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Glen Nevis

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

Glen Nevis Distillery, Campbeltown.Proprietors, D. MacCallum & Co.

NEARLY every morning it was our delight to stroll down to the quay, and watch the early boats leave the landing stage. Steam navigation is of incalculable benefit to Campbeltown, there being no railway within 80 miles; also to the Highlander, as by it he can send his fat cattle and produce to Glasgow and other markets. Although Argyleshire is of such an immense extent, it happens that there is not a single dwelling place more than 10 miles from the sea, and scarcely a loch, bar or inlet but holds daily or weekly communication with Glasgow. A wonderful change has been made by the steamboat traffic in the Highlands during the last thirty years not only has it raised the value of land 40 per cent, and encouraged the farmers to fatten their stock, which they would never otherwise think of doing, but it has enabled them to improve their arable land, and with the extra profits to buy luxuries to which they were hitherto strangers, and thus communicated to them sentiments of taste and refinement; and we were surprised to see evidence of this in several farm houses we visited. What a transition has this same steam communication effected! The farmer of Laggan or the Highlander who spends his life on the Kintyre Hills, can descend in the morning from his lovely home, and setting his foot on board a steamboat at some neighbouring pier or jetty, suddenly finds himself in company with tourists from all parts of the world, and he who slept last night in the blue mists of the mountains, the next, is traversing the gas lighted streets of Glasgow or Edinburgh. The town clock striking ten recalls us from these musings to duty and our appointment at Glen Nevis whither we now bend our steps.

This Distillery is quite a new work, and was built in the year 1877. It is situated under the brow of the Gallow Hill, facing the main road, and commands fine views of the bar and hill-sides. The buildings, rectangular in shape, enclose a spacious yard, covering two acres, and have a frontage of 440 feet. The Distillery has a commanding appearance, and is both modern in style and arrangement, containing all the new improvements of the present day. The Warehouses, Barley Stores, and Kilns run parallel with the road. The latter are constructed on the close furnace principle, with a wire netting floor, so that the peat smoke can permeate the barley and give it the aroma, so characteristic of the Campbeltown Whisky; the Kilns are capable of working ninety quarters of barley in each, every four days. Adjoining the Kilns are the Malting Stores and Mill for grinding the malt prior to mashing. In the Distillery proper there is a large Mash-tun with the improved patent revolving machinery; a capital Engine of eight horse-power, and a Steam Boiler 22 feet long by 7 feet in diameter; and a centrifugal pump for driving the grains and sparge water to a cistern in the exterior of the building, thus enabling the firm to mash more frequently. There is also an Underback, a Worts Receiver, and a Morton’s Refrigerator of large capacity and cooling power six Washbacks, each holding 6,000 gallons, for fermenting the worts; a Jackback, Wash Charger, Low Wines and Feints Receivers, and a Spirit Receiver to which is attached an indicator whereby the Revenue is secured, and the inspector prevented from having the charging and discharge cocks of this vessel open at the same time. The Low Wines and Feints Chargers act as feeders to the Stills. The Wash Still, a fine copper vessel, beautifully bright, clean and highly polished, has a capacity of 3,200 gallons; and the Low Wines Still 2,200 gallons. To them are of course attached the usual Worms for condensing. Adjoining the Distillery there is a large Spirit Store containing a Vat of 1,920 gallons capacity: here the casks are filled before being placed in the Warehouses, of which there are two, one a two-decker building, capable of storing 4,000 casks, the other capable of holding 1,000 casks.

There is an excellent Cooperage for repairs and stowage of empties and also a commodious Manager’s House within the yard, which makes the establishment Complete in every respect. The water used in this Distillery is brought from Crosshill Loch, a mile distant, out of the heart of Ben Ghoillan, the highest mountain in the district.

There are twelve persons employed on the premises; the Whisky made Campbeltown Malt, and is sold principally in London, Glasgow, and the Colonies. The annual output is 100,000 gallons. The Whisky is shipped from the quay, a quarter of a mile distant.

The Chief Excise Officer is Mr. O’Connor.

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