Glen Grant

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

Glen Grant Glenlivet Distillery.

WE next set out for Rothes. The route traversed was not so interesting at first, but became more so as we pursued our way; indeed, on emerging from the hills and entering the valley it became suddenly beautiful, and we found ourselves in sight of the village, nestling in its cosy nook of the lovely valley of the Spey. For beauty of position nothing that we have seen can excel the situation of Rothes. It is quite engirt by mountain ranges that lend grandeur to the view on all sides. The lofty Benrinnes and Benaigen look down on it from beyond the river; woods clamber up the sides of Benaigen almost to its top, whilst to the right and left lower hills, alike clothed in their robes of greenery, are charmingly interspersed with cultivated fields down to the bottom of the valley. Rothes is a village of considerable size. It has 1,400 inhabitants, two churches, good hotels and shops, and no less than three Distilleries - Glen Grant, Glen Rothes, and Glen Spey. A busy place it has always been. In former times, when there were no railways, its trade depended largely on its proximity to Garmouth, which, until the harbours of Lossiemouth and Burghead were built, was the principal seaport for the valleys of the Spey and its tributaries. Coals and articles of general merchandise were imported at Garmouth, carted ten or twelve miles to Rothes, and thence distributed over a wide district of country. The central position of Rothes - not far from the sea on the one hand, and close to the inland valleys and Highland mountains on the other, while near also to the famous barley-growing plains of Moray-led to its being selected by the Messrs. Grant, in 1840, for their Distillery. They found a most convenient site for the new establishment by the side of the Glen Grant Burn, which flowed down from the hills through a most picturesque ravine, supplied capital water for mashing, and gave in addition all the motive power required for driving machinery, until the Distillery was so much enlarged that steam had to be added.

Just as we steamed into Rothes Station we caught sight of the handsome residence of Major Grant, now the sole partner of the firm of J. & J. Grant, and proprietor of Glen Grant Distillery. It is the oldest Distillery in Rothes, and for more than thirty years was the only one. It stands on the western slope of the hill, commanding a view of the whole of the magnificent scenery we have just been describing - a view that is perhaps unrivalled in Scotland. Benaigen, directly opposite, rises to a height of 1,600 feet above the sea Benrinnes, away to the right, rises to very nearly 2,800 feet. The Spey washing the feet of these mountains, next to the Tay in volume among the rivers of Scotland, is the swiftest flowing and one of the best salmon rivers in the kingdom.

The Grants are one of the oldest and most powerful clans of the Highlands. Their chiefs have owned Strathspey for six centuries, and have come down in unbroken line for about thirty generations. The principal mansion of the chiefs of the clan is Castle Grant, in the very centre of Strathspey, some twenty miles up the valley from Rothes town, and came into their possession since the present century began. Glen Grant Distillery was built in the year 1840 by the uncle and father of its present proprietor, Major James Grant, who, in addition to being an energetic and excellent man of business, is a well-known sportsman and disciple of Isaac Walton. At first the establishment was on a small scale, but, as the demand for this Whisky increased, additions were made from time to time, until the Distillery has outgrown all the other Distilleries around it. The buildings cover about three acres of ground, but the property connected with the works has an area of upwards of 20 acres. There are two plantations on one side, and some beautifully laid out orchards on the other side of the burn whilst the background consists of a series of hills.

The barley, most of which is grown in the fine county of Moray, is received at the doors of the Granaries, and conveyed by elevators to the different barley-lofts. Two of the Granaries are splendid three-decker buildings, of solid stone, and slate roofed; the ground floors are concreted for Malting, each having a stone Steep with the usual draining arrangements.

The No. 3 buildings, used for the same purpose, are larger, but not quite so long. Contiguous is the Kiln, 58½ feet long by 20 feet wide, with wire flooring, heated by peat and coke in two open chauffeurs. It is capable of drying 50 quarters in 24 hours. The Malt Deposit adjoins the Kiln, at a lower elevation. The malt falls through a shoot, of some five feet in length, direct to the Malt Deposit, which holds about 3,000 bushels, and thence to the Mill underneath, where it passes through a powerful set of rollers or crushers. After the Malt is ground it falls by gravitation into the Hopper over the Mash House, through the Mashing Machine into the Tun below, which has the usual rotary stirring gear. This Mash Tun is a circular vessel, 18 feet in diameter, 5 feet deep. The Worts are drained off from this vessel by three huge cocks into the Underback, which has a capacity of 1,200 gallons. After this the Worts are pumped up into the Receiver, contiguous to the Tun Room. They then go through a Morton’s Refrigerator, thence by gravitation to the Washbacks of which there are eight, each containing 7,000 gallons. The Worts rise from the bottom of these vessels, and as soon as they reach the proper temperature a certain proportion of yeast is added. Fermentation then takes place, and as the froth rises, revolving switchers, driven by a small steam-engine, break it up and prevent it from overflowing. Now commences the interesting part of the process the liquor changes its name and is called wash, and is run off through close copper pipes into the Jackback, a timber vessel let into the floor of the Mash House. From the Jackback the wash is pumped into the Wash Charger, which holds 6,000 gallons, whence it runs by gravitation into two Wash Stills holding 5,000 gallons and 2,500 gallons respectively. A small water-wheel, propelled by the waste water from the Worm Tub, turns the rummagers in the Wash Stills, all of which are of the Old Pot kind. These rummagers prevent the sediment of the Wash from settling down to the bottom of the Stills, while preventing at some time the danger of the Stills being burned.

We noticed a purifier attached to the head of each Still, consisting of a copper vessel with a water basin at the top, which effectually prevents anything but the purest steam from passing, all impurities being sent back into the Still.

There are above the Stills, on an elevated gallery, two upright condensers. From the Wash Stills the spirit goes through the condensing worms, which coil through a concrete exterior Malt House tank, 24 feet long and 8 feet deep. The water in this tank is supplied from a constant stream brought from an aqueduct erected on the side of the hill above the Distillery. There is also another Worm Tub, a huge square vessel, lower down, supplied from the same source. From the Worm the spirit flows through the Safe into the Low-wines and Feints Receiver, whence it is pumped up into the Low-wines and Feints Charger above; whence again it flows into the two Spirit Stills, each holding 2,500 gallons and 1,600 gallons. The same process is repeated as before described, except that the pure spirit, after passing through the Safe, falls into the Spirit Receiver, which is in the Running Room. Of course the reader will understand that the impure, or feints Spirits, go back into the Still to be re-distilled. From the Receiver the Whisky is pumped into a Vat in the Spirit Store which holds 2,500 gallons.

We may here remark that the Still House is a most substantial building, with iron roof, and girders of the same material. The heaters, or coppers, holding 6,000 gallons and 4,500 gallons respectively, are heated by steam. In the boiler-house we noticed two boilers, 18 feet long by 5 feet in diameter, each possessing steam-domes. In the engine-house are two fine engines, one horizontal of 14 horse-power, the other one a vertical of 24 horse-power, for driving a dynamo, the electric light being laid all over the premises, for the first time in any manufacturing place in the North of Scotland; it is also laid over the whole of Major Grant’s residence. The chimney-shaft is 100 feet high, but looks dwarfed by the background of the steep wooded hill, twenty yards distant. There are thirteen Warehouses on the premises, of enormous size, five of them having two floors, and several of them being 21 feet long and 31 feet wide. They are all stone buildings, and slated. Some idea of their size may be obtained by the fact that they contained over 500,000 gallons of Whisky, nearly all of which lies to the order of customers.

The arrangements for prevention of fire are very complete, and consist of hydrants, with water supply, and hose to carry some allover the premises, assisted by a portable fire-engine which is kept on the works. Capital offices for the Managing Brewer, Clerks, and Excise Officers, have been provided.

The following industries are to be found on the premises - a Cooperage, Smithy, Carpentry, and Engineers and Fitters’ shop, &c., whilst in the yard, at the back of the Distillery, we saw large stacks of peat, sufficient for two winters consumption, and stacks of ice, for summer use, covered with sawdust and thatched with straw. There is fine stabling for eight horses, and a capital farm-steading, where large numbers of cattle are fed on the draff and spent wash.

The water, used for distilling, is brought some miles from a mountain spring, and the Glen Grant burn supplies the driving power supplemented by the engines.

The make is pure Highland Malt, and the distilling power is 4,500 gallons per week, or 234,000 gallons a year. The output for 1883-4 was 172,917 gallons for 1884-5, 140,370 gallons. The Whisky is sold principally in England, Scotland, and the Colonies, and commands a high price in the market, alike for use by itself and for blending.

“WHISKY"Thou clears the head o’ doited Lear;Thou cheers the heart o’ drooping Care;Thou strings the nerves o’ Labour sair,At’s weary toil;Thou even brightens dark DespairWi’ gloomy smile.Oh whisky! soul o’ plays an’ pranks!Accept a Bardie’s gratefu’ thanks!When wanting thee, what tuneless cranksAre my poor verses!Thou comes - they rattle i’ their ranksAt ither’s a-!

Images of Glen Grant