Glen Albyn

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

Glen Albyn Distillery, Inverness.

FROM Beauly to Inverness is a delightful half hour’s journey. The track lies most of the way on the borders of Loch Beauly, which is but the inner portion of the Moray Firth. Travelling along a country so truly Highland, it is a source of unexpected pleasure to inhale the freshness of the sea breeze, and find the signs of maritime life so fat inland. On our right are Alpine heaths and valleys, cultivated grounds and gentlemen’s seats, hidden in masses of wood.

Everything has been done for Inverness that could be effected by wood and cultivation. The course of the noble river, which flows from the great take six miles to the sea, and within a mile of the town, is divided into various branches by a series of islands, luxuriantly wooded, the surface of which is laid out in delightful and shady pleasure walks, and all are connected with each other and the mainland by chain bridges.

The river, on reaching the town, is crossed by two handsome bridges, and immediately afterwards falls into the Firth. Previous to 1745, Inverness was for generations the chief malting town in Scotland; the inhabitants almost enjoyed a monopoly, and supplied most of the northern counties and the Hebrides with malt; but unfortunately they made too much money by this occupation, which they spent upon the productions of numerous Breweries. Afterwards came the revolution, and the trade was swept away. Except two or three old Malt Kilns, and a couple of Breweries, all the rest fell into decay, and we were informed that Glen Albyn was built on the ruins of one of them. It was founded in the year 1846 as a Distillery by the late Provost Sutherland of Inverness. About twenty years afterwards it was turned into a Flour Mill. In 1884, Glen Albyn Distillery was rebuilt by the present proprietors. From the banks of the Caledonian Canal Basin, on which run the rails of the Highland Railway Company, we entered the Grain Lofts; the buildings consist of three floors, the upper two for storing Barley, the under being a Spirit Warehouse. Each flat measures 140 feet by 30 feet, and are well lighted. The Grain is transferred from these lofts by a Screw direct into the Steep placed in the building alongside the Granaries. This building consists of two flats, the upper one, having a concrete floor, used as a Malting House, the under flat, which connects with the ground floor of the first building, is also used as a Spirit Warehouse. Each of these flats, including a wing at right angles to the Kiln, measures 180 feet by 30 feet.

The Steep wets 40 quarters of Barley at one time, and is constructed with metal. After the barley is duly vegetated it is raised by Elevators to the Kiln, which is 30 feet square, and can dry at one time 350 bushels. Here peats and coke are used in the drying, the former being got from Dava, on the Highland Line, and are of fine quality. The Kiln has an open furnace, and to prevent any scorching of the Malt the floor is 30 feet above the fireplace. The dried Malt is transferred to the two Deposits, forming the upper floors of a building over the archway, which are each 50 feet long and 30 feet broad, and capable of storing 6,000 bushels. The Malt Mill, which occupies one of the sides of the archway, is fitted up with the latest and most improved style of machinery for grinding, and the crushed Malt is conducted by Elevators into the hopper, above the Mashing Machine. When the slide therefrom is duly drawn, the process of mashing begins, and the Malt comes down, meeting the hot water, which is regulated in temperature by a thermometer being screwed into the hot-water pipe immediately before it joins the malt. The water and malt being thoroughly mixed by the Mashing Machine, falls into the Mash Tub, the size of which is 14 feet in diameter and 4½ feet deep. This dish is made of best heart larch-wood, and no stirring-gear is used, the whole being done by wooden oars, so that there is no contact of metal with the Worts.

The Mash House is 40 feet by 30 feet, and is a clean well-lighted apartment. The Mash Tub therein is raised about 7 feet from the ground, so that the Worts drain direct from it, through copper pipes, into a Morton’s Refrigerator placed in the adjoining building, which apartment measures 18 feet by 21 feet. In this room the Worts and Wash Pumps are also placed. The Wort, when cooled, is pumped into the Backs in the Tun Room, which building is 40 feet by 27 feet, and contains three Backs, with “seats” for three more; each Back contains 4,640 gallons, switched by steam power. From the Backs, the liquor, which by the process of fermentation has now been converted into “Wash,” is conveyed in copper pipes to the Wash Charger in the Distilling House. This latter building is 40 feet by 30 feet, and the Stills take up the whole height; but behind them, and on a level with their heads, there is a second flat, on which is placed the Spirit Receiver, Low-wines and Feints Receiver, and Wash Charger, also an enclosed office for the Brewer. There are two Pot Stills, the Wash Still, capable of charging 1,800 gallons, and the Low-wines Still, 1,500 gallons, both worked with fire in the usual way. The condensing Worms are of the latest and best approved style, each Still has from 300 feet to 400 feet of Worm pipes; these Worts, after the first few rounds, each branch into two smaller pipes, and, instead of being of the usual round form, are shaped like the letter D, having the flat side down. The reason for this is obvious, the spirit which at first rises in steam is condensed into liquid by the time it reaches these smaller pipes, and having to run on the flat bottom of these is spread over a much larger surface than if running in round pipes, and thereby gives a greater increase in the cooling tower, which is a most important factor in the making of a good Whisky. The Stills, which were manufactured by Fleming, Bennet & McLaren, of Glasgow, are of the most improved and modern style. In the Distilling-house there is also a Low-wines Charger, holding 2,583 gallons, and a Spirit Receiver, with a capacity of 1,525 gallons. From this latter vessel, the Whisky is conducted in a pipe to the Vat in the Spirit Store, which holds 1,750 gallons. This Store is a separate building, 40 feet long and 27 feet wide, of two flats. It contains besides the Vat referred to a weighing beam, and all necessary utensils for filling sampling, and weighing of casks before they are sent to the duty-free Warehouses The Second flat of this structure is occupied by Excise and Distiller’s Offices, the latter being connected by telephone to the head offices in Inverness, which are out one and a half miles distant.

The make is Highland Malt and the annual output is 75,000 gallons.