The Whisky is pure Malt, and the annual output is 132,000 gallons.

Twenty-five persons are employed in the Distillery. The chief Excise officer is Mr. J. Mackintosh.